Jersey's politicians have decided to 'censure' Deputy Andrew Lewis for misleading the States into thinking he had read a full report on the Police's conduct of a child abuse enquiry, when actually he had only read a summary of it.
That comment in a confidential debate ten years ago led to a four-and-a-half hour discussion yesterday, after which Members opted to give their colleague a formal 'ticking off' by 29 votes to 16.
Deputy Lewis was singled out by the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (IJCI) and accused of lying both to the States and to the Inquiry itself during his time as Minister for Home Affairs in 2008 - a charge he has always refuted.
The issue centred around a confidential speech given to States members nearly a decade ago while Deputy Lewis was Home Affairs Minister. In it, Deputy Lewis justified his decision to suspend Graham Power by stating that he had seen a report criticising the then Police Chief’s handling of the ongoing child abuse inquiry.
Pictured: The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry singled Deputy Lewis out for having lied to the States Assembly and to the Inquiry itself.
It later transpired that Deputy Lewis had not in fact seen the full Metropolitan Police Report, but rather a letter from Deputy Police Chief David Warcup which summarised the report.
The allegation that Deputy Lewis lied made in the IJCI led to a hearing with the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC), who concluded that Deputy Lewis’ actions had misled the Assembly and brought the States into disrepute.
In his personal statement to the Assembly before the debate, Deputy Lewis offered his apologies to Members who felt misled by his words during the confidential States sitting in 2008. He said: “I deeply regret not being more precise in the language I used and I wish to express my sincere apologies to any member of the States at that time who may have felt misled by what I said."
Pictured: Deputy Andrew Lewis offered his apologies to Members who felt misled by his words in 2008.
During today’s extensive debate in the Chamber, several Members voiced their support for the Deputy. This included a speech written by Senator Sir Philip Bailhache and read by Senator Alan Maclean due to Senator Bailhache having been taken ill earlier this week. Senator Bailhache wrote: “I am convinced that Deputy Andrew Lewis did not lie”, before continuing to denounce the process of PPC as a “travesty of justice”, in that it was a “process where the outcome had been pre-determined”.
One of the Deputy's more surprising supporters was the Constable of St John, Chris Taylor, who himself sat on the PPC panel which found Deputy Lewis in breach of the code of conduct. In the debate, Constable Taylor said that since the hearing, this issue has “kept [him] awake many a night” as well as urging Members that “a vote of censure far outweighs the error of the former Minister.”
Pictured: The States Members who sat on the PPC panel which found Deputy Lewis in breach of the code of conduct.
Deputy Lewis also found himself under fire from more critical members of the PPC panel, including Deputy Simon Bree who refuted claims that the alleged lie was not material to any decision taken by the States: “Irrespective of whether you feel that the suspension of the Police Chief was good or not, I’m afraid that, in my book, the end never justifies the means. That excuse has been used by dictators, despots and tyrants throughout mankind’s history and, I’m afraid, I refuse to accept that as a legitimate political stance.”
Chief Minister Ian Gorst was one of the 29 Members who voted in favour of the proposal to censure Deputy Lewis. In his speech he said: “The Inquiry have made their recommendations, PPC have found a breach of the code and are asking us to censure our friend, our colleague. That is a difficult ask, but we should not shy away from doing it. Are we really going to say that we know better than the Care Inquiry? I understand, sir, how difficult this is for many Members, but I ask them to think very, very carefully before they indicate to the public and to the world at large that they know better than the Care Inquiry.”
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