Retiring Jersey bailiff defends office over abuse report

Bailiff of Jersey, Sir William Bailhache
Image caption Sir William Bailhache said he spoke solely about the comments made about the bailiff's role by the panel and not its findings about the 'appalling' abuse suffered

Criticism of the dual role of Jersey's bailiff are based on "pre-conceived notions and prejudices", the retiring bailiff has said.

Last month, a panel that carried out an inquiry into historical child abuse on the island called for the roles of States chief judge and presiding officer to be separate.

It criticised a perceived lack of action to tackle the "Jersey way".

Sir William Bailhache said the comments were "unfair criticism" to his office.

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry Panel's 2017 report focused on Haut de la Garenne and Les Chenes, which were at the centre of decades of abuse in the island's child care system.

The panel said the "Jersey way" was sometimes used "in a positive way to describe a strong culture of community and voluntary involvement".

However, it said the phrase was also used to describe a system where "serious issues are swept under the carpet" and "people escape being held to account for abuses perpetrated".

While it did not directly reference the bailiff's dual role in 2017 it did suggest "further consideration" be given to the findings of the earlier Clothier and Carswell reports which recommended the separation of the judicial and legislative roles.

'Grave error'

In July, the roles were debated by the States and a decision was made to keep them combined.

In its final report last month, the panel said it was "concerned" by the decision, describing it as "a further indication of a failure to recognise the importance of these systems, having evident impartiality and full transparency at their heart".

Speaking in his last States meeting as presiding officer, Sir William, who has served as Bailiff since 2015, said criticism of the dual roles was based on "pre-conceived notions and prejudices".

He added the inquiry "took not a scrap of evidence" from the witnesses "who might be thought to know something about the island's constitution and the way in which the dual role was managed".

He also rejected a link made by the panel between allegations of lack of fairness and transparency in decision-making over historic child abuse by the bailiff, describing it as a "grave error".

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