Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled Tuesday that a candidate is excluded from running in the forthcoming general elections because of past criminal convictions, but barred the media from naming the individual.
A court order stipulates that the individual can be referred to only as “Candidate X.”
The candidate is prohibited from running in the May 24 elections because of historic convictions for offenses involving dishonesty, Chief Justice Smellie ruled.
The chief justice placed an “indefinite embargo” on the naming of the candidate.
He ruled that a constitutional disqualification against anyone with a conviction for “dishonesty offenses” from running for office, also applies to people with spent convictions.
He ruled that this barrier, introduced in the 2009 Constitution order, applies equally to offenders, like Candidate X, who were legally rehabilitated before 2009.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law, offenders are entitled to have convictions expunged from their record after a number of years of good behavior.
However, Chief Justice Smellie said the law indicated that there were exceptions to this right, through other legislation.
He said the rights or benefits restored through the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law, and the Spent Convictions Law, which was introduced to replace it this year, were not intended to be “absolute or unlimited.”
He said, “[Those laws] are based on a philosophy that while rehabilitated persons must be allowed to overcome past delinquency for which they have atoned, there are public interests which continue to require the disclosure of expunged records on spent convictions.”
Running for election was one of these exemptions, he said.
Chief Justice Smellie said the intent of the provision in the Constitution disqualifying anyone convicted of “dishonesty offenses” was to ensure only persons of the highest integrity are elected to the Legislative Assembly.
Graham Hampson, representing Candidate X, had argued that his client had achieved rehabilitated status before the introduction of the Constitution and was entitled to be treated as if he had never committed a crime. He said the convictions had been spent long before the Constitution came into effect and that prohibition could not be applied retroactively.
Chief Justice Smellie, in his ruling, indicated that the rights of a rehabilitated person had always been subject to potential exemption under other legislation.
The chief justice imposed the embargo on naming the candidate last week after Mr. Hampson argued his client was entitled to his “good character” in all other walks of life because the convictions are legally spent.