(L-R): Dr Edward Smith and Royal Robinson
In a recent opinion piece, former deputy premier Royal Robinson has expressed his views on the Cheshire Hall-Richmond Hills election petition and said that the current prescribed penalty for making a false declaration must be substantially increased.
The current penalty is a $1,000 fine and/or three months in prison.
“It should be a real deterrent to avoid someone doing that for the fun of it and then getting away with it with a slap on the wrist,” Robinson wrote.
“As a result of this case being now brought, I would like the penalty for a false declaration under the law to be substantially more…” he added.
The petition now before the court in relation to the Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hills voting district was brought by the unsuccessful candidate for the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) is grounded in an alleged failure by a third party candidate, Edward E. Smith of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), to declare his US citizenship.
In the constituency ballot, Selver received 364 votes, Smith received 58 votes and the successful Progressive National Party (PNP) candidate Amanda Missick received 394 votes.
Last week, Supreme Court Judge Margaret Ramsay-Hale postponed handing down a ruling on a preliminary motion to strike out the petition, saying she needs more time to consider the arguments made.
In his article, Robinson attempted to make an argument for dismissal of the petition based on a 1904 case in England [Hobbs v. Morey (1904) 1 KB 74], which was cited by Ariel Misick QC representing Amanda Missick.
However, the Hobbs case, whilst articulating a set of principles that have withstood the test of time, seems to apply to any argument on the substantive issues rather than any motion to strike out.
In the 1904 case, two candidates were nominated at the municipal election in question. However, the successful candidate was disqualified by reason of being interested in a contract with the municipality. The fact that he was disqualified was unknown to the voters.
The principle established by the Divisional Court in that case was that, where a candidate is known to be disqualified by the electors, any votes cast for him are held to be effectively thrown away, having been cast knowingly for a candidate that the voters knew was disqualified.
However, where the disqualification of the candidate is not known to the electors, the court held that the issue is different, and there must be a new election.
In the current Cheshire Hall-Richmond Hills election petition, therefore, the outcome may turn on whether voters knew that Smith was disqualified by virtue of his alleged US citizenship.
The matter is, however, complicated by Selver’s further claim that the Supervisor of Elections, Dudley Lewis, failed in his duty to ensure that Smith was qualified to be nominated as a candidate in the general election and that Lewis further failed to publish such candidate declarations within the time limit required by the constitution, thereby denying opposing candidates the opportunity to challenge such nomination(s) prior to the election.
Robinson himself ran as an “at large” candidate for the PNP in the recent general election but placed tenth out of eleven candidates, well out of the top five required for a seat. He had previously been elected in the widely questioned 2007 election in the small district of North Caicos West, Kew, beating his brother Clarence Selver, who is now the PDM-appointed member of the House of Assembly.