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2021 REVIEW (Jan to March): Constable, CEO and unwelcome visitor exits

2021 REVIEW (Jan to March): Constable, CEO and unwelcome visitor exits

Tuesday 28 December 2021

2021 REVIEW (Jan to March): Constable, CEO and unwelcome visitor exits

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Such is the relative, bendy nature of time that 2021 may well have flown by, but the days of Charlie Parker in charge, Meghan on Oprah and Constable Chris Taylor’s political demise seem an age away.

But they all happened this year, with 2021 starting as 2020 ended: with bars, restaurants and non-essential shops closed and the kids having an extended Christmas holiday.

‘Cluster’ was the word: some thought it referred to the Government’s handling of the crisis; others attributed it to what happens when you hold a ‘post-isolation’ party in town. 

In January, ‘reconnection’ also entered the island vernacular – a staged approach inversely based on the amount of fun each activity created. So, schools were first to ‘reconnect’, [fun rating – 0] while making shapes on the dancefloor [fun rating – 10, especially if it’s your dad dancing] was the last thing to return. 

Barking up the wrong tree

The importance of language was ably demonstrated when the Deputy Chief Minister said that it was his “intention not to lose a single tree” around the People’s Park when Westmount Road is redesigned for the new hospital.

Firstly, it was pointed out that “intent” is no guarantee of outcome, as most people who have tried to stop eating chocolate during Lent will testify. 


Pictured: Campaigners tied red ribbons to trees they feared were for the chop.

Secondly, it later transpired that trees would indeed be lopped down, but more would be planted, resulting in a net gain at the end of the project.

The flak that Senator Farnham received for his double-speak must have surely taught him that plain English (or is it plane English … I can never remember) is always more preferable than words that meander and wind like a troublesome super-highway.

Dealing with the mess of an unwelcome visitor 

The fragility of the rules and codes we live by were resolutely tested last year by a wheelchair-bound woman who rolled off the boat and started living on the streets in Jersey. Sonia Selwig slept in hostels, doorways and lobbies, often charging her wheelchair and laptop off private power supplies. 

Also, to say she lacked toilet etiquette would be a record-braking understatement. 

In January, Selwig – described as a “wholly dishonest woman” by the Magistrate - was sentenced to nine months in prison. Her cost to society – in terms of the services that tried to help her, the many emergency services’ callouts, the multiple court appearances, her long incarceration and eventual deportation – would have been eye-watering.

Those that don’t play by the book always cost those that do a lot of money and effort. Selwig was a tricky case for Jersey, which ultimately chose to lock her up then send her back to her native Germany. 

The episode was a sobering example of the island's vulnerability when someone arrives on its shores unannounced, neither without the right paperwork nor the means to support themselves.

Numbers that didn’t add up

Research shows that nine out of 10 Chief Statisticians prefer independence from Government, and Jersey’s own proved that hypothesis when he left in January.


Pictured: The independence of the Statistics Unit was called into question following the resignation of its head.

Although Dr Duncan Gibault – much appreciated by journalists for his enthusiasm and ability to explain stats to a traditionally numerically challenged profession – kept a dignified silence, it is understood he raised concerns about the creation of the role of Director of Statistics and Analytics within the civil service’s policy-making team, and felt he had no option but to go.

The Government say that the Statistics Unit will always be independent and have the figures to back that up.

You can read an in-depth piece about the saga here.

Ministers before the law

In March, one day Deputy Jeremy Maçon was Education Minister, the next day he wasn’t. Around a month after being officially appointed, the St. Saviour representative was forced to step aside after he was arrested, and a police investigation began.

Rumours and raked-up images swirled around faster than it takes to say ‘schadenfreude’ and some on social media seemed to get an insatiable taste for cancel culture, although no one was quite sure what should be cancelled or why.

While everyone had a view, what actually happened, or didn’t, was more elusive as the police went about their business in silence, frustratingly for some assuming innocence before guilt.

Later in the year, the investigation was dropped, and Deputy Maçon gave a tear-filled statement in the Assembly saying he’d been victim of “an extremely malicious politically motivated attack”. 

Public life generates public conversation but when it clashes with the constraints of due legal process, the results can be both undignified and messy.

Twas ever thus? Anyone who has read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, with its colourful description of knitters nattering at the guillotine, would probably say yes.

Constable “not fit for office and must resign” – ouch!

The Royal Court did not mince its words in March when it ordered St. John Constable Chris Taylor to resign, judging that he “was not fit for office” after had been found guilty in 2020 of dangerous driving. 


Pictured: Constable Chris Taylor was deemed "not fit for office" in March.

The Court noted that “petulance, arrogance, a failure to follow a manifesto or any other political reasons, perhaps even a refusal to respect institutions such as the courts of the island” are “undesirable characteristics” in any Member of the States Assembly.

Mr Taylor resigned soon afterwards, although he stayed on until a successor was elected. St. John parishioners asked, “why does it always seem to happen to us?” but they dusted themselves down and elected a new Constable set on restoring a sense of pride in the parish. 

A matter of life and death

One of Express’s most-read stories over the quarter was the story of Alain Du Chemin, a Jerseyman with a terminal illness who had booked a place with Dignitas in Switzerland to end his life. 

Alain Duchemin.jpeg

Pictured: Alain Du Chemin (left, on his St. Valentine’s Day wedding) campaigned for Jersey to allow assisted dying before his own passing.

Mr Du Chemin shared his story, one encompassing great joy and sadness, in the hope that hope that the island would see the value of allowing assisted dying. 

At that stage, Jersey was exploring making it legal, something that was agreed in principle by the Assembly in November.

Mr Du Chemin died before he could travel to Switzerland and his death was referenced by many supporters when arguing why helping someone to die should be allowed.

Gone but not forgotten

The first quarter of 2021 was also the final months of Charlie Parker’s controversial three-year reign at the top of the civil service. In January, he told the Local Government Chronicle that he would be looking for more “non-executive opportunities” upon his “retirement” at the end of March.

Even in his final days he made headlines, threatening to make an official complaint against Deputy Inna Gardiner for “potential intimidation” after she asked him to appear at a hearing to answer questions on “outstanding matters” before he departed.

This he refused to do, saying he was too busy. 


Pictured: Government CEO Charlie Parker‘s controversial era came to a premature end in March.

And so, on 17 March, the Charlie Parker era came to end, and with it, the taxpayer was £500,000 lighter thanks to a contractual pay-out that the outgoing CEO received.

Mr Parker never came to the island to be loved, and the island seemed happy to oblige. Some changes he brought it – such as the centralisation of policy-making – have been praised; others, such as the creation of the behemoth and sometimes conflicting IHE department have gone down less well.

After a year of caretaker management by Paul Martin, the island waits to see if the civil service’s first female head, who learned her trade in the tough streets of Belfast, will build on these changes or rip up the rulebook again when she arrives in March.

Arrow, Arrow Arrow, what have we here, then?

In February, a local metal detectorist found a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age spearhead on Longbeach near Gorey. 

Jay Cornick told Express: “I wasn’t looking for anything specific, it just popped up.

“I thought it was junk actually and it’s only when I looked at it again that I thought it had a bit of age to it. 

“I thought it might be something related to Mont Orgueil Castle because it was around that area.”


Pictured: The spearhead can now be seen at Jersey Museum.

In light of recent events in Jersey around buried treasure, one wonders if Mr Cornick will be seeking a new valuation of his find...

More tomorrow...

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