Politician censured for 'lying'
A POLITICIAN has been publicly admonished and censured for 'lying' to States Members and the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry over the suspension of a former police chief.
States Members voted in favour of censuring Deputy Andrew Lewis following a breach of the States' Code of Conduct. The censure motion was approved by 29 votes to 16.
The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry found that the Deputy lied when he said he saw a Metropolitan Police report justifying the suspension of the then police chief Graham Power during a 2008 States sitting when he was Home Affairs Minister.
He had in fact only seen extracts of the report in a letter from acting police chief David Warcup.
The Privileges and Procedures Committee, which oversees States Members’ conduct, lodged the vote of censure – effectively a motion to publicly admonish a politician – against Deputy Lewis after finding that he breached the States' Code of Conduct.
Deputy Lewis has consistently denied any accusations that he lied and has apologised to Members, admitting that he might have ‘unintentionally misled’ due to his wording.
Before the debate began Deputy Lewis gave a speech to the House. Here it is in full.
'Today members are being asked by PPC to support a proposition to have me censured by this assembly for allegedly failing to maintain the integrity of the States.
In December 2008, when answering questions as a newly appointed minister, I accept that I may have unintentionally mislead some members of this assembly, for which I have apologised and would like to repeat that apology again, If any member of this assembly past or present felt mislead by anything I said on 2nd December 2008 I am truly sorry. However, I can sincerely assure members that at no time was there any intention on my part to mislead, miscommunicate or in any way deceive.
In my statement earlier I explained how this situation occurred. The question for members today is whether such actions warrant a motion of censure. Members will be aware that most, if not all, members will have at sometime during their time in this assembly said something that is recorded on Hansard that may not have been entirely what they had intended at the time, if later scrutinised out of context. That of course does not mean that they have uttered intentional untruths. My own situation is no different.
On 2nd December 2008 under intense questioning, the central message I had to get across was that there were good and substantial grounds for suspending the Police Chief.
There is no doubt that these grounds existed, as subsequent reports have demonstrated. The Chief Executive of the States, Bill Ogley had presented me with a preliminary report written by the Deputy Police Chief summarising key findings from a review carried out by the Metropolitan police into Operation Rectangle.
It was the report from the DCO which summarized the findings made by the Metropolitan Police that I was referring to when I said, in answer to a question "that I had read an alarming report from the Metropolitan Police". On reflection I could have clarified the position by stating that I had read a report ‘about’ the Metropolitan police report.
I, and most others in the chamber at that time, saw no meaningful significance in the semantics of this description. Furthermore, my understanding of the original allegation is that this omission somehow fuelled speculation that the Police Chief had been subjected to a conspiracy to remove him. This theory has been discounted by both the review carried out by Dr B Napier in 2010 and the Care Inquiry itself, and I hope members will accept that this shows that there was no motive or intention to deceive.
PPC suggest in their report that I should have sought to rectify the situation earlier. Members need to bear in mind that the record of what was said in 2008 was recorded in camera, despite the fact that these minutes were leaked it would still not have been appropriate for me to comment on them until they became publically available,
The minutes were finally released to the public inquiry in 2016 it was only at this point that I could have spoken about their content. I felt then that the most appropriate time and place to do this was at the public inquiry which is what I did.
I have also been critised for seeking to defend my actions. I regret if my rebuttal has caused offence but I believe now, as I did then that my actions and the actions of the government of the day were correct and in the best interest of islanders, in particular victims of abuse.
As a States Member I have at all times had the best interests of all Islanders at the forefront of my mind and have always endeavoured to behave as the public would expect of me whilst in public office. However I do accept that at the same time as defending my position I should have given more attention to the possibility that some members may have felt that they had been mislead.
I ask you, as elected States Members and my respected peers to objectively consider the circumstances as a whole, and to properly reach the conclusion that I have not breached the Code of Conduct. I would assure you that I have never lied to the States or anyone else in relation to this subject area, there would be absolutely no reason to do so and nothing to be gained.
The PPC suggested that I have been untruthful to this assembly, yet as far as I know no formal complaint has ever been made by a member of this assembly to PPC on this matter.
It would appear that PPC have uncritically accepted every assertion made by the public inquiry without conducting their own investigation as to how the inquiry justified their conclusions.
In order for the Public Inquiry panel to have reasonably reached their conclusions in their finding against me , they would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that I had deliberately and wilfully intended to deceive them and this assembly in a manner that was material to an outcome, they have not done this. I would ask members to consider that the Report on this critical point has failed to discharge the normal basic burden of proof.
I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify some facts that are very relevant to this issue.
The Chief of police was never dismissed, he was suspended on full pay for a period of nearly 2 years and retired on a full pension without ever facing a disciplinary hearing. I agree with some members that dragging out this process until his retirement is unfair, but this was not my making.
It is also important to note that when acting as Home Affairs Minster, I was by statute, required to make a statement to inform this assembly of the action that had already been decided upon. However as the suspension had occurred some two weeks earlier, the purpose of the statement was informative only. No vote was required from members so whatever had been said or not said that day would have had no material effect on the decision that had already been made.
Can I also explain that I had been advised and directed by senior civil servants, the Chief Executive of the States of Jersey and the Director of HR, who were in-turn advised by the Solicitor General. Also I and the Home affairs department were under immense pressure from the Chief Minster and the COM to take swift and decisive action.
Members should also be aware that the decision to suspend was taken with the full knowledge and support of the Chief Minster and members of the Council of Minsters.
On page 1, of the PPC report it states that I mislead the assembly. Of course I accept that it is possible that certain members may have felt that they had been mislead and for that I am genuinely sorry. But this does not mean that everyone was mislead and but most importantly it does not mean that I had any intention of misleading anyone or that my answers had any material affect on proceedings that day.
Because this issue has deeply troubled me I have taken the liberty of contacting many of the members as I could that were present on 2nd December 2008 to ask them if they had felt mislead and to apologise to them if they had been.
A number of members are sadly no longer with us but the following members and former members have either told me, written to me or stated in the media that they did not feel mislead. They include:-
Former Senator Terry Le Sueur
Former Senator Terry Le Main
Former deputy Celia Scott Warren
Former Connetable of St Ouen Ken Vibert
Former Connetable of St Brelade Mike Jackson
Former Senator Ben Shenton
Former connectable of St John Graeme Butcher
Former Connetable of St Lawrence Geoffry Fisher
Former Connetable of St Clement Derek Grey
Former Connetable of Trinity John Le Sueur Gallichan
Former Deputy Ben Fox
Deputy Of Trinity Ann Pryke
Former Deputy Gerald Baudain
Former Deputy of St Peter Colin Egre
Senator Alan Maclean
Former Deputy Peter Troy
Deputy John Le Fondre
Senator Ian Gorst
Former Senator Jimmy Perchard
Former Deputy Roy Le Herissier
Needless to say I do accept that if even a single member had felt that what I had said was in any way misleading then such an unintended result must be taken seriously and I fully and sincerely apologise for that.
I have also been accused by PPC of not maintaining the integrity of the States. The Code of Conduct for elected members is silent as to the definition of ‘integrity’
However, PPC say in their report that it is widely accepted that the word “integrity” means adherence to moral principles. To be accused of not adhering to normal moral principles without knowing the reason why has been deeply hurtful and upsetting to my family and myself.
I very much regret that this issue has become a huge distraction from the main substance of the Jersey Childcare report that being serious failings in our care system. It was of course never my intention for this issue to develop into what it has become. I am very sorry to the members of the public who expect members of this assembly to be getting on with the serious work of continually improving our society for the benefit of all and in particular those whom are most vulnerable.
Sir I want to put this issue behind me as soon as possible so I can continue with the important work of serving my constituents and through my work with PAC ensuring that public funds are spent wisely on continually improving the society we live in.
I take my duties as a politician very seriously working diligently in this assembly on my own volition and cooperating fully with other members pursuing common goals aimed at the betterment of the lives of the people that we serve
I work hard for my district and parish being an active member of several community groups, youth projects and as part of one of my election promises I am delighted to have instigated the creation of the St Helier Youth and Community Trust.
I have championed the issue of low pay and helped established the Jersey Living wage foundation. I continue to lobby hard for a student finance solution and made recent presentations of viable finance options to the Education Minister in the hope that this issue can be finally resolved.
I wish to state once again that I am very sorry that this issue should have caused such a distraction from the substantive child care report and I am truly sorry if anything I said in this assembly in December 2008 caused any member to feel distressed mislead or concerned, I had absolutely no intention to deceive anyone at any time
Sir this issue is very important to me it has troubled me, therefore I would like members to very carefully consider the burden of proof presented by PPC and whether it warrants the sanction that they propose.'