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EXPRESS OPINION: The best person for the job

EXPRESS OPINION: The best person for the job

Wednesday 13 May 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: The best person for the job

Jessica Roland is to be sworn in as Guernsey's first female Deputy Bailiff today, and she might within a few years be the island's first female Bailiff - and while some people may think it's taken us a long time to get to this point, I think we should be celebrating the amazing achievements of an individual - who has been chosen as she is the best person for the job.

Ms Roland is known to many through her work as a lawyer, but like many others with roles in public life she has proven her commitment to the community in other areas too.

She's a 'Guernsey girl' if that's important to you - she was born here, went to the Forest Primary School, then the Grammar School for Girls, before going away to study in the UK and France. She was back home in 1998 when she started work and 22 years later she retired from practicing law to take on her new role.

And what a role it is.

There is universal pride I would say this morning, that Guernsey is going to have its first female Deputy Bailiff. All of the messages I have seen on every news story regarding the ceremony to swear Ms Roland in this morning have been positive, and rightly so. She is clearly very popular and people seem to agree she is the best person for the job.

There have been a few Tweets or comments such as 'why has it taken so long?' and 'we should have had a female Bailiff by now' - and I'm sorry, but I disagree.

Richard McMahon Jessica Roland Bailiff Deputy Bailiff

Pictured: Guernsey's new Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff.

It is great that a woman has been chosen to be our Deputy Bailiff, and is likely to be our next and first female Bailiff. It's great - because she is an intelligent, hard working woman who has reached the pinnacle of her chosen career path. Let's not denigrate that by suggesting she was chosen over any man who may have been considered for the role too, just because she's a woman and 'it's about time a woman did it'. She's got the job, because she's the best person for the job.

The position of Deputy Bailiff was actually only created in 1969 - some 700 years after the first Bailiff was appointed. It makes perfect sense to me that only men have held both offices since, as lets face it - back in 1278 when William de Saint-Remy was in his first term as Bailiff, men really did rule the roost. We all know it was a long hard slog for women to win the right to vote hundreds of years after that, and in the grand scheme of things, the time frame from 1969 when the first male Deputy Bailiff was chosen, to now is a mere blink of an eye. And it's where we are now that is important to me. If it were me, I would be disappointed if anyone thought I had been chosen because I was female and 'it's about time', not because of my professional and personal attributes. 

Yes we do of course need a government and judiciary which reflects society more fairly than it has done in the past. Yes we should encourage more women to step up and take on senior roles in public life. Many do need to be encouraged to do so, and hopefully seeing Ms Roland take on such a senior role in island life will encourage more women to follow in her footsteps. Because I wholeheartedly think Ms Roland can do this job and I think she will do it very well.

She's got some big shoes to fill - Richard McMahon has stepped up to be Bailiff, following the retirement of Sir Richard Collas. Two very different men, but who have been dedicated in their roles and have repeatedly demonstrated the depth of knowledge which led them to their positions. 

Bailiff Richard Collas

Pictured: Sir Richard Collas.

I remember interviewing Sir Richard some years ago, when another woman was appointed to one of the highest offices in Guernsey. Megan Pullum has been HM Procurer and Receiver General since 2016. She was the first woman to hold a Crown officer's position in Guernsey - a mighty achievement - but again only right for someone so knowledgable to be given such responsibility, not because she's a woman but because she really does seem to know everything there is to know about Guernsey's legal and political systems - just listen to her reeling off the answers during a States debate - she's like a walking wikipedia for Guernsey.

During that interview I asked Sir Richard if we would soon see a female Bailiff - he smiled and said he thought so and explained to me the different routes to becoming Bailiff and how the decision is made. Maybe he already knew then who might be a suitable Deputy Bailiff when the time came. 

So now we have one - and yes it's taken a while, but we've beaten Jersey to it, so that's good. 

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