AFR: some costs can be released
Saturday 23rd February 2013, 2:00PM GMT.
IT MAY be below the public’s radar, but the degree of non-disclosure over the affair of the 3am search warrant aimed at AFR Advocates is gaining traction in political circles and there is a lot of unease among deputies about what islanders are not being told.
In many respects, this is now a test of how open and transparent the political board of the Home Department really are.
The reason is that the damages paid to AFR are not the issue. The evidence suggests these were small, possibly even token, because the lawyers’ aim was to have the warrant declared – in public – to have been unlawful. In that, they succeeded.
However, it is the on-costs that are not subject to any non-disclosure agreement that are far more relevant, and for two reasons.
The first is because they are much higher than they needed to be. Had it been acknowledged up front that there were problems with the warrant and its execution then two years’ legal wrangling could have been avoided plus considerable
expense to the taxpayer.
The second is actually the nub of this. What has been spent by Home to provide legal cover for the officers involved, the cost of QCs’ advice
on liability plus the expense of meeting AFR’s
recoverable costs are not covered by the confidentiality clause.
In other words, it is entirely in the gift of Home to release details of what the real damage to the public purse was. Or not.
Will it now do so?
To date, the department has hardly been forthcoming. It may not be the minister’s intention, but the silence does rather look like leaving the current head of police taking the flack for something that happened on someone else’s watch.
An independent review by a second QC has established that the police who sought and executed the warrant were acting in good faith, so this matter appears to be foul-up rather than conspiracy.
In the circumstances, Home releasing the financial details over which it has control would be a clear demonstration that this is not, after all, about secrecy for the sake of it.
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