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A tale of two speeches: ‘Draw own conclusions’ on Bailiff’s words, backbencher says

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ISLANDERS should ‘draw their own conclusions’, a backbencher has said, after the Bailiff criticised the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry – using almost exactly the same wording the panel used to criticise his brother, former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache.

Picture: JON GUEGAN. (26024635)

The Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache, took the unusual step of using the ‘communications from the presiding officer’ section at the start of the States sitting earlier this week to criticise the inquiry panel’s recommendation that the role carried out by the Bailiff should be split.

The Bailiff serves as both the head of the law-making States and in the law-interpreting courts.

On two occasions, the IJCI panel have recommended that the historic dual role be separated.

Sir William’s speech in the Chamber on Tuesday drew criticism from Children’s Minister Sam Mézec, who described the comments as ‘damaging’ and a ‘clear example of the Jersey way’.

And Sir William, who was presiding over his last States sitting before retirement, seemingly used the panel’s own wording, as he criticised their findings. In their original 2017 report, the panel criticised Sir Philip, Sir William’s brother, for the 2008 Liberation Day speech he delivered while he was Bailiff. In the speech Sir Philip said the ‘real scandal’ was the ‘remorseless denigration of Jersey and her people’. This speech was given against the backdrop of a high-profile police investigation into child abuse at Haut de la Garenne.

Deputy Montfort Tadier took to social media to point out how similar the Sir William’s outgoing statement was to that given about his brother’s controversial speech by the panel’s chairwoman, Frances Oldham QC.

He said: ‘I am not going to give my opinion on what the Bailiff has said. People can draw their own conclusions.

‘He abused his position to say what he did. They were political comments, although he doesn’t hold a political office, apparently.’

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The Bailiff was unavailable for comment. A Saturday Interview, which the JEP had previously agreed with Sir William, and which was due to be conducted on Wednesday, was cancelled by the Bailiff.

War of the words:

Part of Sir William's 2019 States Assembly speech responding to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry:

'I cannot accept that a lawyer of the Chairman’s experience would inadvertently have drafted such an unfortunate juxtaposition of words. I am sure that the way in which Jersey receives her Panel’s report matters greatly to her. Her linkage of the allegations of lack of fairness and transparency in decision taking by the Bailiff to historic child abuse was a grave error.'

What the Panel had to say about Sir Philip Bailhache's comments on Liberation Day 2008.

'We cannot accept that a politician and lawyer of his experience would inadvertently have made what he told the Inquiry was an “unfortunate juxtaposition” of words. We are sure that the way in which Jersey is perceived internationally matters greatly to him. His linking of Jersey’s reputation to the child abuse investigation was, we are satisfied, a grave political error, rather than a considered attempt to influence the course of the police investigation.'

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