P&R vice-president questions Bailiff’s unelected role

GUERNSEY’s position as one of the few governments in the world which does not formally elect its presiding officer is ‘antiquated and needs to change’, according to a senior deputy.

Deputy Lyndon Trott. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 22947359)
Deputy Lyndon Trott. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 22947359)

Policy & Resources vice-president Lyndon Trott made the comments in the States yesterday as part of the debate on the rules of procedure.

‘I am talking exclusively and specifically about the fact that we do not elect our presiding officer,’ he said.

‘I am making no judgement other than positive ones about the performance of the current Bailiff and the current Deputy Bailiff in the discharge of their duties.

‘It is the fact that we are one of the very few assemblies in the world that does not formally elect its presiding officer.

‘In my view that is antiquated and needs to change.’

Deputy Trott said there was a growing view in Jersey that the dual role of the presiding officer – the Bailiff is also head of the judiciary – should be considered.

Some politicians in Jersey have said the retirement of their Bailiff Sir William Bailhache in October 2019 presents the perfect opportunity to review the position.

Deputy Trott said the role of the Bailiff as presiding officer was determined only by the duration of his tenure.

‘The Bailiff does not have any other appraisal mechanism,’ said Deputy Trott.

‘You could argue that we’re stuck with a bad one in the same way that we are very pleased to have a good one.

‘The idea that this Assembly does not cast a vote in support or otherwise – an unlikely event, in my view – in support of the office of the presiding officer is wrong.

‘I think most of us in the Assembly appreciate and would agree with that. Whether they would be prepared to say it publicly [is another matter].’

Deputy Mary Lowe said: ‘I fully support the presiding officer being the Bailiff, there is the experience of the law [and] the presiding officer can only cover the rules that we set in this States.

‘I have sat in this Assembly under five different Bailiffs, they all operated differently and were all different characters, but none in that time have ever tried to influence the debate, comment on a debate, or even use body language in a debate. They have stayed absolutely neutral.

‘How awful it would be to have somebody elected who was not of that stature.’

She said it would be a sad day if the Bailiff was removed as the presiding officer.

Former States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee president Matt Fallaize was also opposed to making it an elected role.

He said it would result in the creation of a presiding officer, deputy presiding officer, secretary and potentially other positions at great expense.

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