Reform Jersey nomination valid, court rules

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Political newcomer Ms Westwater (pictured right) was reported to the Attorney General, Robert MacRae, over concerns that the party declaration section of her nomination form had been signed after the majority of seconders had already endorsed her.

And the court heard yesterday that three of her seconders were unsure or unaware that Ms Westwater was a Reform Jersey party candidate and might not have signed her form had they known.

Two of them signed the document before the party declaration section had been completed. A third signed it after the section had been filled out but failed to notice.

Ms Westwater told the court that she had ‘absolutely no intention’ of misleading anybody and that it was in the public interest for her candidacy to stand, thereby allowing the electorate of St Lawrence to decide who should serve in the States Chamber.

Giving evidence, party chairman Deputy Sam Mézec said he had to ‘hold his hands up’, as he had not signed the party declaration form on behalf of the candidate earlier. He added that it was an ‘honest mistake’ made while under pressure to prepare the party’s candidates for nominations night.

Solicitor General Mark Temple, on behalf of the Attorney General, said: ‘I fully accept that there is no intention whatsoever to deceive by Ms Westwater.

‘Nevertheless, in my submission, public elections are extremely important and it is extremely important that a proposer and seconders know the position of a candidate that is endorsed by a political party.

‘The onus is on the candidate to make that position absolutely clear.’

He added that there had been undisputed breaches of the Public Elections Law and recommended that the court strike out Ms Westwater’s nomination.

Reading a statement to the court on behalf of herself and Reform Jersey, Ms Westwater said: ‘Reform Jersey expresses regret in not applying the law fully.

‘In mitigation we would like to note that the nominations form does lack clarity in its instructions.’

She added that she felt the breaches were not substantial and that she would like to see recommendations made that future nomination forms were designed with clear instructions as to how to complete it.

Election rival Mr Guida said that he would ‘prefer to face Ms Westwater at the polls’ and Mr Morel added that while he understood the court was in a difficult position, ‘an election is definitely the preferable outcome if that is possible’.

In a brief statement delivering the verdict, Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith said the court found that Ms Westwater’s nomination was valid and she was therefore a candidate in the election. He added that the full reasons for the finding would be released at a later date.

In a statement after the decision was made, Reform Jersey said: ‘We are pleased that the Royal Court has firmly ruled in our favour and stated that Sarah Westwater’s candidacy is valid and legal. The election will continue as planned.

‘Sarah is looking forward to continuing the campaign and engaging with voters in St Lawrence about the important issues that affect that parish and the Island.’

Last week, St Brelade Constable candidate Marilyn Carré, who was also standing for Reform Jersey, withdrew from the election amid similar concerns over her candidacy. Her withdrawal, which was made prior to the court ruling on her candidacy, meant that Mike Jackson was elected unopposed to the seat.

Jurats Anthony Olsen and Charles Blampied were sitting.

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