Tuesday, 13 December 2011

This smell stinks

The main sewer appears to have burst and the problem has surfaced to Line Wall Road, what a traffic mess! It is said that the problem is worse than at first thought and that it has been going on for some time now. Was it spotted before the election and nothing was done? The press release includes this paragraph: It is apparent that the sewer system is in a worse condition than had been previously recognised, and the Government is investigating the current situation, what gives rise to it, and will make a public statement in due course...One result is that the problem is that raw sewage is overflowing into the sea in the area of mid-harbours. This has apparently been going on for some time...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Is this justice, Mr Feetham?

I have commented in the past of what I call the “injustice” system in Gibraltar regarding the difficulties and obstructive tactics a citizen can face when getting embroiled in our legal process against a government body.

We are constantly told how wonderful everything is and I wonder if Mr D Feetham during his time as Minister for Justice, or Injustice as I see it, can honestly feel satisfaction with the way things really have been during his term of office.

Firstly in Gibraltar we seem to have a bad habit of not answering or acknowledging correspondence but from what I see I am in good company judging by the many citizens, opposition members, citizens’ groups etc... who have encountered the same difficulties, a wall of silence.

In our legal system there is a huge gap between those who can and those who cannot afford justice which in effect excludes the majority from getting justice. For example to qualify for legal aid the income taken into account is so risible that only a handful would qualify. Then there is the Small Claims Court that handles claims under £10,000. Therefore if your claim exceeds that amount you will end up in the Supreme Court for a relatively small claim, and you will be hard pressed to find a lawyer who would consider it worthwhile to spend much time over a case where the legal fees will exceed the claim, but there are exceptions.

So if you decide to take legal action, from experience it seems to me that all a defendant needs to do is ignore you and the court.

That a defendant is allowed to take years to produce witness statements is perplexing and that a defendant ignores court orders is also perplexing and that so much leeway is given for this situation to continue. No wonder some cases take forever to finalize and during all this time the legal fees increase whilst a defendant does not react to correspondence or court orders. A ploy for anyone to abandon a claim because the system allows it.

Is there anywhere a citizen can address a complaint about this chain of events? No!

The legal system in Gibraltar seems to be designed to frustrate and deter so that you abandon a claim, rather than enable you to seek justice, with outdated laws and no safety nets or independent bodies for citizens to fall back on.

No one can expect for there to be an ombudsman or body to defend the interests of each and every eventuality a citizen might encounter, but what is annoying is to hear is that we are like the UK and how proud we should be of this and that when it is just not true.

Therefore I am glad to hear that the GSLP/Libs is going to reinstate the ombudsman for the health services - a step in the right direction and no doubt avoid small claims of the nature I am referring to from having to end up in a Supreme Court.

Mr Feetham, that the party you belong to should call itself Gibraltar Social DEMOCRATS???

I beg to differ.

Citizens are being blocked and frustrated at every corner.

Isabella Caruana

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Govt accused of ‘threats and bullying tactics’ over the launch of a book by the heritage trust


Something as simple as the launching of a book by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust has erupted into a major row with accusations flying about of 'threats and bullying tactics' by the Government.

It was 5.15pm last Wednesday when the Minister for Culture Edwin Reyes made a telephone call to the heritage trust, saying he was "very unhappy."

He raised a number of points such as that he felt he had been sidelined for this event, and furthermore, he stated that he felt that "government in general feels under-appreciated by the GHT, particularly in the last six months."

In fact, the minister went on to suggest that he would not be happy to allow the book launch at the Garrison Library with the present arrangements in place.

The GHT could forget about having any say in the running of the Garrison Library in the future.

He also repeatedly suggested that "the GHT's grant might be reviewed by the Chief Minister in a less favourable light in the near future."

The minister also alleged that he is still waiting for an apology over another row.

The current heated differences revolve around the intention of the heritage trust to have the Mayor Julio Alcantara launch the book.

Members of the trust are upset about the minister: "We cannot allow him to constantly threaten us, it is not the first time he has suggested cutting our funding."

Said another: "I don't like the bullying tactics they use constantly and its wearing a bit thin...Does he really want the Trust to stand up in public just before an election and let the electorate know his threats to the Trust?"

It was being suggested that they should forget about the Mayor and to ask the Governor, as Patron, to host the launch at the Convent. They could also launch it in their offices.

The idea of the Governor, as their Patron, launching the book was gaining weight.

It was mid-morning the next day when Mario Mosquera, the chairman of the heritage trust, stepped in and his decision was announced: That the Minister should launch the book from the Garrison Library. The Governor has written the foreword of the book as Patron, and having the Minister launching it "will provide the balance."

It was recalled that the Trust had tried hard over the last couple of years to heal the relationship between the Gibraltar Government and the Museum - and the Trust's chairman felt that "a squabble over the launch of the book is not the direction we want to head in."

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gibraltar election

And so, the election will be on 8 December. Already a surprise, that the ruling GSD have ousted Fabian Vinet from their new list of candidates - yet, he came second in the last general election in 2007. Why replace a popular candidate by unknown quantities? Ask Peter!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Misleading to compare little Gib with large economies

The chief minister has now admitted that the financial crisis is affecting Gibraltar.He reckons that people are finding it harder to get a loan, to get a mortgage etc.

Well, in other parts of the world such developments are seen as serious, and arising from the world economic crisis, but in Gibraltar the Chief Minister tries to put such a negative development on another plane, almost as if it did not matter!

Look around and see all those empty 'luxury' flats, is that not another indicator of the effect of the world crisis on Gibraltar?

Besides, to try and compare little Gib with the large economies of other countries is simply misleading.

There are other small economies that are in a position similar to that of Gibraltar.And, big or small, had Gibraltar depended on industrial output for export, having say a car factory, if demand had reduced because of the crisis, such downturn would also have affected the Gibraltar industries, which would lead to cuts in manpower etc, such as happens in industrialised countries.

That is why it is so misleading, indeed mischievous, to compare a tiny place like Gibraltar with a major economy elsewhere, with different economic parameters.

Even so, in major countries the overall picture may be one of gloom, but there may be parts of that country, the size of Gibraltar or even bigger, which may not have been affected that badly.

To think that Gibraltar is some kind of 'miracle' is not to consider matters properly. We cannot just swallow everything that is thrown at us for spin without analysing what the words being bombarded in our direction really mean.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Child care: Police and Social Services in need of shake up, says ex Police Officer

Letter sent to Panorama for publication

Dear Editor: I was very distressed but sadly not surprised by the story of "Alex" and her experiences within the care of the Social Services.

In my previous career, as a Police Officer, I had a lot of contact with the Social Services in relation to the protection of young children. In my experience I met some extremely good and caring people in the social services but I unfortunately also met very distasteful people.

I must add that the attitude of the Police, especially Senior Police Officers, to these circumstances were also at times appalling. They buried their heads in the sand and passed the problem over to the Social Services even when it was clear those serious breaches of neglect and cruelty to Children was evident, which by the way was and still is a Criminal Offence.

As a fact in point is that this attitude by some in the Police and the Social Services is exemplified by a case another colleague and I investigated. If you would allow me the space I think it important to relate this case over to your readers.

For a number of months, the Police, had been contacted by concerned members of the public of three children seen to be scrounging bins and retrieving food from then which they would consume immediately. These complaints had been attended by the Police and subsequent reports passed on to the Social Services. I became involved when one of my constables brought it to my attention after attending to such a report. He was suitably concerned that a number of months had gone by and that nothing had been done. I subsequently called my contact at the Social Services who asked to meet me away from the Police Station or the Social Services Agency. When we met in the presence of the constable who carried the investigation with me, the Social Worker explained her concerns in this matter stating that the Social Service Agency was not willing to take this matter forward as although they lived locally they were not local (Gibraltarian). At that point the Social Worker and both of us in the Police decided to take steps and get help to these Children. I approached a senior officer in the Police and informed him of the situation and my intention to investigate the matter. I was flatly told to pass the matter over to the Social Services and forget taking this matter further. I did not agree and the order was "unlawful" as no one can stop a Police Officer from investigating the possible incidence of a crime.

I remember having to wait until I was on night duty (bosses are not around). During the day I spent my time consulting with the Social Worker, the hospital (the children would have to be examined once taken into care) and the Attorney General Chambers who advised on the legal side of the investigation and draw up the "Distress warrant" which allows the Police to remove children from their parents in specific circumstances. This reinforced my resolve and I was deeply grateful for the help and advice received from all quarters. This also proves that there are well meaning, caring and professional people in all walks of our society and professions. I mention this because I do not want to portray the image that everybody in the Police, Hospital or Social Services are uncooperative or unprofessional. There are good people in these organisations, very good people.

My next problem to resolve was the fact that the children needed to be interviewed and statements taken from them and I was not experienced or qualified to do this neither did the Police have the proper facilities to do this. A contact in the Gibraltar Services Police quickly introduced me to a member of the Joint Provost Unit who immediately offered their rape/vulnerable victim suite for our use. This is a flat specifically designed to deal with rape victims and vulnerable witnesses and is equipped with equipment to record statements etc in familiar and comfortable surroundings to the victims. It also has a medical examination room. With all these preparations having been completed my colleague and I went to a Justice of a Peace to have the Distress Warrant signed. Both my colleague and I were questioned for more than an hour by the Justice of the Peace and rightly so as he wanted to make sure that there was sufficient cause to remove these children from their parents and that proper preparation had been made for their care. In the end after commending both my colleague and I,for our efforts, he signed the warrant and asked us to give him a call to let him know of the results of the warrant execution no matter the time.

I would like to add at this point that the Social Worker, the Crown Counsel, my colleague and I had been carrying out all this work during our own time and not whilst on duty.

That evening we executed the warrant and removed three children from their parents aged, 4, 6 and eight. It was ten at night and the children were found to be dirty and sleeping in school uniform. Although there was a double bed in the flat this was occupied by the parents. The eight year old was sleeping in a single sized sofa. The six year old was sleeping on the floor, he did not even have a blanket under him, the two year old slept with an Alsatian dog which was flea ridden. The flat was dirty and all sorts of medication and syringes were lying around and exposed to the children. The kitchen was empty of any food. There was a fridge but there was no food just a couple of beers. A number of empty beer and other alcoholic bottles were strewn everywhere around the flat. There was faeces and urine on the floor of the flat. The children all showed signs of neglect. We removed the children and they were taken by the Social Worker to the hospital to be examined and then they were housed with Social Services. The parents were arrested for Cruelty and neglect offences and questioned in the station. Further inquiries revealed that the parents had been convicted in the UK for child endangerment when one of the children had to be hospitalised after ingesting dangerous prescription drugs whilst left alone in a hotel whilst the parents were out nightclubbing. We decided to charge the parents that evening and bailed them out to appear in court the next day. They were charged primarily because we had overwhelming evidence against them and further because once charged it became a matter for the court to decide on how to deal or dispose of the case and Police senior officers could not interfere. Both my colleague and I finished the next morning exhausted but satisfied that we had done the correct thing. I went home at 0700 am by 0830 my phone was ringing and I was ordered by very irate Senior Police officer to come down to the station.What followed was a grilling and telling off by this Senior Police officer for having taken the action we had. As I was the Sergeant in charge, my colleague was fortunately spared the grilling. I just sat through it, said sorry and smiled to myself. I was warned that if the case was lost in court I could say goodbye to any future promotion.

What followed was three months of extensive investigation by my colleague and I. We interviewed nearly 30 witnesses and traced the whole history of the Children in Gibraltar. We uncovered that the children attended a first school and on interviewing the teachers found out that they had been keeping a diary of the state of the children and that they had alerted social services and the police of it. Teachers had of their own accord taken to feeding the children and cleaning their hair to clear them of lice etc. We interviewed previous landlords of the parents and the story repeated itself. Previous neighbours gave statements highlighting how the police and the social services had been contacted and informed. This pattern was repeated for a protracted period of time. The father of the children earned quite a substantial monthly wage so that there was no excuse for the parents to subject their children to those living conditions. In the end the evidence was so overwhelming that the parent's lawyer advised them to plead guilty. They were sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for a specific time. The children were taken into care but were later given to the maternal grandmother who took care of them in the UK.

At the end of it my Inspector, recommended both my colleague and me for a Commissioner's Commendation, unfortunately my colleague was not in the "good books" with a certain senior officer because she had placed a parking ticket on his car whilst illegally parked and the commendation never came and we received a "well done" note on our personal files. In the end the important thing was that the children were safe, healthy and well looked after.

My intentions in bringing this to light are to highlight certain issues that your good paper has had the courage to tackle:

1. Unfortunately the wrong type of people are in charge;

2. Whistleblowing is a dangerous activity in Gibraltar - the whistle blower is targeted by those who should be protecting them and encouraging ethical behaviour instead of covering up unethical conduct;

3. Co-operation between all services is essential because of the need to share resources for the good and safety of all citizens. In this case I refer to the unacceptable circumstance that exist currently between the RGP and GDP;

4. Its about time there is a severe shake up of all these services with the aim at eradicating unethical behaviour, corruption and the "don't care let someone else deal with it" attitude.

Kind Regards,
Richard Wood

Monday, 10 October 2011

Rota’s participation in Shield opens up barrage of questions about Gibraltar

The US/Spain agreement for Rota to become a part of the Shield anti-missile system will heighten the military threat to this area in times of hostilities.

Had Gibraltar increased its military capability, the Spanish would have lost no time in arguing that it posed increased risks to Spain. But neither Gibraltar nor Britain will react against Spain in the way Spaniards would have reacted against Gibraltar. Instead, Foreign Office policy is to urge the MOD to emasculate its military presence at Gibraltar so as not to upset Spain and to make a political deal more plausible.

The Shield system is defensive in nature because it seeks to alert about enemy missiles fired at European targets. "With four Aegis ships at Rota, Nato is significantly boosting combined naval capabilities in the Mediterranean and enhancing our ability to ensure the security of this vital region," said the US defence secretary.

Although the Western argument is that the system - of which Rota is only a part - is not aimed at Russia, Moscow lost no time in reacting angrily against it.

A highly sophisticated early warning system for Turkey announced last month, aimed at countering ballistic missile threats, provoked an angry response from neighouring Iran, warning that the installation would escalate regional tensions.

As regards the Rota move, military experts in Spain say that by increasing its strategic importance, Rota is also increasing its potential as a target for enemies of Nato.

Plans for the defence Shield project were approved by Nato leaders in Lisbon last year. The US ships now announced for Rota form part of an initial deployment of a Nato-designed anti-missile shield and are equipped with radar and Aegis missile-intercept systems.

Although the four US ships will be based at Rota they will come under the Nato/US command in Naples, Italy.


Where does all this leave Gibraltar? Nato has long been urging Britain to increase, and not decrease, its military presence at Gibraltar by improving surface and sub-surface defence of the Strait.

Nato has taken the view that "current defence capabilities deployed by the UK in Gibraltar are inadequate or non-existent and that any further delay in improving defence and choke point control facilities at Gibraltar will prevent Nato from making best use of this strategic position."

Secret documents show that during 1980-84 the aim was to provide for an integrated system which would have included modern early warning radars with capability against low flying aircraft and missiles, point and area defence missiles, surface to surface missiles.

A document marked 'Secret UK Eyes' says that, considered in isolation, the geographical position of Gibraltar provides an excellent base for the employment of technologically advanced weapons and equipments such as remotely controlled minefield, active and passive surveillance equipment operating above, and below, the surface together with their associated weapon systems.

It is an often rehearsed argument that in tension or war, Moscow - if they were involved - might endeavour to control or deny the use of the Strait to Nato by a variety of measures, such as mines.

The depth of water in the Strait would indeed allow both anti-surface ship and anti-submarine mines to be laid. Most Russian warships have the ability to lay mines, which can be remotely operated.

It has been recent American policy to keep the Russians at bay, by providing assurances and elements of cooperation. The Americans see current potential enemies more in the North African littoral. Countries that can develop long-range missiles that can target Europe attract close interest from Washington.

There is a clear interest to keep North African countries near the western entrance to the Mediterranean within the Western fold or at least neutral, in peace and specially in war.

But as Gibraltar's military importance wanes, and that of others in the region increases, the Rock can be demoted in military terms. In 2002, it was the MOD that scuppered the planned joint sovereignty deal because they, and the Americans, wanted Gibraltar to retain the status quo in respect of the military.


And the Spanish view, then and now, centres in gaining a military foothold in Gibraltar.

That remains the political game today. The importance of having or not having control over territorial waters, the ability to deploy ships and aircraft, the usefulness of having a friendly population...these are some factors that come into play.

The role Gibraltar continues to play for Britain, and indeed for Nato in a less visible fashion, keeps the crunch away. But the more important others in the region become, the greater the chances of Gibraltar's special and time-honoured military importance being subsumed.

Joe Garcia

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Foreign Office playing games with Gib’s sovereignty

The Foreign Office appears to be playing games with Gibraltar's sovereignty, following the latest invasion of British Gibraltar territorial waters by a Spanish Navy vessel on the eve of National Day.

At the time, HMS Sabre was alerted to the Spanish naval vessel, Vigia, being in the northern extremity of the Bay.

Vigia then entered Gibraltar waters and headed south with HMS Sabre taking station close to the Spanish ship, as was confirmed to us by the MOD.

The Spanish vessel then followed a direct course towards Europa Point where she stopped in the water and was challenged by Sabre. Vigia then continued around Europa Point until she left Gibraltar waters near La Linea. HMS Sabre remained on station and saw the Spanish naval vessel re-enter British waters, heading for Europa Point. Having rounded Europa Point, Vigia then made a direct passage to Algeciras.

That incident was serious enough for a spokesman at The Convent saying that Britain would be making a protest to the Spanish government.

Subsequently, we asked a Foreign Office spokesman at The Convent if the protest had now been made.

Initially, we were given to understand that the protest was imminent. So, we waited some time before reverting to the same Foreign Office spokesman in The Convent. We asked if the protest had now been made and also at what level.

The tone of the Foreign Office spokesman changed. He said he would get back to us in the afternoon.

On Tuesday afternoon, he said: "The British Government is protesting but do not issue a running commentary for reasons of diplomatic confidentiality."

What a nonsensical cover up! Since we were not asking for any running commentary, as all we had done was to ask if the protest had now been made, as it had previously been intimated to us, we think that the reply was offensive to us and no doubt to many people in Gibraltar who are concerned with what happens in the British sovereign territorial waters of Gibraltar.

And obviously answers are expected concerning factual information, answers to questions as simple and as relevant as if the protest had now taken place as the incursion happened nearly 2 weeks ago!

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Opposition cannot understand why Govt is against a placard being erected to mark Queen's jubilee

The Opposition says it cannot understand why the Government, through its control over the planning process, has refused permission for the display of a temporary placard commemorating the jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.

The Opposition understands that a private citizen applied to the Development and Planning Commission for permission to erect a placard outside a building that he owns in Convent Place. However, the applicant has made public that planning permission has been refused and that he intends to appeal that decision.

They add: "It is important to note that this would be an ideal location for such a banner given that it is opposite both the residence of the Governor of Gibraltar, who represents Her Majesty in Gibraltar, and the seat of the Gibraltar Government in 6 Convent Place.

"It is well known that the Development and Planning Commission (DPC) is a statutory body which is chaired by the Minister with responsibility for Development and Planning Joe Holliday and consists of nine voting members. It includes five persons nominated by the Chief Minister, one person nominated by the Ministry of Defence, one person nominated by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and one person nominated by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society.

"This result is that the views of the Government generally prevail when it comes to deciding on planning applications like the one in question."

The GSLP/Liberals go on to say that it is not clear why the Government would be against the erection of a placard of Her Majesty in Convent Place to commemorate her Jubilee year. She is, after all, the Queen of Gibraltar and our Head of State. Moreover, the banner was presumably intended to be of a temporary nature in the sense that it was only going to be in place during the jubilee year 2012. In addition to this the site was a private building where the consent of the landlord had obviously been obtained.

Commenting on the matter, Shadow Minister for Development and Planning Dr Joseph Garcia said:

“In Government our policy would be to support this application were it to be resubmitted and to allow the placard to go up. If the citizens of Gibraltar want to celebrate the Jubilee of their monarch it is something that we encourage. There is nothing to be embarrassed or apologetic about. There may be those who do not like to be reminded of Gibraltar’s historic link with the British Crown. This is a fact of history and a continuing reality. A GSLP/Liberal Government will support the commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee in this and in other ways.”

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Gibraltarians do not enjoy the same basic human rights as their UK counterparts

If you are a non-Gibraltarian who visits the Rock you will be struck by the thriving, modern society that exists all around you. You would chat with a sophisticated people. You would assume, wrongly, that Gibraltarians enjoy the same basic human rights as their British counterparts, or indeed Spaniards across the border, but you would be wrong.

In many instances Gibraltarians are in a rights limbo. If they were in the UK those rights would be protected by law and they would have redress under a whole series of headings against government, officials and so on. That is not true on the Rock because if a Gibraltarian has a complaint it is addressed, quite rightly to the Gibraltar Government, and not that of Britain. However all too often their own government legally turns a deaf ear because few rights are enshrined in law.

If a Gibraltarian seeks justice he or she can’t go to the UK government either because it does not have jurisdiction here. Therefore the only route is to Europe where, in theory, their case has the right to be heard. Yet even that is fraught with problems because in Brussels the conclusion would more often than not be that as British Citizens the British Government should be held to account to sort it out, which of course, it can’t.

It was put to me recently that the chief minister, Peter Caruana, was far from pleased when Gibraltarians received the Euro vote and hence a voice in the European Parliament. I had never thought about it before because it seemed strange to me that the elected leader of the Gibraltarian people would not want them to enjoy the widest representation. On the other hand it meant they had a right to go directly to Brussels or the European Parliament on issues that the chief minister might consider only he should have control over. For some democratic leaders democracy is a bitter pill to swallow.

Marcus Killick, the chairman of the Financial Services Commission, recently called for an Ombudsman to represent customers in their relations with the financial sector. For non-Gibraltarians it is startling to learn that those who live on the Rock do not enjoy such a vital service that is considered the norm elsewhere in the EU – yet so far there is no indication the government will give a positive answer to Killick’s plea.

Indeed as the general election draws near the rights of Gibraltarians to have free access to these basic rights and open government will reach a crescendo. The problem for the GSD is the party has been in government for four terms and has paid scant regard to the fundamental rights of its people. Hence a cynic might say if Caruana suddenly takes on the guise of St Paul on the road to Damascus on these key issues his conversation will be on a par with the Syrian president’s claim to have discovered democracy – not worth the scroll it is written on.

David Eade

Friday, 12 August 2011

KGV SHAME! Conditions are appalling, shameful and third world

Having had a close family member who suffered from a severe mental illness for the better part of his life, before he died of natural causes in a psychiatric hospital in the united kingdom, I have little difficulty in understanding the plight of people who are either suffering with a mental disorder, or with members of the family who also go through much pain and anguish. Many families in these difficult circumstances go through tremendous stress practically on a daily basis.

So when I was approached by a close relative of a patient at the KGV hospital who asked me if I could listen to a story regarding this relative with a view of making the story public. I was in all honesty surprised, but listening to this person I immediately began to understand what Alex was really asking for (Alex is not this persons real name, but with a family member as a patient at the KGV, Alex did not want the real family surname revealed) Alex in fact was looking for a receptive ear, and also to be listened to and hopefully understood, but also for the truth to be made known to the public. Ultimately what Alex wished was to ‘to improve the living conditions at this important public medical institution’

Alex came across as a genuinely concerned individual, as one would be I expect, when anxious about the welfare of a loved one. Clearly this was evident during our discussion. Alex close relative had been struck down by a mental illness and had taken up residence for treatment at the KGV, this had caused many sleepless nights in this household.

The main issue revolves around the condition and living standards at the hospital, something that Alex repeated many times was far worse than any ‘third world country’ being concerned for the welfare and well-being of a family member who is not only sick but psychologically vulnerable, must be the driving force in anyone’s mind, particularly in attempting to improve and change things for the better; Alex in this sense, was no different than anyone else in the same situation!

As I said Alex’s main complaint is about the conditions at the KGV. As matters were related to me, I also saw photographs taken illustrating what was being pointed out to me, they were shocking! Photos that would make most people cringe with horror and disgust:

‘How can our health services allow this to happen’ and how can this be happening in Gibraltar in the 21 century!

This is the full account of what ‘Alex’ had to say:

The KGV’s all in one ‘acute ward’

The acute ward is situated on the first floor of the KGV hospital; the ground floor is taken up by long term KGV residential patients. However it is the acute ward where members of the community are admitted suffering with psychological problems of different kinds and of varying degrees.

One of the first issues regarding the hospital refers to how all patients admitted end up in the acute ward. All admissions to this ward are made ‘irrespective of the sex, age or the type of mental illness a person is suffering from, be it drug related, psychological or behavioural issues or even depression’. The latter point of people admitted with depression will surprise many people, I know I was!

“I cannot understand”, Alex said “how people with a range of different mental illnesses of varying degrees can be admitted to the KGV, these unfortunate people suddenly find themselves plunged in amongst other patients, all on the same floor”. Just where is the clinical or medical management in that? Mixing patients like this, not withstanding their condition, sex or age group must be unique to Gibraltar’s psychiatric ethos.

Sleeping – and young patients who find it difficult to integrate!

As far as personal sleeping arrangements are concerned, there’s nothing personal about it, although sexes are segregated. There is little or no privacy; patients are allocated sleeping quarters which are normally shared between 2, 4 or 6 patients of the same sex and in one room. I am told that patients of both sexes are wandering all over the ward floor and privacy of any kind is impossible. Also that ‘young men and woman who are sometimes 19 or 20 or over, find it difficult to integrate into this hospital environment’

Recently because of increased female admissions the acute ward staffs have moved round sleeping arrangements to make available additional room to cater for the increase in the female population. This is something I am told that has caused a lot of distress and disruption to the patients themselves, resulting in a further drop in the quality of the living standards in rooms.

Rooms in a dilapidated state, no wardrobes or cabinets for personal belongings

Bedrooms are in a sorry if not dilapidated state; bedrooms are the more private part of the ward, if you can call it that. Paint on walls has flaked off, there are holes and broken partition walls that have not been repaired. The look and feel of the sleeping rooms are cold, dull, shabby and not fit to house any kind of medical patient, never mind one with psychiatric issues.

Another issue that appears to be in line with the state of the sleeping quarters ‘is the total lack in many rooms of wardrobes and cabinets to store personal effects’.

Many patients are not able to properly and safely store their personal belongings, rooms look disorganised, messy and one not fit for a vulnerable people to cohabit, I was told that on many occasions clothes and other personal items have gone missing!

Showers used as store rooms

You would expect that shower areas would have some level of hygienic improvement, the story here is not much better. In fact showers are being used as store rooms, they have been stacked with ‘portable disability walking frames, chairs and other bits of equipment’ towels funnily enough are left (see photo) on the chair that’s on the shower plate itself, just in case the patient is able to remove all the obstructions from inside the shower. Although I’m told hopes are dashed again of having a shower because the water mixer in the shower is broken.

Shower products I was also told are stored in the shower area commune style i.e. Shower cream, shampoo and sponges etc, if a patient eventually gets into the shower he or she would use the shower products available, including I imagine the same shower sponges which somehow does not appear very hygienic to me!

One more thing about the showers and something that can be appreciated in the photos, the shower curtains really looks to have seen better days.

But there is also the ‘important matter of leaving in a psychiatric hospital ‘acute ward’ ‘wired coat hangers lying about’ inside the shower.

This is a potential safety risk, where vulnerable people may do serious injury to themselves or to others or even worse! So much for health and safety.

Donated furniture does not get repaired

Another matter Alex raised was regarding furniture items, furniture according to what I was told is difficult to obtain, as furniture items are donated and more often than not are second hand and not repaired! It is difficult to think what kind of mental care is being delivered in Gibraltar. How can people who are already suffering inside with their own mental ailment be treated in such undignified manner, it truly is appalling!

Medication by envelope

Come medication time at the KGV, Alex has another story to tell, because medication which should normally be handed out to patients in small plastic receptacles to ensure that meds have been taken safely, are frequently distributed to patients inside a normal ‘envelope’ because plastic receptacles are unavailable or have run out.

I will say that Alex had much praise for the staff at the KGV hospitals - who are constantly working, mostly under stress; the conditions of work don’t help. Many of the staff are overseas nationals, who are also over-burden by having to perform extra shifts because of the shortage of staff. It is not uncommon for staff at the KGV to perform overlapping shifts, this cannot be good in anyone books. How are staff members expected to be alert and attentive to the needs of vulnerable patients if they work continuous roll-over shifts!

GHA cannot get it right at KGV

The KGV hospital has been the subject of much criticism over the years, the nursing section themselves have been one of the biggest critics, particularly regarding health and safety standards not being complied with. There have been deaths at the hospital involving patients, fires have broken out, even nursing reviews have been critical of KGV.

The Gibraltar health care development team said in July 2003. That the ‘mental health services continue to be the poor relation of Gibraltar’s health service.’

This team was right, but the KGV are not the poor relation any longer, they are it seems the totally destitute and forgotten relations!

People with psychiatric problems cannot wait for government to build them a new purpose built facility. These are some of the most vulnerable people in society, who not only expect, but deserve the best possible all round care and attention; this is something that takes many forms. Even if a new psychiatric unit is to be built, it is no excuse to allow the standards at KGV to go rock bottom, with dangerous practices in certain areas endangering the health and well-being of patients in general.

Health and safety at the KGV has again been ignored, shower rooms packed with hospital equipment causing danger to patients, dangerous articles left lying around, and medication handed out in a manner which is unethical in any clinical manner, particularly in such a facility. Reports of under staffing and staff themselves stressed out and having to work double shifts or more because of staff shortages are not good!

It is pitiful that government allows such a deterioration of this important medical institution; the KGV hospital is an embarrassment to Gibraltar. Promise of a new hospital is no excuse in allowing standards to drop like this. Inpatients recovery is being compromised by the visible deterioration at the hospital.

The KGV hospital as this article suggests keeps on falling short in health and safety standards and risk management. The appearance of the KGV inside and out is imposing, ominous; it does not look like a place where people would go to get well. It looks like a place where people would go, and stay and remain for a long, long time!

Mental health services in Gibraltar should be just as important as physical health services such as those for cancer and heart disease and many others. But it’s not!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Concern Over Violence at Bayside Comprehensive

The scholastic year ended some weeks ago, with it, some disturbing reports received at Panorama regarding school discipline, perpetuated by acts of violence primarily at Bayside Boys Comprehensive School.

We put questions to the Department of Education and the RGP, and in an extraordinary develolpment, the Education department tried to play it down, while the police provided statistical evidence that confirms the concern over violence and other incidents, including drugs, at Bayside school.

The Department of Education & Training said that they can confirm that the Police have not been called to the Comprehensive Schools during the course of last term to deal with incidents involving violence, aggressive behaviour or disturbances. Any type of violent incident will be of concern to teachers and the Department of Education and Training. The Department of Education and Training, that is in daily communication with schools, does not have evidence to support the notion that there is growing concern about violence in our schools.

However, the RGP said there have been in the past year starting as from April 2010, six incidents of assault at Bayside Comprehensive School that have been reported to police, there has been one incident at Westside School also of assault.

A spokesman added: "We have also dealt with other incidents which do not fall under incidents of Violence, Aggressive Behaviour or Disturbances involving students, these incidents range from minor thefts, setting off the fire alarm and students found in possession of drugs. Due to Data Protection issues I am unable to give you any further details as to the said incidents." We understand that the teaching profession is concerned with the level of aggressive and violent conduct of some students particularly at Bayside school. We are also informed there have been incidents where teachers have been either physically or verbally assaulted, fights amongst students themselves has also increased. The seriousness of the matter has seen the presence of police outside the school gates on a number of occasions in order to prevent any violent behaviour amongst students breaking out!


PANORAMA has been investigating. We have been informed that another concern, apart from the violence factor, relates to matters of drugs, here again we are informed there are similar concerns and where some parents who fear the general drug abuse problem currently affecting Gibraltar has spread to senior schools.

The lack of discipline in some students, again at Bayside, has seen some of them expelled due to their behaviour, although details of these expulsions are not known, but our understanding is that during the course of the year there have been some students sent home for contravening school rules.

Of all the issues connected with the education system, the one that causes most concern for educators and parents alike, and the one over which most doubts exist, is the effectiveness of school discipline, an issue that’s never really surfaced on the rock! Are schools worse off today as regards discipline than they were, say, 20 years ago? Have children become more difficult to handle and teach? Is the school environment peaceful enough to allow teachers to teach and students to learn? What, exactly, does discipline imply? In fact do we really have a problem that needs addressing?

The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines discipline as "the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience". School and classroom discipline is both preventive and remedial and schools make use of their sticks and carrots to create a safe and orderly atmosphere in which students can learn and interact with each other.

In today’s society teachers are finding maintaining order in class hard and exhausting, which makes teaching those who want to learn difficult and those who refuse to learn almost impossible. Teaching today is not an easy task. Not that it has ever been so, but today there are added constraints that make a teacher's life that much more taxing.

Taking a brief look at our society, one can note certain rapid changes, especially over the last two or three decades, which hinder the task of the teacher.


The respect for people in authority has been weakened to the extent that some our children think nothing of challenging and even ignoring all forms of authority in school at home and out in the streets. They think they have a right not only to question all orders and regulations coming from any source, but also to reject what does not appeal to their way of thinking.

The so-called 'youth culture' is changing very rapidly and drastically, to the extent that young people cannot keep up with its demands - on their time - in their style of dress and in the type of music they listen to and in the quality of relationships they engage in.

Some teachers have recognised a lack of disposition and motivation to learn in some students, especially on Fridays when they are gearing up for the weekend and on Mondays when they start unwinding after a hectic weekend. And all this time, the poor teacher is expected to teach his or her subject regardless.

Despite the popular impression that being a teacher is all about pleasantries such as longer holidays and shorter working hours, the reality of their situation tells a different story. Teachers are by no means enviable part-timers. In fact they have one of the most demanding jobs of all - particularly in terms of the mental strain that is part and parcel of their profession.

Of course, not every teacher suffers stress. But there is concrete evidence that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs possible. Many surveys (not in Gib) assessing the stress levels of various jobs constantly indicate that teaching came out top

While policy-makers do their job we all have a social responsibility towards all children. We all have a moral obligation to guard children from the transmission of harmful behavioural patterns, to keep their environment morally healthy, even if it is not easy to clean our surroundings.


Society has changed greatly we constantly hear of rising crime and violence in Gibraltar fueled by drug and alcohol abuse, youngster at 14 years being sent to prison for supplying drugs, others as small as 12 years arrested for burglary and so on. Sadly more and more of these disturbing stories of young people getting involved in crime are being heard, mostly with drug or a drug and alcohol connection.

Many people think, including some teachers, that these negative social issues in society have made there way into the school classroom. There’s no doubt that something effective has to be done to eliminate it or at least get it under control!

Government for their part have reacted to the growing concern of crime and anti-social behaviour stemming from youth behaviour, with a piece of new Criminal Legislation it is proposing, known as an "Anti Social Behaviour Order" more commonly known in the UK as (ASBOs) the new legislation will allow prosecutors to apply for ASBO orders which in the UK can be used against anyone who is 10 years of age or over and has behaved in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to someone or some people who do not live in their own household.

An ASBO stops the young person from going to particular places or doing particular things. If they do not comply with the order, they can be prosecuted. This proposed new legislation is to be included in the New Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, it is yet to be debated and approved by Parliament.


Our understanding is that there are some students who have serious problems, whether at a social or psychological level. These students have to be taught and have to be supported. However, their right to education and their integration in our schools cannot occur at the expense of the safety and well-being of fellow students and teachers.

Let’s hope that proper processes are put in place to improve matters before the next academic year. The sinister signs are there, the evidence has been confirmed - the Government must not try to sweep these serious problems under the carpet because the problem will simply snowball and Gibraltar will be the loser on a bigger scale.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Spanish boos and insults in Gibraltar itself

Many people in Gibraltar are up in arms on having heard that Spanish people attending the Eurodance Show at the Tercentenary Hall booed and insulted Gibraltar and Gibraltarian participants in the event. This comes hot on the heels of the problems faced by young footballers when parading the Gibraltar flag at a football tournament in Costa Blanca - they had the Gibraltar flag taken away from them.


With the Foreign Office and the Opposition having reacted strongly to what happened at the children's football tournament, people are asking where is the Gibraltar Government. Well, the culture minister Edwin Reyes and the mayor Anthony Lombard will be attending at the La Linea fair this evening the twinning of Gibraltar with La Linea, what the Spanish call an act of 'hermanamiento.'

It had been thought that the Chief Minister Peter Caruana was to have attended as well but so far there is no news from the La Linea municipality that he will make an appearance. The municipality says that at the event taking place there this evening the "Gibraltar Sea Scouts, Show Dance group Company and Santos Academy" will be taking part during the twinning ceremony.

Meanwhile, in his popular Facebook page, Bryan Zammit Snr writes: "Some more bad news regarding Spaniards and their attitude towards us. I was told today that in the European Dance championship held in Gib, Spaniards walked out when our national anthem was being played. I was also told that they were also booing when Gibraltarians received prizes. Now that’s in our own country and no one did anything."

Another person said that whenever Gibraltar holds an event or participates in an event there needs to be an agreement signed by each faction. The agreement would stipulate that racism, anti-sporting behaviour such as insulting or degrading another country will equate in that respective team being given a ban from participating.

They can boo and disrespect our wonderful dancers as much as they want, they still did an amazing job, said someone else.

Mr Zammit himself added: "What we are discussing in this post is...How on earth did Spaniards get away with:

1. Getting up and walking out of the stadium while our National Anthem was being played?

2. How did they get away with booing Gibraltarians while they were receiving their prizes?

3. How did they get away by shouting Gibraltar Espanol in our stadium in front of a packed house of Gibraltarians?

4. And finally. How on earth has it managed to keep out of the newspapers and TV? Who gave instructions for it not to come out in the open?"

One person insisted that nothing had happened and it was all an exaggeration.

Another person explained: I spoke to a gentleman who told me that a local child was waving a Gib flag during the Dance Championships and that a Spanish adult spectator had started waving the Spanish flag and made it a point of making contact between the flag pole he was waving and the local kid on two occasions... approached the Spaniard ...Security came and asked the Spaniards to stick to their side of the stands where they were sitting and not interfere with the other spectators. This sort of thing happened all weekend.

Another person said: I was also at the European showdance championships all weekend and did see the intent on the Spanish to try and provoke and also boo Gibraltar whenever possible.

And another comment: With this behaviour no wonder que quien iba a ser el guapo de poner the Spanish flag in The Instituto Cervantes! Respect is not an entitlement you must earn it! With this cynical behaviour towards children all they are doing is widening the gap in good neighbourly relationship with Spain again, instead of doing the contrary!

Joseph L.Caruana adds: "What happened in Benidorm was disgraceful and how the Spanish team in the Show dance competition behaved whilst in Gibraltar shows how mistaken has been GoG's soft policy, the Tripartite Forum, the Air Terminal, the Pensions, the Guardia Civil incursions(s) etc, etc,

And another: The GoG, what are they going to do now?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

No Constitutional Change is the name of the Game

The present Constitution may or may not be perfect or agreeable to all and sundry, but it is of recent design and hence we are stuck with it for quite a while.

That is the real world we live in - or haven't we learnt the lesson yet?

It being so that no change can be expected for now, what is the point of trying to stir up constitutional change?

People can think out new ideas or do what they like. That is their prerogative.

But there is no point in stirring things up at a time when it appears so obvious that No Change is the name of the game.

It could well be that we could extract some minor changes if we were determined enough to stage the kind of campaign that would be required.

And in trying to stir up change we should be careful the wise guys and girls at the foreign Office (they are not as dumb as they look) do not twist things in their favour.

Or haven't some people heard that there are those wearing FCO hats who take the view that Britain may have given away too much, too soon.

In fact there are rumours that the UK minister for Europe (that is, the minister for the Foreign Office)was in Gibraltar recently and made it known that the Governor should be respected. From which we can conclude that he did not think that the Governor was being respected.

And the message was obviously for the Chief Minister who is the only person close enough to the Governor to respect or not respect the position of Governor, whatever the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, might be.

But who doesn't know that the Chief Minister aspires to be Head of State or thinks he can behave like one et al?

So, who's for constitutional change at this point in time?

Joe Garcia

Monday, 11 July 2011

Things hotting up at the frontier with Spain

A campaign is afoot to try and stop the frontier chaos, with emails being sent in every direction to get support.

One of the emails has gone to Lesley Pallett, the Deputy Governor, who presumably is the head of the Foreign Office in Gibraltar.

And it is the British Government - also known as the Foreign Office - that gets some stick.

Said an emailer: “This matter should be taken up by the British Government who I suspect are ‘monitoring the situation.’ They have been doing this since Franco started his campaign in 1954.”

Meanwhile it is getting hotter at Europe’s most erratic frontier.

With temperatures in the mid-thirties, another emailer tells a sad story: “Yesterday, for example, I had to be treated in casualty with respiratory distress, anxiety, tachycardia and visual problems accompanied by vomiting and hot flushes caused by these cruel and degrading actions.”

People are said to be suffering the consequences of living or going to Spain.

One day last week hundreds of us (more than 400 motorcyclists, bikes, vehicles and pedestrians) were forced to wait in temperatures of 35 degrees in a very harmful sun for 50 minutes to get into Spain from Gibraltar, it is being said.

The current situation at the border (customs) between Gibraltar and Spain is unacceptable and unsustainable...In these border queues there are children, pregnant women, sick people and so on, who must suffer this ordeal every day to enter their country of residence, runs the argument.

Said one person: The |Guardia Civil supports my opinion and is aware of the situation we are suffering but do not have the means to meet their obligations without harming citizens. They have requested more resources from the Ministry of Interior.

But if there has always been reluctance by the Spanish government to provide more resources at the La Linea frontier, the current world financial crisis and its effects on Spain could be used to keep things as bad as they are.


Meanwhile, at the weekend the Guardia Civil were stopping cars from Gibraltar, requesting to see the ID card of the driver. It is a strange procedure given that seconds earlier the Spanish National Police had carried out their immigration controls just a few metres away.

Further, cars were being stopped before entering Gibraltar at the Spanish National Police post, and people asked to hand in their travel documents which were attended to inside the frontier post.

Whatever is going on - and the Caruana government remains as silent as the grave - aggrieved people are saying that we cannot just look the other way.

One of the emailers claims that “the Guardia Civil have asked me to spread the need of registering a complaint at the Spanish customs office.”

There is a form there called ‘Hoja de Quejas y Sugerencias’ which should be filled up.

“It is the only way to change things...but a single voice does not change anything,” a woman said.

However, it is well known that there are many people who are afraid of registering a protest in Spain for fear of reprisals.

So what is the Foreign Office doing about their subjects in Gibraltar? What is the Deputy Governor doing? What are other Foreign Office officials in Gibraltar doing about it?

Apart from monitoring the situation, that is.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Noise pollution is a health hazard

Even the sound of music can be unpleasant when it irritates the ear. A disharmony of sounds surrounds us day and night, be they from vehicular or air traffic, noise nuisances emanating from entertainment venues, construction sites, fireworks, consumer product noise or that transmitted between dwellings. In a small place like Gibraltar, such noise pollution becomes a health hazard falling on deaf ears.

Noise pollution, particularly during unscheduled load-shedding and unrelenting power outages has been a nightmare for residents of the Harbour Views and Sir William Jackson Grove area. For the past few months in particular, they have had to put up with the deafening sounds from the Generating station at Waterport, not only that, the problem has been considerably exacerbated by the six very powerful 'temporary' generators installed by the Government to help with the demand in the electricity supply.


It is the residents of the area, myself included, who are now seriously suffering the consequences of what is considered to be a badly thought out plan, one that many feel was rushed by Government to fix a problem, that people say they created in allowing Gibraltar’s electricity supply to reach the state it is today.

Although discovering the source of the main problem has not been a rocket science project, the noise pollution has come by way of the six temporary generators; this is the real root of the problem! A problem which is also costing the tax payer well over £30,000 per week, this by having placed 6 massive generators out in the open with no sound or noise protection compounded by them operating incessantly on a 24-hour basis. Although not forgetting another environmental and health aspect, the dangerous toxic fumes that emanate from these machines which go directly into the immediate atmosphere and generally into our homes and lungs!

Many residents in the area have had to resort to having windows permanently closed for most part of the day but certainly battened down or secured during the night where the noise is amplified even more allowing for no peace and quiet day or night.

Residents have also pointed out that the Gibraltar Electricity Authority (GEA) clearly informed the public that the generators were only to be used 'as and when required', this has not been the case as the generators are in operation 24 hours a day. There has been total disregard and absolutely no consideration for the residents of the area and how this situation has affected quality of life in this area of Gibraltar.


Friday, 1 July 2011

The rumour that never was

From Panorama Gibraltar:
The Government has issued a press release rejecting a rumour suggesting that the assault on the Leader of the Opposition may have been perpetrated by a member of the Chief Minister's family. The Opposition, for their part, say they first heard about it when the Government issued their press release.


Said the Government statement: "A malicious rumour has spread around Gibraltar that the recent assault on Opposition Leader Fabian Picardo may have been perpetrated by a member of the Chief Minister’s family.

"This is totally untrue, no member of the Chief Minister’s family has had anything whatsoever to do with this incident, still less perpetrated the assault.

"The Government is deeply concerned about the motives of those who start such malicious and untrue rumours."


Said the Opposition: "The Opposition notes the content of the press release by the Office of the Chief Minister published on the Government's own website in relation to the assault on the Leader of the Opposition.

"The Opposition is surprised to see the Government issuing press releases to address “rumours”.

"The alleged “rumour” was not known to any member of the Opposition or anyone in the GSLP/Liberals until the press release was issued by the Government.

"The Opposition is deeply concerned that anyone would want to spread any rumours at all about the vicious and unprovoked attack on the Leader of the Opposition at the weekend (in respect of which a man has already been arrested) and would question the motives of anyone doing so; especially if that in any way interferes with the work of the officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police who are investigating the matter."

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Crime fears grow

Many people were shocked over the weekend as news spread regarding the assault on the GSLP leader Fabian Picardo, Mr. Picardo who was with a friend in the marina bay area when they were assaulted requiring them to receive hospital treatment. Without knowing the full circumstances of the incident peoples mind have automatically turned to another high-profile political figure Daniel Feetham the justice minister who only late last year was also attacked and repeatedly stabbed in the street causing him very serious injury.

What is happening in Gibraltar? This is a question I have asked many times particularly regarding soaring crime - particularly those statistics of a violent nature, including many other instances where crime more often than not has raised its ugly head in society.

Public shocked and horrified

We all know thanks to Panorama that over 75% of all crime is fueled by either drugs or alcohol probably both, these are undisputed figures that we published 18 months ago. We are convinced however that the situation is much worse and that our 75% estimation figure suggests, it is probably much higher, as this point is continuously confirmed by the never ending incidents of crime, particularly those relating to violence!

Over the last 72 hours there has been a deluge of comments coming from concerned members of the public. People have been 'horrified and shocked' to hear of the latest crime of violence involving Mr. Picardo. Although incidents of this type in the ocean village, marina bay area are not isolated cases, many people have pointed out and complained that similar incidents are frequent particularly at weekends, which has led some to say 'they cannot understand why nothing is done about it'

Many are also complaining at the lack of police presence in the area in question down there in the marina, it's true that the police cannot be in every street corner and that is a fact, but they do have to target hot spots and areas where there is a probability that trouble will erupt. Which brings me to a point I raised last week when officers were removed from crime work' removing officers from front line crime related work is not an effective manner to tackle crime, there are many concerns regarding various crime issues that are continuously repeated in public surveys, reducing police manpower resources can only weaken the police response in dealing with these concerns effectively'

This point is where I fear and strongly suspect that policing now a days involves many political connotations that I believe hampers and obstructs the way in which the police go about tackling crime and its main causes effectively, which I have said on numerous occasions is drug and alcohol related!

If you consider that this last weekend alone their were 11 criminal assaults on people with 8 people arrested by the police, this must send out a dangerous signal, it is a mere reflection of the disturbing scale of this problem which I believe is rapidly getting out of control!

Many people are now starting to realise just how serious crime has become, a point we have been highlighting in Panorama for years. Some people have asked me 'why all this increase in criminality? One of the main causes I have highlighted has to be drugs and the fact that drugs including alcohol abuse have been pathetically handled by this government! Other people on the other hand have asked 'what is the police force doing to combat crime and to create a deterrent? I'd rather the police speak for themselves on this one and they should, they should be open and honest with the public and hopefully not come out with things like 'crime is not as bad as the uk, Spain or even baghdad'. From a Gibraltar perspective no one should be interested what is happening anywhere else on the planet, we are an eye drop of a nation, practically incomparable in my view with the vast majority of places when it comes to crime and the manner we should be tackling this serious social problem!

When you get so many members of the public who have said in the last few days alone that the police are not even being seen on the streets and querying where are police officers being deployed, than someone has to stop and listen? This is not leo olivero complaining or criticising, it is the public who are genuinely concerned, who want to know what is happening, not me, because I know! Many have asked 'what has become of policemen on the beat'? To be fair I see plenty of officers out patrolling, although I fear not enough of them to meet today's hungry demands for police presence!

Gibraltar has failed in its fight on drugs

I have said countless times and will never tire of saying that Gibraltar has failed regarding its fight on drugs. Drug abuse is problem directly linked to many other serious social issues like anti-social behaviour, under age drinking, burglaries, theft and violence. Unless the demand for drugs is effectively attacked, supplies will always be found, sadly the drugs market has much more young people than ever falling into the trap of

Drug-taking and alcohol abuse, this is a fact!

Another measure of the seriousness of local crime at the moment is the fact that 75% of the new prison is occupied with inmates, I know it was built for that reason but it is a clear statement on how criminals are filling up this recently opened custodial institution .

Another disturbing note is the amount of under 16's caught up in crime; these are the young children of the rock, youngsters that have been arrested for a wide range of offences. Many of these young juveniles have been charged for serious offences like burglaries, arson, drugs and even driving motor vehicles whilst obviously under

Age. These kids are our future! 'are we really looking after them? I mean society, not just the police, because the police can never do it on their own!

Fear of crime explained

I was asked only yesterday to define the 'fear of crime' I told this lady who asked that this was something that was difficult to define, basically because it can refer to a range of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs regarding an individual's vulnerability and those of her loved ones and the wider community. The fear of crime can also refer to people's concerns about general crime levels, also their beliefs regarding their risk of being a victim of any crime and the risk of that of their loved ones. I also think the fear of crime is an emotional response that a person associates with crime itself!

Who is to blame?

Many people like to think that it is the government or even the police who are to blame for the rise in crime and crime itself, although the government do have a major part to play and as I have said many times have been hopeless in tackling one of the main causes of crime 'drugs' but in my view it's not entirely their fault or the police!

The government has a function and even knowing they have never been 100% effective far from it, they do play their part so do the police. Ask yourself 'what or who gives power to the government? The people of course! So think about crime and ask who is responsible, the best answer I could come up with is everyone! Have you ever known anyone that stole something for fun? Who broke someone else property but it wasn't a big deal? Those are crimes that are very minor but wrong-is-wrong, but it happens most days!

Our society in many aspects has adopted a state of mind where minor things are ok. Speeding, bad driving, anti-social behaviour fueled by drugs or alcohol appear to be acceptable to many, even nicking your coworkers pen is ok, no big deal. I believe people who get used to behaving with complete disregard to others rights and property are criminals at some level or other.

We have all made mistakes and learned from them, became more respectful of others property and life. Sadly, not everyone learns and tries to change the wrong things they've done. However it gets worse when the get hooked on abusive substances recreational or otherwise and continue to do the same things or worse because it's not a big deal. Society does not appear to care or hasn't cared much in the past, now people are taking note! But the minds of these people mostly young, grows up based on those negative experiences, yet all time society is watching with others with their heads deep into the sand!

Apply all this to someone young, kids who haven't had the right guidance from parents, and have grown up with all these negative social norms in their lives. These are the young people of Gibraltar who are going to be our future. Disturbingly many young people may have had their futures determined by all the negative social experiences whilst growing up and in the kind of home environment I have been describing.

The foundation of each person is acquired during their early years. What they see, hear, get away with and so on, this is the foundation that will determine who they become in the future, more importantly it also translates into what kind of society we will also have in the future, which at the moment is a rather a frightening thought!

Fear of crime has an incredibly corrosive effect on individuals and an even entire community, reducing the fear of crime has always been an important police objective and I'm sure it still is! It is not too difficult to find where the fear comes from. In a place like Gibraltar it's not so difficult to determine the causes of crime either, which itself triggers in people that fear of crime, by tackling the causes you eliminate the problem.

One advice I would like to give the police; over the past few years but particularly over the last few days I have spoken with numerous people in person, by phone and over the internet, I suggest to the police that they reconnect with the public and sound out for themselves the concerns on this issue, they may learn one or two things like I did?

Leo Olivero

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Policing Priorities Out of Touch with Public Concerns!

At a time when a young man was stabbed in the town area in broad daylight and where a 14 year old boy was incarcerated for possession of a large amount of drugs with intent to supply, add the growing trends of violent crime which continues unabated, together with the never ending list of drug related crime reported to the police, we hear that the RGP have dismantled  two of their main ‘Crime Departments’ leaving only a skeleton crew to set up ‘Tobacco Patrols’ all in an attempt to stifle the exportation of tobacco.

Numerous people are astonished that the police who only a week ago mounted another manpower draining operation, on that occasion on money changing in premises who were  allegedly unlicensed, should now turn their attention and focus away again from the many crime related issues that many believe, should be top of the lists of policing priorities! 


Members of the public are quite rightly questioning why are the police now concentrating and focusing all their efforts and resources on certain issues, and at the same time arresting and charging people for offences that are much more in the domain of the Customs Department?  Questions are also being asked like ' why are the police drastically and dangerously reducing their daily manpower crime capabilities, when incidents of crime have never been any higher and more concerning to the public.’

It is also the belief of many that the RGP have lost touch with the concerns of the public. Even the result of the last public survey issued some months back by the Police Authority was very explicit; the public again repeated those similar policing concerns as in previous years; these were in order of priority:

•    Supply & misuse of drugs

•    Under-age drinking

•    Vandalism 

•    Burglaries

•    Environmental offences

•    Careless and indiscriminate driving

The above are only the first five or six of the list of public concerns included in the Police authority’s public survey this year. Concerns about tobacco didn’t even come into the first ten issues of public concerns; something that many think is entirely the competence of the Gibraltar Customs Department.

What is the use of bothering to seek the views of the public to establish the things that worries them in relation to crime and other issues, when the police then appear to ignore what the public have repeatedly told them, and then go off at a tangent to focus on other issues which possibly are not essentially police matters.

Many people also feel that the Police Authority and the Police promise much in their yearly policing documents, but than on the ground and in reality, do something else!

In the last annual policing plan the main crime objectives stated that:

The response to any criminal activity in Gibraltar must continue to promote confidence in   the RGP and reduce the fear of crime.   The RGP should continue to utilise an intelligence led and problem solving style of policing which enables the Force to proactively target offenders and problem areas. The Authority endorses that the RGP intends to focus on reducing crime by adopting two strategies, as appropriate: Prevent and deter and catch and convict. The RGP will be asked to continue to develop a range of approaches which will be deployed with a mix of focusing as appropriate on the offender, the victim  and/or the location depending on the particular crime or lawlessness’

The public would be well within their rights to question current policing activities and for that matter the supervision of the present policing plan by the Police Authority, who after all, issues the plan itself. Observers find it difficult to understand that with constant rising trends of violent crime particularly with a weapon (stabbings) and many other drug related issues involving crime - underage drinking and other high public concerns like environmental issues - litter and dog fouling and others that the police focus their attention and all available manpower on matters that many think, are best dealt with by the competent authority as in the case Gibraltar Customs Dept.

Do you see over the frontier in Spain the National Police or the Municipal Police getting themselves involved in customs related operations at the frontier, or anywhere else, particularly on issues like tobacco? Something that is clearly the jurisdiction of the Guardia Civil!

Man About Town

Friday, 17 June 2011

Standing or seating, is Caruana ‘queen’?

The Armando LaGrande Column says:

Stanging or seating, or even standing on your head, is the chief minister of Gibraltar 'queen'? That is the question being asked after people were formally asked to stand up when Peter Caruana arrived at the parade for the Queen's Birthday.

In theory it has nothing to do with Caruana, in fact the same would apply to any other chief minister.

That cleared, the question that needs clearing is whether the Chief Minister is the head of state of Gibraltar, the representative of the Queen?

If the Governor is no longer the representative of the Queen, the Foreign Office should issue a formal statement announcing that henceforth the Chief Minister represents the Queen.

If that's not the case, they should also issue a formal statement saying that the Chief Minister is the Chief Minister.

The invitation people received stated that it was "a parade to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

The official programme said it was "a parade to celebrate the 85th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen."

But there in the official programme, in black upon white, it ordered that when the Chief Minister arrives "please stand until the Chief Minister has taken his seat."

That's a funny thing to order the public to do, because at the equivalent parade in London those invited were not instructed to stand up and stay standing until the Prime Minister took his seat.

That is the point, and one would imagine that a Prime Minister is of greater importance than a Chief Minister in the protocol list.

So, who gave instructions for those attending the parade to be instructed to stand and when not to stand as regards the Chief Minister?

This is the same Chief Minister who said the other day that the decolonisation of Gibraltar "has already occurred."

If that is so, will there be a Royal proclamation announcing it?

In the meantime, is the Governor still the representative of the Queen or is it now the Chief Minister, whoever may be occupying that post at any time?

Those are the questions. Where are the answers...?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Health and safety must be robust and proactive

Over the year's local workplace safety standards have largely been undermined by poor health and safety investigation policies, this includes enforcement procedures as a result of an acute lack of manpower and resources. In fact the latter reasons have mostly been responsible for criticisms and concerns from politicians, unions, courts and the public!

Recently since the tank explosion at the port, health and safety has had the proverbial spot-light over it. This incident as most of us know resulted in the injury of two men, who it seems were doing some welding on the tank that blew up, one of these workers received serious and life threatening injuries. Also 12 passengers aboard the royal caribbean's independence of the seas in port at the time also received injuries.

Significantly however the health and safety aspect of this serious matter did not stop with the two workmen and the injured passengers on the cruise ship. As the whole of Gibraltar I'm sure, are grateful that this serious incident was contained. Some excellent and combined work from our two local fire brigades saw too this. Firemen were able to contain the fire, not withstanding the fact however that they were grossly unresourced, this an issue which by all intends and purposes, is another subject of debate!

Hot work may have caused explosion

Coordinated investigations continue into the cause of the explosion at the sullage plant. Numerous public statements (away from the investigation) have already attributed the cause of the incident to the wielding or hotwork activity on the tanks.

As may well have been expected, a lot of public comment and experts, have questioned the important health and safety implications connected to the main possible cause theory, including the likelihood of some health and safety infringements. If all this is true: 'How could health and safety procedures have been so indiscriminately ignored?

When talking about health and safety I think of those important guiding principles or ideals and rules that always top this agenda. For instance, the argument that the 'government or any top-down organisation or any boss should lead the workforce by example' these must be important principles! The government for instance, will never succeed to implement something effectively if it does not prove that it actually believes in what it is preaching. To make matters worse, the local culture does not help to improve the situation: prevention is not always better than cure in certain aspects of local life. Just take the situation with 'underage drinking, alcohol, drugs and tobacco abuse'

Just consider for a moment the amount of construction sites and buildings that have sprouted up all over the place in the past 10 or 12 years, one has to ask questions like 'how many companies, employers including the government have actually appeared in court on health and safety related offences' judging by the many views expressed on this matter 'not that many'. Remarkable really, when you consider Gibraltar's construction revolution over recent years, it is where one would have expected a much more pro-active and robust approach to health and safety, but this has not been the case!

It's not as if we have not had any serious fatal incidents, we have! Workman have been killed! And yet health and safety cases in court have mainly been initiated as a result of a bad accident or death in a workplace, mostly caused by h&s infringements. Of course, none of this helped by very poor health and safety inspection policies on those many construction sites. Even though it's not my intention to generalise, but its part of reality that there are managers, or rather, employers in Gibraltar who unfortunately still consider health and safety as a cost. And if protective equipment or procedures is a requirement in law, they will go for the cheapest or take dodgy shortcuts. I'm sure many members of the public have seen examples of this, particular if they have gone round some of the construction sites with an observant eye.

Court urged government to strengthen its health and safety inspectorate

It wasn't that long ago jurors at an inquest into a fatal accident during the construction of waterport terraces spoke out, this when a worker suffered a fatal accident when he fell from a partly finished second floor balcony after a makeshift guardrail made from recycled timber gave way. Jurors than urged the government to strengthen its health and safety inspectorate. The recommendation followed evidence from the government's principal factories inspector, who told the inquest that his department lacked adequate resources. The inquest in fact heard that there were only two inspectors to enforce health and safety regulations in all workplaces in Gibraltar; however my information is that the situation is not any better!

But health and safety in the community is not all about work and construction sites, it covers a much larger and similarly important area than just the working environment! Health & safety in the community includes many areas; we unfortunately don't see much evidence that health and safety extends to the everyday life of everyone in society!

Take the environment, emission, smells noise and traffic congestion, a situation in which as a community, we are all daily affected by all these toxic and environmentally dangerous and unhealthy risks that affects all of us, everyday of our lives. These are serious 'quality of life issues'

Noise a real pollutant

As a resident, employee or visitor to Gibraltar you are expected to tolerate most noises, within reason and without much complaint. Noise becomes unreasonable however when it invades your space to the exclusion of everything else. We do get them, here are some examples: excessive noise from leisure establishments, especially during the night; noise generated by the never-ending construction activity; excessive noise discharged by the souped-up car or m/cycle exhausts, underlined by the bass from the super wattage system; the neighbours uncontrollable urge to share his phobic noise rage; and seasonal noise, especially in the summer months. I am sure that most of us at one time or another found that noise was unbearable but had to be tolerated due to lack of unified redress!

One of the biggest culprits of noise pollution is the generating station on waterport rd way, people living in this area are treated 24/7 to some horrendous sounds emanating from this government controlled installation, I know because I live in the area! We are told nothing can be done; basically no one listens, not because they are deaf as a result of all the noise from these machines, but because they just don't care!

Gibraltar lacks cohesive legislation and regulatory framework on noise

Gibraltar lacks a cohesive legislation and regulatory framework governing noise, there's very few laws that came's down on all those many everyday noise nuisances.

In fact we are way behind most of europe in this respect, not surprising really, when you consider that one of the biggest round the clock noise offenders is the government itself!

Gibraltar in this respect needs a drastic change of mindset. Noise is not just a nuisance; those exposed to excessive noise will suffer from hearing impairment, the gravity of which depends on the noise intensity. This analogues to the hazard of smoking 20 years ago, when smokers believed that tobacco was the safest habit and all else was hogwash!

Although if our health and safety-come-environmental authority is the official body for the investigation and abatement of noise, and if as we are told, they are short on staff and resources (a similar story to the factory inspectors) restricting them of enforcing anything; than what chance is there for peace and quite in Gibraltar!

Smells, emissions and traffic fumes

In so far as smells and emissions are concerned, well, these environmental issues and many others have been comprehensively covered by the ESG who have done great work for years in making the public aware regarding all these important environmental issues.

Although at the same time the ESG has also kept up pressure on the government to gets its finger out to remedy many of the problems affecting the community's quality of life.

By any indicator you choose, health and safety enforcement has for some time been in decline in Gibraltar. Many think it has never really been effectively implemented.

Think about it, if employers are aware that health and safety laws have fallen into disrepute, like in not being respected and there being no credible threat of it actually being enforced, why would they respect it themselves? And why would they take seriously the demands of workers and safety reps to follow it anyway, it's a win-win situation for them and a dangerous situation for employees and ultimately society.

Accidents will always happen. It only takes a blink of an eye, a slip of a finger or a misplaced step. However the chances of something happening are much greater if ineffective and inefficient procedures/policies are in place. The failure to enforce pertinent health and safety legislation greatly increases the chances of accidents and incidents occurring, as we saw in the port the other week.

Weak and ineffective health and safety practices make workplaces vulnerable, that's a fact! Although in many other ways, it will also have a direct influence on community life in Gibraltar, which in turn threatens our quality of life, now, and in the future!

Leo Olivero

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Gibraltar's British territorial waters - What the Govt says it will not permit is already happening!

The Opposition say they note that the General Court of the European Court has ruled inadmissible on procedural grounds the cases filed by the Gibraltar and the United Kingdom Governments following the designation by Spain of Gibraltar’s waters as if they were Spanish. This rejection on procedural grounds appears to be based on the fact that the Gibraltar Government asked only for part of the Spanish designation to be struck off instead of all of it.

The Opposition has not been a party to the case and has not been briefed in any way. Therefore our comments are based exclusively on the information which has already been put into the public domain by others.

It will be recalled that in 2006, on a proposal from the United Kingdom, two Sites of Community Importance (SIC) in Gibraltar were designated by the EU for the purposes of environmental directives. One of these, called “Southern Waters of Gibraltar”, was within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. In 2008, on a Spanish proposal, the EU designated a new Site of Community Importance (SCI) called “Estrecho Oriental”. This new site overlapped with and included the one already designated by the United Kingdom as well as including international waters and Spanish waters.

The Gibraltar Government filed a court case which sought to remove British Gibraltar Territorial waters from the Spanish designation, with the intention that this would remain in place as amended. This procedure has not been allowed by the Court. It is logical to assume, although this is not clear, that the Government were advised to proceed in this manner as opposed to seeking that the entire Spanish designation should be struck off.

However, at the time when the case was filed, a second precautionary action was also initiated in the Supreme Court of Gibraltar. The Government said at the time that “This second action is precautionary in a procedural sense. We fully expect our direct action in the EU Court of First Instance to prosper procedurally.”

The Opposition adds: It is regrettable that the case has not prospered procedurally and that now an appeal needs to be filed.

The Opposition goes on to say that they agree with the Government that British Gibraltar Territorial Waters should be subject to the exclusive application of Gibraltar law. However, the point is that ever since the designation, the Spanish authorities have effectively behaved more aggressively as if the waters in question belonged to them and have been seeking to apply Spanish law in an area of territorial sea which is not Spanish.

There have been a whole series of serious incidents which have taken place as Spain has tried to enforce its purported jurisdiction in Gibraltar waters. The fisheries protection vessel, the Corvette “Tarifa” started this new phase when it lowered a RHIB which proceeded to inspect fishing boats in British waters. It refused to leave when asked to do so by the Royal Navy. There have been numerous recorded incidents of the Guardia Civil stopping pleasure boats and asking owners for their documentation, sometimes within meters of our shoreline. They removed a suspect from RGP custody in the Bay and prevented the arrest of others in the area of the lighthouse a few weeks ago. The Spanish Navy recently ordered a vessel at anchor on the east side to leave those waters because they were Spanish.

Therefore when the Gibraltar Government says that it will not “permit British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to be treated, administered or governed for EU or any other purposes other than as waters of exclusive British Sovereignty,” they have to bear in mind that, in this context, what they have said they will not permit has been happening already. This is why the Opposition has always taken the view that the additional resources for the RGP and other agencies, which the Government itself identified were needed in 2009, should have been made available a long time ago.

Spanish accuse Caruana of being ‘an environmental terrorist’

A Spanish political party has gone as far as accusing the chief minister Peter Caruana of being 'an environmental terrorist,' which goes to show to what extent there are those on the other side prepared to attack Gibraltar's leaders.

In this case, it is the 'Partido Andalucista' which has made the accusation, because in their view Caruana goes about behaving in the 'Bay of Algeciras' without adhering to EU directives in matters of bunkering, of shipping and of maritime security.

The PA party has in fact raised a formal complaint before their courts against Caruana for allegedly putting at risk his own people and the whole of the bay by refusing help over the explosion and fire in the port of Gibraltar last week.

After Caruana made a statement about resources to handle such a fire, others in Spain have quickly highlighted that Gibraltar is admitting that it does not have the resources to handle incidents like the one that happened in the port.

Among other things, Caruana said that there is no prospect of the sullage plant being allowed to restart operations.

He also said: "We indicated to Spain almost immediately once the incident happened that we would call on their resources as soon as they were required. That is exactly what we did."

What next? That is the question being asked. It is one thing to have good relations and it is something else to fall into the trap of converting cooperation into Gibraltar losing control in its own operations.

Certainly, if we want to be a leading port we must ensure that we have the necessary equipment, materials and resources to handle any eventuality that may arise.

ESG calls on Chief Minister to make necessary move to remove waste plant

The ESG very much welcomes the Chief Minister’s comments last week on Radio Gibraltar and GBC on the viability of the waste oil treatment plant in Gibraltar. This follows our belief that the oil industry is incompatible with the tourism industry in Gibraltar due to our very small size and our inability to have these located at safe distances away from residential areas/schools/hospital/ships/aircraft/etc

The ESG adds: Gibraltar is physically too small to safely locate oil processing plants or oil storage tanks or other oil related industries at a safe distance from residential areas as shown by the plant explosion where we were very lucky with wind direction and the fact that only one of the tanks caught fire. The explosive and flammable nature of the products handled by this industry is incompatible with residential areas and they cannot be physically situated far enough from these to guarantee safety in the event of an accident.

The consequences of an accident in these industries are far reaching and long lasting with regards to oil pollution and their effects on marine ecosystems and human populations as well as tourism and other leisure industries. The effects of this incident are being felt in Gibraltar as well as the entire bay and the Spanish coastline even though the actual fire was luckily contained within the installation.

The general public should also be aware that even when operating normally this oil processing plant creates huge problems for local residents. We were informed by the Environmental Agency approximately a week before the explosion that the waste treatment plant was in fact the source of the noxious fumes that had recently and regularly been affecting many residents in Gibraltar - dependent on wind conditions. Evidently fumes have not been detected or reported to the ESG since the explosion which confirms our conviction that the quality of life for Gibraltar residents was being adversely affected even by the normal operation of this installation.

Given the very real risks to lives and to our environment and to our quality of life in Gibraltar we totally agree with the Chief Minister's statement that serious consideration has to be given to operate waste collection as is done in other ports: that is purely collection and storage as per EU directives and then shipment on to treatment elsewhere where it can be safely processed. We trust that he will make the necessary moves to allow the decommissioning and dismantling of the waste treatment plant and the clean up of its site as soon as possible, their statement ends.