The claim is made by a group led by Senator Stuart Syvret, who has accused the Attorney General, William Bailhache, of ‘using a thin cloak of legal pretence’ to make influential interventions into political debates.Senator Syvret described some of Mr Bailhache’s comments as ‘outrageous’.’It is not the first time he has made political speeches, but these were perhaps the most extreme examples,’ said the Senator.
‘It raises questions about the right of an unelected Crown-appointed law officer being in a Chamber where elected politicians make political decisions,’ said the Senator.However, Mr Bailhache has defended his interventions.
He said: ‘I hope I will not be inhibited by any States Member from doing my duty as Attorney General to advise the States on legal and constitutional issues.’Mr Bailhache said he was asked to comment on a specific issue by two politicians in the first instance.
On the second occasion, he believed it was his duty to make Members aware of potential human rights issues if wide-ranging powers currently enjoyed by committees of inquiry are to be conferred on scrutiny panels.Mr Bailhache said that two politicians suggested during the debate that he had made the second point well.However, the president of the Privileges and Procedures Committee, Senator Christopher Lakeman, who is also a lawyer, said that the Attorney General’s continued presence in the States was ‘not immune from review, nor is his advice sacrosanct’.
Senator Lakeman revealed during Thursday’s sitting that Privileges had chosen not to follow Mr Bailhache’s advice on two issues.
‘We showed we have the political will and responsibility not to lamely follow the views of the Attorney General.
I think that is a healthy tension,’ he said.Senator Syvret and other States Members now intend to acquire transcripts of speeches made by Mr Bailhache both on Thursday and from past occasions to analyse them for political content.Senator Syvret believes that voting on his motion to amend the proposed new system of government was influenced by Mr Bailhache’s speech.
The Senator’s amendment polled 17 votes in favour, with 29 cast against.The Senator’s motion was for the inclusion of a ‘call-in’ mechanism as a safeguard in the proposed constitutional reforms.
Call-in would allow the temporary freezing of an order made by a minister until a decision was taken on whether the decision should be reversed or allowed to stand.Mr Bailhache warned the House that the Island could look ‘very foolish’ if the Chief Minister signed up to a national or international agreement that was then frozen.