17 April 2008
My statement to the BBC of which only part has been reported was as follows:
“This issue has of course been the subject of investigation by a Committee of Enquiry established by the States, and the 2002 Report of that Committee is in the public domain for all to see.
I am afraid that it is easy to be wise after the event. My decision in 1992 not to refer the election of Roger Holland as a Constable’s Officer back to the Royal Court was made in good faith on the basis of the facts known to me at that time. With hindsight it is certainly possible to say that a different decision ought to have been made, particularly given the harm done to the victims of some of his assaults. We owe it to those victims to make sure that the Island is alert to the problems which arose, and to ensure that they do not arise again.”
The facts have been in the public arena since 2002.
Holland, aged 21, indecently assaulted a young girl then aged 14 but with a mental age of 10, by trying to put his hand up her sweater in his car in 1986. He was put on Probation for 12 months and received psychiatric help. The Court lifted the Probation Order after eight months because Holland had responded well to it.
In 1991 Holland applied to join the Honorary Police of St. Helier and declared that conviction to the parochial authorities. That application was not immediately taken forward, but in March 1992, the then Connétable indicated to him that, as a result of the conviction, he would not be accepted as a probationary officer.
In June 1992 the matter was reconsidered at a St. Helier Honorary Police Meeting. None of the officers present opposed Holland’s election and the view was reached that, if he was prepared to face possible rejection by the Court, he should be allowed to stand.
On 7th July, 1992, Holland was elected unopposed as a Constable’s Officer. The following day, the Parish Authorities wrote to me as Attorney General to give notice, in accordance with standing practice, that Holland should be sworn-in before the Royal Court on 10th July. I was not advised of Holland’s previous conviction and at that time I was completely unaware of it.
Accordingly the Royal Court was not told of the existence of the conviction when the Oath of Office was administered to Holland on 10th July, 1992.
I became aware of the conviction on my return from the Royal Court when an anonymous letter arrived in the Law Officers’ Department. The Parish Authorities were asked for their views and responded that the Parish did not oppose Holland’s wish to join the Honorary Service.
It is unclear what jurisdiction in law the Royal Court could have exercised had these facts been brought to its attention the following week.
Whatever the position in law, the facts confronting me were a man who had expressed a wish to give voluntary service to his parish; had been honest with the Parish Authorities about his conviction; had received psychiatric advice at the time of the offence and had been accepted by the Court as deserving of early release from a Probation Order on account of good progress made; had not apparently re-offended in similar fashion in the six years since; was standing for honorary office with the support of the Parish Authorities, and who had taken his Oath of Office before the Royal Court. I had to balance all those factors, when considering whether there should be a public reference to the Court.
I have said it is easy to be wise after the event. I quite understand the reactions of the victim’s father as reported by the BBC. With hindsight, of course, I would rather a different decision had been taken at the time. But, in context, on the facts as known at the time – 1992, when not as much was known about the long term paedophile tendencies of those abusing children, and before the rash of child abuse investigations which took place in the UK in the 1990’s – I hope the decision seems more understandable.
I have served the Jersey public for over 33 years. During that period, I am sure that I have made mistakes. But I have always sought to behave with integrity, which I believe to be the case in this matter. I have no intention of resigning over this issue.
17 April 2008 Sir Philip Bailhache
Bailiff of Jersey