Maintaining the gag is misguided
Friday 1st March 2013, 3:00PM GMT.
THE minister leading the cover-up of the cost of the botched raid of AFR Advocates insists that the controversy is largely invented by this newspaper and that the broadcast media have been far more compliant in falling in with his wishes.
Leaving aside the inaccuracies in what he says, the comments are illuminating in revealing how misinformed he is on why this matters.
A sensitive police operation went badly wrong, it was improperly supervised and a Royal Court judge signed off a warrant that enabled it to
happen. Public money has been spent as a result and more has been wasted because of the futile attempt at defending the action.
All this begs explanation – and an honest disclosure of what this has cost islanders.
Yet someone thought it a good idea to try to keep this hushed up and the minister is defending that secrecy.
In reality, there is no need for it. AFR are happy for their costs and damages to be disclosed and just what underpins the gagging is looking increasingly shaky.
First, there is no court order. It was only an agreement. Then the Law Officers downgraded it in response to questions from this newspaper to an ‘arrangement’.
A cosy one to save face? As yet, we don’t know although the suspicions are strong. Nor do we know the extent of the arrangement, or if it even exists in writing.
We do know, however, that the secrecy was requested by the police chief. Was he acting on Home instructions or those of the Law Officers?
Home says it was to save money. If so, where is the evidence to back that up? AFR wanted to clear its name. Publicity was an essential ingredient of that. In a perverse way, since buying silence generally comes at a cost, it could be implied that the secrecy has actually increased costs.
However, the point lost on Home is that while the costs and damages awarded to AFR might have to remain confidential, nothing else does.
How much it cost to represent the police, the judge and the police chief is not restricted.
Neither is the cost of advice from two UK QCs.
This is secrecy for the sake of it.
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