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Bullying claims ‘a complete and utter insult’, says Lowe

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‘A COMPLETE and utter insult’ was how Home Affairs president Mary Lowe described comments made about her in the governance review.

Home Affairs president Mary Lowe. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 25034942)

She and other members of the committee have demanded to see evidence leading to its conclusions, and Deputy Lowe is also keen to investigate the allegations further.

In defending Deputy Lowe, Home member Victoria Oliver said that one supposed example of Deputy Lowe’s bullying came about during a meeting between the politicians and the heads of services: ‘We were all in one room and she said “you’re all paid a lot and you should feel that you can come and talk to the committee”,’ said Deputy Oliver. ‘I don’t class that as bullying.’

The deputy criticised the subjective nature of the evidence gathered by Professor Staite.

The report says that the member of Home Affairs were not concerned about the high prison population: ‘We’ve no control over how many people go into the prison,’ said Deputy Oliver. ‘That’s for the courts to decide. We give them the tools – whether it’s suspended sentences, probation, community service or going to prison.’

There was little time between the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the subsequent Scrutiny Review hearing and the governance review being commissioned, said Home member Deputy Marc Leadbeater.

He criticised an interview being held with the former head of law enforcement Pat Rice as part of the review process, since Mr Rice retired soon after the HMIC report was published and would have had no knowledge of what progress may have been made.

He also took issue with comments made by interviewees that members seemed more intent on putting personal and political agendas before those of the committee: ‘I’d like to see some evidence of that, please,’ he said.

‘The report also said we hold back minutes from chiefs. When we had our workshop [with Professor Staite and the section heads] we said this had never happened.’

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Deputy Leadbeater wondered why this had never been mentioned, if it had been the case.

But despite telling the professor that this was inaccurate, he said it had been left in the report.

Deputy Lowe was critical of the former head of law enforcement being interviewed, particularly since the original terms of reference made no mention that this was the intention. ‘Why was Professor Staite directed to go and speak to Patrick Rice, raising all the issues that were raised previously? They were issues we accepted.’

And she wondered why there was no mention in the review of population management, which she said was another key part of Home’s work.

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Professor Staite was asked about this by the Guernsey Press and she said that she had spoken to the head of population management informally. ‘I didn’t interview [her] because that service wasn’t part of the remit of governance review. I also noted, in the report, the committee’s views that their work on population management was successful.’

Allegations that the committee president dominated her fellow committee members were ‘a complete and utter insult,’ Deputy Lowe said.

‘If they had felt that they would have raised it,’ she said. ‘I’ve always had that open approach.’

The committee has asked for evidence backing up the serious allegations but has not seen any. ‘We’ve said “let’s investigate it and have a look at what’s going on”.

‘We want to investigate issues in the report, but you can only learn from them if they are factually accurate.

‘Policy & Resources are paying for this report in the full knowledge that it does not reflect what’s going on in Home Affairs.’

In the wake of the report’s publication, she said she had had several heads of departments approach her to say that they were embarrassed by it. ‘It was heartening to have that approach from them,’ she said.

The three remaining members of the committee did not know if there was likely to be a vote of no confidence in the wake of the review, but they did not seem worried by it.

Deputy Oliver said that there could be one, but she urged members to reflect on a key point: ‘The one thing that needs to be recognised is that the committee has done what it said it would do,’ she said. ‘We’ve been saving money and putting public safety and security first and we’ve been doing our job.’

Deputy Leadbeater thought said that if a vote was called the members would face it: ‘But I would be surprised if someone was that cavalier this late in the term.’

It will be up to the States to decide what members want to do, said Deputy Lowe: ‘If there have been rumblings in the past about unhappiness between staff and committee members, it’s ended up in a vote of no confidence.

‘But there have been no rumblings [concerning Home Affairs],’ she said.

‘It’s come as a bit of a bombshell.’

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