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Judicial Greffe admits errors in election expense cases

Two deputies and one unelected candidate had their charges dropped. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Jersey's Judicial Greffe has admitted errors in the election expense cases dropped by the Attorney General this week.

Two deputies and one unelected candidate had their charges dropped, after it was discovered that up to 42 further candidates may have also broken election expense rules.

A letter of apology has been sent to all candidates accused of breaking electoral expense laws by 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.

– Advocate Adam Clarke Judicial Greffier

In a statement today, the Greffe admitted errors in the forms relating to the date and extension for declaring expense forms in the 2018 election.

The expenses form that was sent to the candidates undercover of the letter dated 23 April 2018 was incorrect in two ways; the Law had been incorrectly entitled as 2008 and, more important for the candidates, the indicated return date for the form was erroneously stated as being 3 November 2014. Whilst the return date for the expenses form that was made available publicly through www.vote.je was correctly dated 7 June 2018, this error is most unfortunate.

It is also appropriate to acknowledge that the decision to offer an extension of time for the filing of the expenses forms to the 18 June 2018, whilst no doubt intended to be in the best interests of the candidates, was not a power that was available to any individual or body within the provisions of the Law. The offence created by Article 6(6) of the Law is clear and express and the extensions granted to the candidates should not have been given. It is recognised that whilst the candidates ought to have been aware of the correct filing date, the receipt of an extension of time may have caused confusion and given the impression that strict compliance with the date was not essential.

– Advocate Adam Clarke Judicial Greffier

The Judicial Greffe now says it will take a "more robust stance" in enforcing the rules relating to expenses forms from election candidates, and will be emphasising these duties to all future candidates.

  • WATCH: The lawyer representing the two deputies who had their charges dropped today read this statement outside the court...

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