MP gives asylum to Jersey whistle-blower
Monday 26 October 2009
A Jersey senator who blew the whistle on a secret police report has fled to Britain to seek legal asylum after claiming that he is being denied a fair trial on the channel island.
Stuart Syvret, a former health minister who is deeply critical of Jersey’s political establishment, was arrested in April under the island’s data protection laws after he published details of a police investigation into a registered nurse which he believed showed that the person remained a danger to the public and had been ignored by the authorities.
Following his arrest Mr Syvret attended a number of preliminary court hearings but failed to turn up for a directions hearing last Wednesday which he argued he was not obliged to attend.
But the island’s authorities disagreed and issued a warrant for his arrest prompting Mr Syvret to cross the Channel and seek sanctuary in the home of John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. Mr Hemming has since told the Jersey authorities that they will only be able to extradite his guest “over his dead body” and has vowed to thwart any attempts to extradite him back to Siant Helier.
“He is staying at my London flat as my guest and they can arrest him over my dead body,” Mr Hemming said. “He is a brave and principled politician, but the authorities are prosecuting him rather than investigating the allegations about the nurse. We should not allow him to be prosecuted in a kangaroo court.”
As a crown dependency, Jersey has a separate legal system from Britain and any arrest warrant issued in the island would need to receive backing from a British judge in order to be executed on the mainland.
Speaking to The Independent this evening, Mr Syvret said any attempt by the Jersey authorities to have the warrant executed would be challenged under judicial review.
“There are only two ways I am returning to Jersey,” he said. “Either they drag me there by force, or I return to a fully reformed judicial system that is separate from the political establishment which will guarantee me a fair trial.”
He has also written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to explain why he has chosen to flee to the mainland.
Mr Syvret’s decision to publish the police report into the male nurse is just the latest whistle blowing moment in a career that has made him a deeply controversial figure on Jersey.
He has been an outspoken critic of the way the island’s establishment has dealt with a string of child abuse allegations and children’s homes during the 1970s and 1980s. Two years ago he lost his job as health minister after claming that abuse cases were being covered up.
He has also repeatedly called for a greater separation between the judiciary and Jersey’s equivalent of parliament which, he believes, are too closely linked.
Mr Syvret had been intending to defend himself in court by arguing that it was in the public’s interest to disclose the secret police report. But he stormed out of a court appearance after a prosecutor tried to argue that a public interest defence was inadmissible.
“I have completely lost faith in Jersey’s judicial system,” he said. “It’s a joke. Jersey’s legal system is utterly corrupt, incompetent and overly politicised. They will have to drag me back.”
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