By-election nominee Debbie Lewis has come up fighting after she was removed from the ballot paper over residency requirements.
Ms Lewis was informed by the Returning Officer yesterday that her name had been removed from the nominations list because she had not been ‘ordinarily resident’ in Alderney for the three years immediately preceding the election. The requirement is set down in Government of Alderney Law.
Acting Chief Executive Officer Adrian Lewis investigated the matter after Michael James contacted the President’s office by email alleging one of the three candidates fell foul of the stipulation.
Ms Lewis, who moved to the Island a decade ago, has been shuttling between Alderney and the UK for the past three years for work and to look after her ill father.
After studying her flight records Mr Lewis, together with Returning Officer deputy Chief Executive Officer Liz Maurice, concluded that she was not ‘ordinarily resident’ on Alderney.
The public were duly informed yesterday that Ms Lewis had been removed from the Ballot Paper, leaving just Bill Abel and Hilary Bentley up for election.
Ms Lewis, a risk and disaster management specialist, acknowledged that if the days and weeks for the past three years were to be totted up, it would reveal she had spent more time during the period in the UK than in Alderney.
But she stressed that for the past 10 years her only home had been in Alderney.
And since this April she has been able to work from home and spend less time in the UK, and it was this that prompted her to stand for election.
No criteria is set down in Bailiwick or UK law to define exactly what constitutes ‘ordinarily resident’.
The acting Chief Executive Officer acknowledged that no definition of the term existed in law. In its absence, he said, officers had been required to make ‘an objective judgement based on the information available.’
Mrs Lewis accused them of making up law ‘on the hoof’.
‘I am ordinarily resident in Alderney and in relation to Alderney law there is no timescale attached to being ordinarily resident. They don’t give you two months, six months, nine months per year to be ordinarily resident. They don’t say you have to be here permanently. It’s just a phrase, ‘ordinarily resident’.
‘But I’m not resident anywhere else. I might have spent time in the UK but my home is here. My partner’s here, my dogs are here, all my belongings are here. My life is here. But my work and ailing father happens to be in the UK.’
When she researched the issue the only item in UK law she was able to find which came close to defining ‘ordinarily resident’ was a 1983 House of Lords finding.
It said the concept of ordinary residence implied ‘regular, habitual mode of life in a particular place… the continuity of which has persisted apart from temporary or occasional absences’. The definition also stated that a person could be ordinarily resident in more than one country at the same time.
Ms Lewis, a former UK councillor, thinks that was an objective definition that could have been followed.
She said she deeply regretted the lost opportunity.
‘I care passionately about the Island that has been my only home for more than a decade and had hoped that my previous experience elsewhere of government, offered something different. In some ways, the circumstances of my exclusion have, ironically, highlighted much that is wrong with the way Alderney is governed and why I believed I had something positive to offer.
‘I wish the two candidates the very best of luck and would like to take this opportunity to thank and apologise to Peter Allen and Robert McDowell, my proposer and seconder.’
AY News asked the acting Chief Executive Officer what criteria had been used to define ‘ordinarily resident’.
‘It would not be appropriate for me to discuss the circumstances of an individual.
[It is] correct that the Law does not offer a precise definition of “ordinarily resident throughout” and therefore these types of matters require the relevant officer to make an objective judgement based on the information available.‘