What’s not put into effect here
Saturday 16th February 2013, 3:00PM GMT.
DISCLOSURES by this newspaper that the authorities here are refusing to release details of how much it has cost the taxpayer for the botched police raid on a firm of local lawyers came the same week that a debate has been triggered in the UK on whether gagging orders should ever be used by government.
The circumstances are slightly different – buying the secrecy of the former chief executive of an NHS Trust in Lincolnshire – but the consequences are the same: unnecessary restrictions imposed on matters of public interest.
However, Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, said yesterday that he has ‘clear evidence’ that the Department of Health is not in favour of such gagging clauses.
No such guidelines exist here and, if past experience is anything to go by, there is no point in asking each States department for its view. Such requests are immediately relayed to Frossard House whereupon a Policy Council spokesman issues instructions for it not to be answered.
The reality in the case of AFR Advocates, who successfully demonstrated that the 3am raid on their offices was unlawful, is that the damages they received were probably modest.
Showing that what the police officers did was wrong and improperly supervised was their motive, not gold-digging at the taxpayers’ expense.
But what is relevant – and still kept secret by Home, police, Law Officers and the Policy Council – is the expense of the establishment fighting the indefensible and then using a UK barrister to get some independent legal advice.
How much does a leading Silk charge to advise dropping the case as swiftly as possible because the cops didn’t have a leg to stand on? You’re not allowed to know. Not only is that disgraceful, it is completely unjustifiable, as the UK’s Department of Health also appears to believe.
Our request for a copy of the QC’s advice was also declined. We can only speculate that this was to spare further embarrassment for the Law
Officers whose mishandling of the matter significantly added to the cost.
Unfortunately, openness and transparency are just words unless put into practice.
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