North Abaco MP Kirk Cornish was charged with rape, assault, and death threats on Wednesday for alleged abuse of his former girlfriend between January and April. The charges against the sitting Member of Parliament raised a legal question—do criminal charges disqualify Cornish from representing North Abaco in the House of Assembly?
The short answer is that even though Cornish is charged, the two counts of rape, two counts of assault, and one count of death threats against him cannot cause him to resign from the seat.
No law or rule stops him from staying in the House of Assembly while fighting the charges.
Cornish, a first-time MP, after winning the North Abaco seat in the September 2021 General Election, is not legally required to resign from his seat unless he is convicted and sentenced to more than 12 months in prison, according to Article 48 (1)(f) of the constitution.
If pressure from his party and the public builds, he can choose to leave his seat and the vacant seat would then require a by-election–when political parties put forward candidates as replacements for the MP who quit Parliament. Voters from the North Abaco constituency will choose who should succeed him.
In a statement released before his arraignment, Cornish defended his role as the partner in the two-year relationship with Warduia Lightbourne. “The charges are based on allegations which are totally false.
“I am fully confident that the facts which emerge during the judicial process will prove my innocence. I look forward to ending this nightmare…this was a breakup that was manipulated and exploited for political reasons—and nothing more.
“The truth will set me free.”
The charges are embarrassing for the Progressive Liberal Party and have thrust the mp’s conduct into the national spotlight since he also served as parliamentary secretary in the Prime Minister’s office before his resignation on Tuesday night.
While he is not the first sitting parliamentarian to be charged with a crime, it is a practical hurdle that could inhibit the governing party’s campaign in the next general election.