'No attempt' to make AFR settlement costs public

Scrutiny panel The panel was created after concerns were raised by some States members over the confidential deal

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No attempt has been made to change a confidential agreement to make public the cost of an out-of-court settlement, Guernsey's home minster has said.

Patrick Rice, the chief officer of Guernsey Police, agreed the settlement with AFR Advocates last year after an unlawful police raid in June 2010.

The law firm has stated it would not object to the cost being made public.

Home Minister Jonathan Le Tocq said renegotiating the settlement could damage the States' reputation.

He made the comments while appearing before a public hearing called by the island's Scrutiny Committee, the first of its kind.

The four-man panel led by Alderney Representative Paul Arditti questioned Deputy Le Tocq on the political decisions behind keeping the settlement confidential.

'Minimal cost'

Deputy Le Tocq said he had not been aware of the negotiations or settlement until he was informed of its agreement by the island's police chief on 7 November 2012.

He said his department's political board had been informed about the settlement at meetings held in January and February.

Deputy Le Tocq told the panel there had been no political oversight before this as the police chief had "delegated authority and budget" and it was within his power "to negotiate what we believe was in the best public interest".

He said the "minimal cost" of the settlement had been met by the States' insurers and the legal fees incurred in defending the action, which totalled just over £10,000, had been met from the police budget.

Patrick Rice, who during the negotiations represented the police officers involved in the raid, said AFR Advocates had asked for one hearing to be held in a closed session and so a confidentially clause had been included in the settlement.

Paul Arditti Mr Arditti said he hoped the hearing would be a "watershed moment"

Mr Rice, who came to the island to take up his post two months after the raid, said: "The settlement was not undertaken lightly."

Deputy Le Tocq said the decision not to pursue changes to the settlement to allow the cost to be released had followed briefings from the chief of police, department staff and independent legal advice.

He said there were elements of risk either way, but the risks were too great on the side of disclosing the sum.

When asked what he would change with hindsight, Deputy Le Tocq said he would have preferred to have States guidelines for such circumstances, but he believed any such guidelines would have supported the signing of the confidential agreement.

The Policy Council has announced it is looking at such a set of guidelines as part of an information sharing policy.

Summing up, Mr Arditti said he hoped the hearing would mark a watershed in the States' approach to confidential agreements.

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