At the 24 January 2024 States meeting, the States Assembly and Constitution Committee put forward a policy paper entitled ‘General Election 2025’ which proposed some technical changes to legislation in preparation for the next election (June 2025).
Eligibility to stand
SACC proposed that the States should take on board a recommendation from the expert team that observed the 2020 election and make one of the rules, regarding who can stand for election, less restrictive.
Currently you cannot stand for election in Guernsey if you have been sentenced to more than six months in prison in the previous five years. The election observers said it was arguable that excluding all those sentenced to imprisonment, without regard to the nature of the offence, was unreasonable. They referred to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides that ‘citizens shall have the right and opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs’.
In response, SACC proposed easing the rule in part, but not fully, so someone would be ineligible if they had been convicted of electoral offences, fraud or corruption in the five years immediately preceding the date of the election – but not other crimes.
Deputy Prow felt restricting the crimes to electoral offences, fraud or corruption was a step too far and put forward an amendment which would maintain the current rule on prison sentences. His amendment passed by 24-6, with Deputies St Pier, Fairclough and McKenna (who are members of SACC) voting FOR the amendment and therefore against their own committee’s proposal.
In the course of debate, it was clear that deputies felt that there should be more restrictions on who could stand and that the rule on convictions should, if anything, be tightened, not loosened.
Deputy Tina Bury raised the issue of the lack of DBS checks for candidates for deputy, referring to the risk from sexual offenders etc. This hit a nerve with her colleagues and her speech was referred to frequently throughout the debate. She also expressed concern that candidates have access to the electoral roll which includes dates of birth of 15 year olds.
After lunch, Deputy Bury placed a new amendment to direct SACC to investigate whether candidates should have standard or enhanced DBS checks. This passed 32-1.
Deputy Roffey laid an additional new amendment proposing that SACC investigate whether a candidate should have to declare any conviction before standing so that the public would be aware of who they were voting for. This passed 27-6.