Eight of Guernsey's elected representatives and one Alderney rep abstained from the vote on suspending disgraced colleague Deputy Chris Le Tissier - Express asked them why.
Deputy Le Tissier was cast to the sidelines for one year by the States Assembly, four-and-a-half months after being unmasked as 'The Pirate' on Twitter back at the start of March.
Using the anonymous account, Deputy Le Tissier was exposed by Express for pretending not to be a deputy while commenting on political issues and expressing views against "non-locals" participating in island life.
On appeal, the original Code of Conduct Panel's recommended expulsion from the States was downgraded to a one-year suspension from the States.
The majority of politicians agreed, with 25 voting in favour on Wednesday. However, for others the penalty was seen as disproportionate for some comments made on social media. Five opposed, and nine refused to vote altogether.
Pour: Deputies Parkinson, Prow, Queripel, Roffey, Soulsby, St Pier, Trott, Vermeulen, Brouard, Burford, Bury, Cameron, De Lisle, de Sausmarez, Dudley-Owen, Fairclough, Falla, Ferbrache, Gabriel, Gollop, Haskins, Inder, Kazantseva-Miller, Le Tocq and Leadbeater.
Contre: Deputies Meerveld, Taylor, Dyke, Mahoney and Alderney Representative Roberts.
Abstained: Deputies Moakes, Murray, Oliver, Aldwell, Blin, Helyar, Matthews, McKenna and Alderney Representative Snowdon.
Absent: Deputy Le Tissier
That includes eight Guernsey deputies, six of whom gave their reasons when approached by Express.
Deputy Chris Blin started the term with an objective to avoid abstention unless there was "really no choice" but to do so. He described the Code of Conduct vote as the exception to that rule.
"I totally agree that there should be sanctions brought against him – as Deputy Le Tissier brought this all on himself and quite frankly was awful, and really quite stupid especially when he denied it.
"However you may have heard the speeches and although I don’t sit on his committees, he was kept in high regard by his committee colleagues."
Perhaps the staunchest defence came from fellow first-time Deputy Andrew Taylor - who voted against suspension. Having worked alongside the Home Affairs and Development & Planning Authority Member, Deputy Taylor said it was a shame to lose "an asset to the States" who was both "excellent and respectful in the way he challenges things" in committee.
Deputy Blin continued: "I could not vote down the recommendation of the [Conduct Panel]. If I did and he was cleared that would be wrong so abstaining was the only way to state that he deserves sanction but that suspension was not proportionate to the actions he took."
Deputies Sue Aldwell and Mark Helyar - a former Guernsey Party colleague who had been asked to provide evidence during Deputy Le Tissier's Code of Conduct hearing - both abstained from the vote, giving similar reasons.
"I agreed absolutely that there was certainly a case to answer, but that the punishment at a year was excessive," said Deputy Aldwell. "I would have voted 'pour' if it had been 3 or 6 months, but felt conflicted."
Deputy Helyar said: "Although I felt that a sanction was due, the sentence was excessive."
Pictured: Deputies David Mahoney and Liam McKenna did not respond to Express' questions.
D&PA President Victoria Oliver criticised the Code of Conduct process in an interview with Express last month. She reiterated feeling uncomfortable with that process.
"I abstained because I didn’t agree that the punishment fitted the crime or wanted to set a precedent of a year suspension," said Deputy Oliver
"Every deputy said the Code of Conduct was not where it should be and needed to be changed quickly. There were parts of the report that made me very uncomfortable and didn’t provide me with enough information in other areas.
"I couldn’t vote 'contre' because he had done something wrong and voting this would have said "it’s okay to behave like this." That left me with one other option - to abstain."
In Deputy Aidan Matthew's view, some sanction was called for, due to the "anonymous" posting which resembled cyberbullying or trolling.
"Further, the "aggravating factors" essentially, failing to fess up when discovered, also called for a sanction," said Deputy Matthews. "However, what I absolutely could never vote for, is a measure taken against freedom of expression. It wasn't clear from the report, what the one-year suspension related to.
"As I said in my speech: We are expected to express views that are sometimes controversial, and frequently at variance with those of the government of the day. It's a fundamental democratic principle that elected representatives are able to do this without fear of reprisal. I certainly find it extremely difficult to support a sanction that has the effect, intended or otherwise, of curtailing this in any way."
No, Le Tissier is a victim of his own stupidity and bullying behaviour.— Dr Gilly Carr (@CarrGilly) July 16, 2021
Pictured: Dr Gilly Carr - who was the target of some of Deputy Le Tissier's anonymous and disparaging tweets about "non-locals" - rebutted Deputy Meerveld's comments.
Deputy Matthews said it would have been helpful if the factors adding up to the one-year recommendation had been "itemised" in some way.
"I had been minded to reluctantly support the report suspension, though it became clear during debate that at least some people, saw this as an employment issue, i.e. that an employee can be fired if they express views that differ from their employer. Certainly, the first iteration of the review panel seemed to have reached this conclusion too. The second report was an improvement, but didn't make clear what the one-year suspension is for, e.g. by "itemising" the factors.
"Dr Gilly Carr is a well respected academic who certainly deserved some justice for the anonymous insults she put up with. I've been particularly impressed an interested in her work relating to the Occupation in Guernsey. It's remembering, the rise of Fascism was in part enabled by the suppression of opposing views. After being reminded by Deputy Meerveld about setting a damaging precedent, I felt I couldn't vote for the suspension."
Former Guernsey Party colleague Nick Moakes, the other States member to respond, said: "I do not condone Deputy Le Tissier’s actions. Like many others I felt that a sanction was due but the process is flawed."
Deputies David Mahoney and former Guernsey Party colleague Liam McKenna did not respond to Express' questions.
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