Recent convictions may not be bar to election

THE States will be asked to relax the law which prevents people with recent criminal convictions from standing as a deputy.

Deputy John Gollop thought the Sacc decision might not go down well in the island or with his fellow deputies. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31752582)
Deputy John Gollop thought the Sacc decision might not go down well in the island or with his fellow deputies. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31752582)

At present, a candidate must not have been sentenced to six months or more in prison, whether suspended or not, without the option of a fine, in the last five years.

The States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee wants the ban to apply only to offences directly related to holding public office, such as corruption, and take suspended sentences out of the law.

This could allow a person with recent convictions for other offences – possibly including physical violence or sex crimes – to stand in general elections from 2025.

The change will be proposed to the States after election observers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association suggested that the law in Guernsey and a similar law in Jersey were too restrictive.

‘On balance, I favour being as liberal as possible when stopping people from standing for election,’ said Sacc president Carl Meerveld at the committee’s latest meeting.

‘I am in favour of supporting the recommendation [to liberalise]. This has been raised by a respected international body and we can certainly justify the change.’

States officials advised the committee that it needed to address the CPA’s concerns - either by proposing to liberalise the law or explaining publicly why it wanted to maintain the existing law.

Simon Fairclough was initially reluctant to back relaxing the law.

‘I have a degree of discomfort with this. There was some unease in 2020 about some candidates who were allowed to stand. I’m trying to test this recommendation against those concerns,’ said Deputy Fairclough.

John Gollop identified cases outside of the island where candidates with recent convictions had been elected, sometimes while still in prison. One example was Bobby Sands, an Irish republican who was elected to the UK Parliament in 1981 while on hunger strike in the Maze Prison.

‘I’m OK with this change, but I don’t think it will be particularly popular with the public or with some of our colleagues in the States,’ said Deputy Gollop.

Lester Queripel was initially reluctant to accept the recommendation.

He said that liberalising the law would broaden the cause of inclusion but asked where the boundaries of inclusion should be drawn.

Following the committee debate, Deputies Fairclough and Queripel joined Deputies Meerveld and Gollop in backing a change to the law.

Deputy Liam McKenna expressed no view during the debate but also voted in favour of liberalisation.

The committee will now take its proposed change to the States before the next general election in June 2025.

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