Sark Newspaper 15 March 2019

“Mr Speaker, you may stand down your Code of Conduct panel as you will have my letter of resigna- tion as a Conseiller of Chief Pleas at the end of this meeting, to be effective immediately.” The Speaker responded in these words: “Can I just say that I had no con- cept from you that this was the sub- ject of your statement. I say first that as the Returning Officer for the elections I took professional advice and accepted Michael Doyle as a fully eligible candidate. Re- garding the code of conduct, it hap- pens to be Chief Pleas’ code of conduct. It was passed by Chief Pleas and I am sorry to hear that you feel somehow or other you are not bound by it, actually you are and so is everybody else in this chamber.” Does the resignation have the effect of ending matters? The panel is sat- isfied that the resignation does not bring the investigation to an end. The panel was asked to consider what happened on 10 th December when Con- seiller Guille was a member of Chief Pleas. The code provides that the panel can proceed if it is thought to be in the public interest to do so, even if the Conseiller withdraws; it is silent on the ef- fect of a resignation. We consider that the obli- gation on a Conseiller to co-operate with the pan- el is primary. If he does not do so, it is in our judgement, in the public interest, that the investi- gation should proceed. The result of the Conseillers’ [Guille] decision not to co-operate or put any evidence before the panel leaves the complaint unanswered and un- challenged. The consequence in law is that the only evidence that the panel had is Mr Doyles. With his lengthy experience of the law Conseiller Guille must have known that this would be the consequence. A husting event is an occasion for robust and forthright exchanges of opinions on policies and for reasoned discussions between candidates and electors. It has long been a part of the democratic process, but there is a line be- tween such exchanges and what is personal abuse and behaviour which is threatening. Conseiller Guille has great experience of the workings of Chief Pleas and is a powerful and influential figure in its operation. Whilst chair of the Policy & Finance Committee, the most signif- icant of committees, Conseiller Guille held strong views on the legitimacy of Mr Doyles’ candida- ture. What he said and the manner of it was we are satisfied was done to intimidate Mr Doyle. He questioned the legitimacy of Mr Doyles’ can- didature even though he knew it was lawful. We accept and find as truthful Mr Doyles’ evi- dence that: ‘He made it clear that he would be against me from the very start and I felt unnerved to go on speaking as the others did. He made me feel be- littled and entirely unwelcomed to Chief Pleas.’ In the absence of any other evidence to the contrary we accept that it did intimidate Mr Doyle by unnerving and belittling him in a manner which is contrary to Conseillers’ duty to maintain high standards of conduct. He clearly crossed the line of what is and is not acceptable. It was in our judgement conduct which did not display the high standards of leadership which is expected of a Conseiller. It is not for a member of Chief Pleas to determine and publicise who, in his or her opinion, is or is not a suitable candi- date to be elected to Chief Pleas and Conseiller Guille did. This is a decision for the electorate. We uphold Mr Doyles’ complaint. A decision by the panel to recommend a sanction to Chief Pleas to consider is not straightforward. It is complicated by the fact that Reginald Guille has resigned as Conseiller but has been co-opted back onto Chief Pleas committees. The code of conduct complaint form, appendix B, page 20, though it is unhelpfully worded, allows registra- tion of a complaint against an elected or co-opted member of the Chief Pleas. It is our view there- fore that the code is intended to and does apply to co-opted members. The technicality of Con- seiller Guille's’ resignation and subsequent co- option does not in our judgement frustrate the requirement of the panel to make a recommenda- tion about the appropriate action to Chief Pleas. The course of action recommended by the panel is that Chief Pleas require Reginald Guille to write a personal apology to Michael Doyle and a formal letter to the Speaker of Chief Pleas recog- nising that the code applies to co-opted members and apologising for his failure to co-operate as required to do so by the code. It appears to us that awareness of the code may not be wide- spread. We therefore recommend that new and existing members be made fully aware of the re- quirements and obligations of the code and that should happen periodically. The panel was His Honour, David Brunning, the Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, Miss Lucy Belfield, Dr Richard Axton and Mrs Hazel Fry. 02/04/2019. 3 CODE OF CONDUCT PANEL CODE OF CONDUCT PANEL