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AG drops charges in election expenses case after it emerges up to 18 politicians could lose their seats

Robert MacRae QC, Jersey's Attorney General Photo:

Charges against two Jersey politicians and one candidate have been dropped after it was discovered up to 42 further candidates may have also broken election expenses rules.

18 of the 45 accused are sitting politicians in the States Assembly and could have lost their seats, if found guilty.

None of the candidates in question are thought to have broken spending limits.

Candidates have until fifteen days after an election to file their expenses.

In a letter, Jersey's Attorney General said some of the candidates didn't meet that deadline, or a further period of grace, and some didn't fill in the forms correctly.

He said he would re-evaluate the position of the three people who had been charged as if all 18 sitting politicians were found to have breached the rules and subsequently lost their seats, 'the States and Government of Jersey would be significantly impaired at an important time for the Island'.

After some consideration I have come to the clear conclusion that it would not be appropriate to proceed to trial in those cases. It would not be right to single out these three individuals in circumstances where so many candidates appear to have failed to comply with the provisions of Article 6.

It is proper to observe that those three individuals could be distinguished from the other candidates in that (on the prosecution case) in one case there was a failure to ever file a return and in the other two cases the declarations under Article 6 were returned to the Greffier after (in one case several months after) the other candidates. Nonetheless I have reconsidered the public interest and overall fairness of proceeding to trial in these three cases.

– Robert MacRae QC, Jersey's Attorney General

In response to the candidates who had been accused of breaking electoral expense laws, a letter of apology has been sent to them from the Judicial Greffier:

Dear Candidates

I am writing to you all because each of you were candidates in the General Election in 2018.

As you may be aware, as a candidate in a Public Election, you are each required to file a signed Declaration setting out your expenditure incurred and donations received in relation to your election campaign. Under Article 6 the Public Elections (Expenditure and Donations) (Jersey) Law 2014 (“the Law”), the time period for filing that declaration was 15 working days from the date of the poll, namely close of business on the 7 June 2018.

You would all have been provided with a copy of the Declaration form with your candidate’s letter that was sent on the 23 April 2018 under cover of an email by my predecessor in the role (Advocate Matthews).

Some of you will recall subsequently receiving a reminder email from Advocate Matthews dated 14 June 2018 (if you who had not yet complied with Article 6) extending the time in which to file the Declaration to the 18 June 2018. Ultimately, this led to three candidates being referred to the Attorney General and prosecutions being commenced.

I have undertaken a review of the Declarations filed by the candidates and the procedures followed by the Judicial Greffe in regard to the same. I have concluded that there were a number of procedural errors and it is therefore right that I should write to set these out, proffer my apologies on behalf of my Department and seek to assure you that everything will be done to avoid repetitions of these errors going forward.

I am now aware that the Declarations forms which accompanied the Candidate’s letter in April 2018, were incorrect in two ways. First, the Declaration were stated to be under the Law but that Law was incorrectly dated 2008. This did not affect the efficacy of the document but is an regrettable inaccuracy. Second, the return date for the Declaration, found at the end of the form, was erroneously stated as being 3 November 2014. Whilst that would have been obviously incorrect to all recipients, it is not acceptable. The form available on the vote.je was correctly dated.

In addition I see that the candidates letter of the 23 April 2018 itself at paragraph 9 incorrectly stated that the return date was 6 June 2018.

It is also appropriate to highlight the inappropriate extension of time offered by the then Judicial Greffier. The time period for the return of the Declaration form is clear and unambiguous within the Law and there is no provision for that to be extended at the discretion of any party. When the time period expired on 7th June, the correct procedure would have been to refer all candidates in breach of Article 6(6) of the Law to the Attorney General. The procedure of granting an extension to the 18th June 2018 and then also referring those candidates who by the 11 July 2018 had failed to comply was not correct.

I shall be issuing a statement to the media in near course but as a matter of courtesy I wished to first extend the sincere apologies of my Department for the errors in procedure that have previously taken place and to seek to assure all candidates and members of the States that I am ensuring that the provisions of the Law will be accurately and strictly followed in the future.

Yours sincerely

Advocate Adam Clarke Judicial Greffier