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Deputy chief to 'keep mouth shut' after complaint

Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel has said he is going to keep his "mouth shut" in the future after an investigation found he had behaved inappropriately to another States member.

The commissioner for standards heard Deputy Morel had confronted Deputy Barbara Ward, external in the States chamber after a vote of no confidence (VONC) debate in February 2023, creating an "intimidating and hostile situation" in front of other States members.

Ms Ward claimed he was "verbally aggressive, threatening" and had demonstrated "angry behaviour" towards her, failing to show her "respect and courtesy".

Deputy Morel said he felt an "immense sense of injustice" as he had seen "much worse behaviour" conducted by other members in the past, but that he needed to "step back from that passion and that emotion" and needed "to be more rational" during and after debates.

The two members had voted opposingly on the VONC against Deputy Geoff Southern's role as chairman of a scrutiny panel - in which Ms Ward was a panel member.

'Survival mode'

Deputy Ward said Deputy Morel went out of his way to cross from one side of the chamber to where she was to invade her personal space.

Commissioner for Standards Dr Melissa McCullough was told by Deputy Ward: "I felt so intimidated by his closeness and aggressive verbal manner that I thought he was going to hit me as he appeared so cross with me.

"I cannot remember exactly word for word what he said as I just went into survival/de-escalation mode, but what I do remember is that he accused me of lying and found it shameful that I didn’t even apologise to the Assembly - as in his opinion there was a pattern to my behaviour of some kind.”

Deputy Morel rejected the claims, saying he did not raise his voice or threaten Ms Ward. Witness Constable Karen Shenton-Stone said Deputy Morel was "quite agitated with a raised voice", and that he was "leaning forward into" Ms Ward during their exchange.

"It stayed with me because it shocked me and I felt afterwards I should have done something to intervene. "It does stick with me that he did have a raised voice, he had come across quite angry I suppose," she said.

Regarding whether or not Deputy Morel's demeanour could have been considered aggressive, another witness, Constable Andy Jehan, said: "I really think that depends on people's tolerance levels and experience." The commissioner found, based on the evidence provided, that it was her view that Deputy Ward’s perception of Deputy Morel’s conduct could "reasonably be considered to have the effect of violating her dignity and creating an offensive environment".

Deputy Morel said: "I can see now how easy it is to, in other people's eyes, step across a line.

"So, I've made a real conscious decision to just keep my mouth shut."

But he added: "That's also when you start feeling slightly silenced. That's the price I pay for making sure that I respond, not in an emotional manner."

Chief Minister Kristina Moore said in a statement that she had "full confidence" in Mr Morel as a minister and deputy chief minister. "I also value Deputy Ward’s experience and informed contributions as a member of the States Employment Board," she said. "I am pleased this unfortunate matter has now been concluded."


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