Syvret v Chief Minister, States Employment Board, States of Jersey and AG

JurisdictionJersey
CourtRoyal Court
JudgeJ. P. C. Sumption, Esq,Sumption, Commr.
Judgment Date20 June 2011
Neutral Citation[2011] JRC 116
Date20 June 2011

[2011] JRC 116

ROYAL COURT

(Samedi Division)

Before:

J. P. C. Sumption, Esq., Q.C., Commissioner, sitting alone.

IN THE MATTER OF AN APPLICATION BY THE DEFENDANTS TO STRIKE OUT THE PLAINTIFF'S ORDER OF JUSTICE

AND IN THE MATTER OF AN APPLICATION BY THE PLAINTIFF THAT THE COMMISSIONER RECUSE HIMSELF.

Between
Stuart Syvret
Plaintiff
and
(1) Chief Minister
(2) States Employment Board
(3) States of Jersey
(4) Her Majesty's Attorney General
Defendants

The Plaintiff appeared on his own behalf.

H. Sharp, Esq., Solicitor General, for the Defendants.

Advocate R. J. C. Wakeham acting as amicus curiae.

THE COMMISSIONER:

1

This is an action brought by Mr. Stuart Syvret against the Chief Minister of Jersey, the States Employment Board, the States of Jersey and Her Majesty's Attorney-General. I have two applications before me. The first is an application by the Defendants to strike out the Order of Justice. The second is an application by Mr. Syvret that I should recuse myself from any further involvement in the proceedings. Logically, I should deal first with the question of recusal, but some explanation of the nature of the action is necessary in order to understand either application. I shall therefore begin by summarising Mr. Syvret's pleaded allegations.

The Order of Justice
2

The Order of Justice is long, discursive and repetitive. It is also clear that it has been drafted, at least in part, with a view to using these proceedings as a platform for making a number of essentially political criticisms of government of Jersey. The pleading makes serious allegations relating to the system for protecting children against criminal abuse, and allegations of dishonesty and criminality against a large number of named and unnamed officers, employees and advisers of the Jersey government. The legal relevance of these allegations to Mr. Syvret's claim is not always apparent. However, due allowance must be made for the fact that Mr. Syvret is acting in person and has no legal training. If it is clear what point he is trying to make, and what its legal implications are (whether he realises it or not), and if it gives fair notice to the Defendants of some legally and factually coherent basis for a claim against them, then the action should be allowed to proceed, with appropriate directions for amending the pleading to make good any deficiencies.

3

Mr. Syvret is a well-known Jersey politician. He was a member of the States of Jersey from 1990 to 2010, serving as a Senator for all but the first three years of that period. By his own account (paragraph 13 of the Order of Justice):-

“throughout his near twenty-years as a States member, the Plaintiff consistently posed the traditional political/judicial ‘establishment’ of Jersey and consistently argued for different political policies, for improvements in public administration and for the introduction of effective checks and balances.”

He pleads (paragraphs 14–15) that there was substantial public support for his views, and that he had a “highly credible political mandate”, for which reason, he had “often been subjected to political hostilities and obstructions by those in power in Jersey”.

4

The States of Jersey is the supreme legislative and executive authority of the Bailiwick, under the Crown. For many years, its executive functions were performed by committees, each with responsibility for particular departments of government. In 2005, significant changes were made to the constitution of the Bailiwick by the States of Jersey Law. Part IV of the Law introduced a ministerial system of government. It created a Council of Ministers comprising the Chief Minister and nine ministers. Ministers, selected by the States from among its members. They were answerable to the States for the performance of their functions, and were subject to removal by the States in accordance with a statutory procedure. Article 26(1) provides that a Minister in his official capacity is a corporation sole.

5

Mr. Syvret had been the President of the Health and Social Services Committee of the States from 1999 to 2005. Thereafter, he became the Minister for Health and Social Services, until he was dismissed by vote of the States in September 2007.

6

There is a comprehensive statutory scheme in Jersey for protecting the welfare of children. Statutory functions under the scheme are assigned to a number of public authorities, including the Minister for Health and Social Services. Under Article 42, where the Minister is informed that a child has been taken into protection or has reasonable cause to believe that the child is suffering or at risk of suffering harm, he has a duty to investigate with a view to taking action to safeguard or promote the child's welfare. Article 42(8) provides that any administration of the States is bound to assist the Minister with his enquiries if asked by him to do so, unless it would be unreasonable to do so.

7

In the course of 2007, Mr. Syvret as Minister of Health and Social Services, came to the conclusion that standards of child protection in Jersey were inadequate. Between paragraphs 78 and 160 of the Order of Justice, he pleads what amount to particulars of this state of affairs, citing six institutions at which he alleges that children had been criminally abused.

8

As a result of information supplied to him, apparently by constituents and other members of the public, Mr. Syvret embarked on a number of enquiries into specific cases (paragraphs 32–35). In the course of these enquiries, he became dissatisfied with the assistance given to him by officials and care workers (paragraphs 36–42). At paragraphs 39–41, Mr. Syvret pleads:

Mr. Syvret initially expressed these concerns to the public servants in question. He then criticised them publicly at a session of the States on 16 July 2007 (paragraph 38).

  • “39. The Plaintiff, rather than receiving the assistance and support he could properly expect from the relevant public employees, and receiving the statutory assistance as guaranteed by Article 42, paragraph 8 of the Children (Jersey) Law, was instead subjected to a criminal conspiracy to obstruct him in the discharge of his duties, harass him, to damage his public standing and to unlawfully engineer his removal from ministerial office. These actions all cause great personal harm, damage and loss to the Plaintiff.

  • 40. The action against the Plaintiff being —unambiguously —an attempt to sabotage effective child protection in Jersey, thus permitting, failing to prevent, sustaining and concealing the abuse of children.

  • 41. The Plaintiff, being lawfully engaged in attempting to expose several criminal offences against children, the obstructive and sabotaging actions taken against him constituting a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

  • 42. Further, given that many, if not all, of those so acting to obstruct and sabotage the Plaintiff's lawful duties, being the holders of ‘public office’, the actions against both him and the vulnerable children of Jersey amounting to the common law offence of ‘misconduct in a public office’.”

9

This angered those who had been criticised. On 25 July 2007, a number of senior officials met to discuss how Mr. Syvret might be removed from office (paragraphs 44–46). Mr. Syvret characterises this as “a conspiracy… against the Plaintiff to prevent him from discharging his lawful duties in respect of child protection” (paragraph 47). In later paragraphs, Mr. Syvret refers to it as a ‘criminal conspiracy’, which he says was joined successively by the Jersey Child Protection Committee (paragraph 48), two named senior officials (paragraph 49), the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers (paragraphs 51–2).

10

The Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers then appointed a consultant called Andrew Williamson (referred to at paragraph 53 as a ‘tame placeman’) to produce a report on failures of child protection on the island. Mr. Williamson produced a report which Mr. Syvret describes as “dishonest and defective”, because it did not, as an honest report would have done, conclude that “child protection standards and practices in Jersey were in a state of catastrophic failure” (paragraphs 54–6). In this regard, the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers were acting, he says, “criminally and in direct contradiction of the public good” (paragraph 57).

11

Article 20 of the States of Jersey Law 2005 provides that only the States...

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