Election Expenses: Charges Dropped

It has emerged 18 sitting politicians potentially broke Jersey's election expenses law - but no action is being taken.

The Attorney General says it is not in the public interest to prosecute them.

Charges against Deputies Hugh Raymond and Scott Wickenden and unsuccessful candidate Bernie Manning have been dropped.

The AG says it is possible up to 45 candidates filed their expenses late or incorrectly.  

The penalty if convicted is a fine, and the 18 who were elected would lose their seat.

Robert MacRae had decided not to take action because of the serious impact it would have on the government at what he calls 'an important time for the island'.

He adds that in none of the cases was there evidence that anyone spent too much on their election campaign.

"In these circumstances, and bearing in mind the consequences to the good government of investigating and prosecuting these alleged offences, it is not in my view in the public interest to proceed against all these individuals.  The States and Government of Jersey would be significantly impaired at an important time for the Island."

Article 6 of the Public Election (Expenditure and Donations) Law 2014 demands election candidates declare their expenses within fifteen working days of the polls closing.

The defence lawyer representing Deputies Raymond and Wickenden  - who both entered not guilty pleas when they appeared at Jersey's Magistrate's a week ago - says his clients are 'digesting the news and are naturally relieved'.

"I will release a further statement once I have more information, but I am glad that the arguments that I have been making about these prosecutions not being in the public interest have succeeded.  This was the right result in the end, however, my clients should not have been put through this process in the first place."  - Advocate Hiren Mistry

We are told they are waiting to return to court to have the case officially thrown out before the politicians can comment publicly themselves.

Of 28 (including 13 States Members) who didn't get their form in on time, many met what they believed to have been an extended deadline granted by the Judicial Greffe. 

But the AG says the Greffier had no power to do that, so those candidates still effectively broke the law. 

A further 17 candidates didn't fill in their forms correctly but weren't told at the time - raising questions about the running of the expenses process.

Channel 103 understands several States Members have contacted officials this week to ask if their form is one of those that did not comply.

Deputy Russell Labey, Chairman of Privileges and Procedures, believed the fault lies with the Judicial Greffe's handling of the law:

"There was something wrong with the way in which the law was administered .  That is not to say that politicians should not comply to the letter of the law, but this law was administered poorly.  There were flaws.  Dates were wrong on forms sent out to politicians, there is no acknowledgement of receipt when the form is handed in.  All sorts of problems with this.  It is not unreasonable to expect this law - with such a high penalty - to be properly and professionally administered, which it wasn't." 

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