Deputy censured for code breach
A CAUTION has been given to St Peter Port deputy Jan Kuttelwascher for comments he made about assisted dying that ‘brought the States into disrepute’.
However, no further action will be taken by the States members’ conduct panel.
The decision has been called ‘very frustrating’ by campaigner Sarah Griffith, who brought the complaint.
Deputy Kuttelwascher clashed with assisted dying supporters on the steps of the Royal Court on 16 May, telling them: ‘If you want to kill yourself, you can do so now,’ before adding that ‘there’s a number of people I’d like to assist in dying, but they’d object’.
His remarks were described as ‘abhorrent, archaic and disgusting’ and led to Ms Griffith lodging a complaint, asserting that Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher had breached sections 8 and 9 of the code.
These sections relate to behaviour that undermines the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the States and disrespectful treatment of members of the community.
Having determined that there was prima facie evidence to support the complaint, the panel’s chairwoman established an investigation panel to consider the matter.
As part of the process, chairwoman Judith Beaugeard nominated one member, Allister Langlois, and Deputy Kuttelwascher nominated the other, Advocate Russell Clark.
Ms Griffith and Deputy Kuttelwascher were invited to present their case.
Ms Griffith alleged that his statements had contravened the code, in that they were unstatesmanlike and brought the States into disrepute.
There was international coverage of the debate and of his comments, she argued, and the apology he issued afterwards did not go far enough.
His remarks were especially insensitive as they were made during Mental Health Awareness week.
Deputy Kuttelwascher’s defence was that his first statement was true and simply stated the current position regarding the law on suicide.
He accepted that the second statement was in poor taste and that he regretted having made it.
The investigation panel ruled that, although his comments had contravened the code of conduct, it was a breach ‘of a minor nature.’
‘We noted that Deputy Kuttelwascher accepted in retrospect that his comments had been ill-advised and we noted that he had issued an apology,’ the panel said.
‘We accepted that the first comment was intended to be a statement of the law although one which might have been expressed in different terms.
‘Nevertheless, we concluded that the two statements which were the subject of the complaint had brought the States into disrepute.’
The panel said his comments lacked sensitivity, but they were not malicious and were not directed at anyone in particular.
Deputy Kuttelwascher accepted the caution and the matter has been closed – an outcome that Ms Griffith described as ‘very frustrating’.
‘I am not so sure the people standing with me on the steps will view the insulting comments in the same way [as a minor breach],’ she said.
‘What then does a member of the States have to do for more than a caution to be issued?
‘I would never have wasted my time to submit a complaint if I did not think it was serious.’