Giving evidence at a public hearing of the Privileges and Procedures Committee on Tuesday, Senator Philip Bailhache – who was himself criticised by the inquiry – defended his States colleague, claiming that he did not lie but 'mistakenly misled' the Assembly. The minister added that the Deputy was not given the opportunity to defend himself against accusations made in the report that was published last month.
Deputy Lewis is currently being investigated by PPC, which oversees the Members' code of conduct, after the inquiry concluded he lied during a States sitting nine years ago, and to the inquiry, about the circumstances surrounding the suspension of former police chief Graham Power in 2008.
Giving evidence to PPC on Tuesday, Deputy Lewis said that he believed some Members may have been misled by what he said, which he regretted, and added that he was answering questions under duress from the States Assembly.
He added that he felt that his interview with the care inquiry panel was also intense, describing it as similar to 'a murder investigation'.
Senator Bailhache, who is a former Bailiff and who decided to speak on behalf of the Deputy, said that it was a 'pity' that 'a peripheral matter' had taken centre-stage following the publication of the inquiry's report.
Senator Bailhache was himself criticised by the inquiry for his 2008 Liberation Day speech in which he referred to the child abuse investigation, but said at the time that it was the 'unjustified and remorseless denigration of Jersey and her people that is the real scandal'. In its report, the panel described his choice of words as a 'grave political error'. Following the release of the report last month the former Bailiff apologised in the States Assembly for any offence he may have caused.
On Tuesday Senator Bailhache told the hearing that the inquiry did not outline in its report why it thought Deputy Lewis had lied to it, and that it was 'unusual' for a court or an inquiry to find that someone had lied.
'However much one may want to compliment the panel in relation to their principle findings, in relation to Deputy Lewis I am afraid that they got it wrong,' Senator Bailhache said.
The minister added that Deputy Lewis was pressured during the panel hearing and that they had 'put words into his mouth' while he did not have legal counsel present to defend him.
Reading from the inquiry transcript, he said that the panel had put it to the Deputy that he said he had read 'the' metropolitan police report during the 2008 States sitting, which was incorrect.
'Those are not the words Deputy Lewis used,' said Senator Bailhache. 'If he had had counsel there to protect him, there would have been an intervention.
'Actually, the chairman of the panel should have intervened. What Deputy Lewis actually said was that he had read "an" alarming report from the Metropolitan police.'
Deputy Lewis maintains that he did not intentionally lie to either the States or the inquiry and that he was referring, during the sitting, to a letter from acting police chief David Warcup, which contained a reduced version of the full report.
The PPC panel, which was chaired by Constable Len Norman and also included Deputies Sam Mézec, Scott Wickenden and Simon Brée and Constable Chris Taylor, has now adjourned the hearing to consider the evidence.