|FORMER MAGISTRATE DESIGNATE IAN CHRISTMAS|
Sunday, April 14, 2013
THE TRIAL AND FINAL RESIGNATION OF MAGISTRATE DESIGNATE IAN CHRISTMAS
"A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL"
"THE CASE OF FORMER MAGISTRATE DESIGNATE IAN CHRISTMAS."
The case of jailed former Magistrate, Ian Christmas, has bugged me for some time now. On 5th October 2012 Ian Christmas was jailed for 15 months for defrauding an elderly woman out of £100,000. He was originally arrested in June 2008. It has taken 4 long years to come to court.
He received his full pay during this time, which came to about £500,000. He never resigned from his post and could only be removed by order of the Queen after a disciplinary investigation by a UK judge. This man never had a problem receiving his pay whilst suspended from duty awaiting trial. Even after he was found guilty he never resigned from post , so why did he suddenly resign from his post on the 18th January 2013? Was it because his salary was stopped on the 16th October 2012. Lets have a little look at his timeline. I find his Appeal process a little puzzling. Why resign if you are on Appeal and believe yourself to be innocent? Like I say, this case just bugs me.
Former Magistrate Designate Ian Christmas has his court chambers raided by the Police. He is suspended from duty on full pay.
26th July 2012
Former Magistrate Ian Christmas is found guilty of one case of fraud. He has been on full pay during this period. This amounts to £500,000. He has not resigned from office during this time. Even now, after being found guilty, Ian Christmas does not resign from his position as magistrate.
25th September 2012
The JEP report that Ian Christmas could now face a disciplinary investigation to see if he should remain in office. I take it that they are referring to an investigation carried out by a UK Judge
5th October 2012
Former Magistrate Ian Christmas is sentenced to 15 months for defrauding an elderly women out of £100.000 pounds. He still does not resign from his position as magistrate. He lodges an Appeal straight away. He proclaims he is innocent.
16th October 2012
The Bailiff, Michael Birt, states that the salary of Ian Christmas was stopped on the 16th October 2012
18th January 2013
Just as his Appeal for conviction gets under way Ian Christmas finally resigns as Magistrate Designate. "WHY?" Why has he resigned now? What if he gets off on Appeal? Would he not be able to take up his old post as Magistrate as an innocent man? Why resign at the beginning of an Appeal process when he has not bothered doing so in the past 4 years? Has a deal been struck?
Even his Appeal is bugging me. He has been ordered that he must repay the £100,000 back to the elderly women he defrauded, but that is only if his Appeal is unsuccessful. Ok, he would be innocent, then no need to pay the women back. Why did he resign his post? Then we have the three judges who are sitting on his Appeal come out with a "Don't rush us on this" statement on the 27th February 2013:
This is from Channelonline:
"Three judges have retired to consider whether or not a disgraced former Jersey judge should have been jailed for fraud."
Ian Christmas and three others were found guilty last year for the parts they played in a property con.
The Court of Appeal hearing has now come to an end after weeks of legal arguments.
It is not known when the verdict will be handed down, but the court has taken the unusual step of announcing it does not want to rush its decision.
A statement on behalf of Sir John Nutting QC, Christopher Nugee QC and Richard Collas - the three judges who have been hearing the appeal - says they wish to ensure all matters are fully deliberated.
Christmas was jailed for 15 months.
Three others, John Lewis, James Cameron and Russell Foot were each sent down for four and a half years.
Central to the case was whether islanders were conned out of their life savings by a property investment business they operated." End
How long does it take? "Don't Rush Us." We are into April now and still no sign of a verdict. It is bugging me. Is he going to walk with some time served nonsense. By resigning his post did he make life a little easier for the Jersey Judiciary by not having to involve the Queen and a UK judge? Just what is going on here? He made £500,000 out of this. He was still working during those 4 years only not as a magistrate. Is he going to win his Appeal? He must think so.
Here are some links to some good pieces on the subject by Channel ITV and Gary Burgess.
This is also a very good posting on the subject.
Ian Christmas: The Legal Background Tony's Musings
I have asked Senator Ian Le Marquand for background information on the legal situation regarding Ian Christmas, the Magistrate jailed for fraud.
He has been happy to give permission for me to make his reply public, with the proviso (that I am happy to place here) as follows:
"you can make my response public provided that you make it clear that I am not a Justice Minister but have need dealing with responses on behalf of the Chief Minister because of my knowledge of the legal and constitutional issues."
I would like to thank him for making this information public.
To put our exchange in context, this was my email asking for clarification of what he had said on BBC Radio Jersey, as I had missed the interview:
I missed hearing you on the radio the other day about arrangements over the Crown Officers, and wonder if you could fill me in on what you said, and what you are proposing.
Obviously this has to do with Mr Christmas, and while I think that it is proper he should receive a salary while suspended before sentencing, it seems inequitable if he receives one after he has been found guilty. After all, a pensioner who is sent to prison will (as I understand it) cease to receive his pension once sent there.
I understand Mr Christmas is appealing, but if the appeal fails, then he will have been paid for the interim period with, apparently, no means for redeeming that back by the States of Jersey. This again does not seem equitable. It would surely be fairer for him to not be paid until his appeal is heard, or paid into a kind of escrow account, and paid a backlog if successful. That way, he does not lose out, but if still guilty as charged, the State does not lose either.
The mechanisms for removing Mr Christmas from office also seem exceedingly protracted. At what point - when sentenced to prison - when failing on appeal - is he removed from office? It seems that there should a point, certainly if his appeal fails, where removal from office becomes automatic. I'm taking the appeal as the end point, because I think it is important that justice is also given to Mr Christmas as fairly as possible (unlike, perhaps, the media); on the other hand, if the appeal fails, given the time he has already been paid - including time in prison, there is surely no justice in him being continued to be paid from that point on.
Lastly, should there be a code of conduct and/or register of interests for magistrates? It appears that Mr Christmas was in effect using his office as magistrate to engender trust in a private business venture, and surely magistrates should not use their office as a kind of marketing endorsement? A magistrate is a position (I hope) of respect in the community, and I'm not sure they should engage in private schemes of the kind cited in Mr Christmas case, or if they do, shouldn't that be transparent with a register of judiciary interests?
This was his reply, which makes the situation very clear:
Tony, Mr. Christmas is a public office holder and the terms of his tenure of office are set out in the 1864 law on the Juge d'Instruction. There is no provision for his suspension from office and he can only be dismissed by the Privy Council upon petition by the Superior Number of the Royal Court. The Superior Number is the Bailiff, the Deputy Bailiff and all 12 Jurats who are usually assisted by the Attorney General, the Judicial Greffier and the Viscount.
There was a Press Release dated 25th September which explained the procedure which was being followed on behalf of the Royal Court, namely, a disciplinary investigation by a UK judge.
In my view, Mr. Christmas ought to have resigned at the point at which it became clear that he could not return to his former role. In my view that was when he was formally charged although some may think that he should have resigned earlier and you appear to think that he should have resigned when convicted.
In an ideal world, we would have in place a procedure by virtue of which a judge could be removed from office once there was such a public loss of confidence in the judge as to render it impossible for the judge to return. However, that is not without its difficulties. It is an important constitutional principle in a democracy that we have an independent judiciary. That is partly because the Government itself will be a party to court cases and partly as a safeguard against corruption. That therefore requires that a judge cannot be removed for political reasons. That in turn make the loss of public confidence test a difficult one to determine objectively.
It is my view that there now needs to be a review of the disciplinary arrangements for judges
SO WHY DID HE RESIGN AS MAGISTRATE DESIGNATE?
HAS A DEAL BEEN STRUCK?
Part Time Investigative Journalist