This critique addresses the recent statement from Guernsey’s Committee for Home Affairs regarding the legal costs incurred in defending police officers against a court case. The Committee’s statement follows an appeal to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Panel, which ruled that the required information should be released1. In Guernsey, Freedom of Information operates under a ‘code’ rather than a ‘law,’ so public officials are not legally obliged to comply.

You can’t take the public’s money and then refuse to say how much you took.

The Committee for Home Affairs’ statement is evasive and lacks true transparency.

  1. Lack of Transparency: Claiming transparency while withholding cost details is hypocritical. Taxpayers deserve to know the full financial burden, including what insurers paid. Hiding behind confidentiality damages public trust.
  2. Public Funds and Insurance: Insurers covering costs still indirectly impact taxpayers. Concealing the total expense obscures the true financial impact on the public purse.
  3. Legal Representation: The refusal of Law Officers to represent police officers, citing a decade-old ruling, but then saying costs cannot be revealed because a private firm conducted the defence (paid by the State) is nonsensical. The States always knew what they spent, as the Insurance Deductible Fund is managed by the States of Guernsey, specifically under the oversight of the Committee for Employment & Social Security. They should be fully aware of and transparent about the expenditures from this fund. You can’t take the public’s money and then refuse to say how much you took.
  4. FOI Appeals Panel: The FOI Appeals Panel ruled that the Committee should release the information, but the Committee criticized this decision as nonsensical, showing contempt for transparency. The Committee’s earlier refusal to release information defies the principles of public accountability.
  5. Police Morale vs. Accountability: Supporting police is vital, but it should not come at the cost of transparency. Public scrutiny ensures accountability, which is essential for a trusted police force.
  6. Reforms to Police Complaints Law: Promised reforms to the Police Complaints Law must include greater transparency and accountability. (Plus the Police must comply with DSAR requests within the period prescribed in the GDPR Law, and fully.) Without this, public confidence won’t be restored.
  7. Vexatious Complaints: Dismissing complaints as vexatious is dangerous. Every complaint deserves fair consideration. Labelling them otherwise to avoid scrutiny is unacceptable.

In summary, the Committee’s defensive stance and lack of full disclosure undermine public trust. Transparency and accountability are non-negotiable.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Statement from all members of the Committee for Home Affairs:

‘As a Committee we have been deeply concerned about the politicisation of a prolonged court case whereby, in accordance with basic principles of justice, police officers defended themselves against legal claims from two members of the community, relating to the officers’ actions when responding to reports of an alleged domestic incident in 2021.

‘The Committee itself was not a party to this legal action, which was brought against individual police officers, however from an early stage was kept informed of developments and provided appropriate oversight of the litigation. The Committee appropriately followed the States’ litigation processes and procedures throughout.

‘The Committee has sought to be as transparent as possible, while also respecting that it is not a party to the court action so there is some information that is simply not ours to provide.

‘The following information is already in the public domain:

  • Costs against the Committee’s budget were £5,000;
  • £250,000 came from the States’ Insurance Deductible Fund;
  • The remaining costs were not met by taxpayer funds, but instead were met by the States’ insurers;
  • In the first instance the Law Officers of the Crown were approached about providing representation. However, having taken into account the judgment in the case of Le Huray v States of Guernsey (2011), they indicated that they did not consider it appropriate to do so.  That judgment determined that police officers are not ’employees’ of the States but hold public office and therefore may face civil legal claims directly. As these officers were sued in their capacity as individual office holders, it would have been inappropriate for the Law Officers of the Crown, as the States’ lawyers, to represent them.
  • Guernsey Police has statutory independence from the Committee in operational matters and given the officers were being sued for matters which occurred in the course of carrying out their duties, the States of course financially supported their defence in full consultation with our insurers.

As such the total cost met by taxpayers for this legal action is already in the public domain; it is £255,000.

‘The remaining “pressure” to release further information is to effectively ascertain how much the States’ insurers paid, to provide the total cost. As we repeatedly explained to the Freedom of Information Appeals Panel, that information is not the Committee’s to give. The overall costs incurred by the officers remains a confidential contractual matter between them and the legal practice. 

‘We understand Senior Bailiwick Law Enforcement officers have engaged with the officers who have stated that they do not wish this confidential information to be disclosed. The Committee respects that position.

‘We find it nonsensical that the FOI Appeals Panel found that we accurately applied an exemption as per the FOI Code, yet then ruled we should still release information that is either not ours to provide or not in our possession. We have written to the panel in detail today to explain that we will not be releasing information that belongs to the individual officers who were actioned and noting that we are not obliged to find out information that we do not have. In the interests of transparency we have taken the unusual step of publishing the letter CHttpHandler.ashx (

‘Lastly, our Committee feels strongly that police officers do a very difficult job in often incredibly challenging circumstances. They deal with sensitive and volatile situations daily and, while we acknowledge that for some members of the community the police’s intervention is not welcomed, ultimately officers are duty bound to carry out their responsibilities. In this case, while as with all situations we know the police will take any appropriate learning onboard, the officers’ actions were in line with their responsibilities and it was therefore appropriate for the Committee to support them in the way we did. 

‘These officers have been subjected to a prolonged period of multiple complaints from a member of the community who the Royal Court described as having “an unfortunate habit of not accepting decisions because they do not comply with his wishes and a disproportionate response with reams of correspondence”. This was outlined in a Royal Court judgment looking at some of the circumstances surrounding this matter (CHttpHandler.ashx (

‘The Committee absolutely respects the right of people to challenge actions taken by police officers and also the concept of Freedom of Information Requests but also must draw the community’s attention to it when we consider these processes are being misused at significant cost to taxpayers given the regular and arguably vexatious complaints from the same individual. We continue to work on much-needed reforms to the Police Complaints Law, which will address this alongside a range of other potential improvements to the current legislation. These reforms are intended to greatly improve the level of confidence in the police complaints process for officers within Guernsey Police and the wider community.’

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