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[from The Channel Islands by Wilfred D. Hooke (1954) ]
THE status of the Channel Islands in the British Commonwealth of Nations is peculiar. The Islands occupy a position in the political structure somewhere between the Dominions and Crown Colonies. They are not independent states within the Commonwealth, neither are they governed by the Parliament at Westminster. They do not, in fact, form part of the United Kingdom, but were, as we have seen, a part of the ancient Duchy of Normandy and first became associated with the English Crown when their Duke William crowned himself William I at Westminster. Remaining a part of the dominions of John when he was thrown out of Normandy, they became an appendage of the Crown, which they have remained ever since. Although the contact with Britain, which has steadily increased throughout the years, has had a constant modifying influence, the whole basis of the Islands' governmental structure is derived from that of feudal Normandy and owes very little to the Mother of Parliaments. It is only in very recent times that the Island legislatures have made any pretence at being democratic, and while elected members have formed part of the instruments of government from early times, the electorate, until recently, consisted only of a privileged few.
In the Middle Ages even the short distance between Jersey and Guernsey was an almost insurmountable barrier to regular communication, and while for a time the islands were loosely joined by virtue of the all-embracing rule of the King's " Warden of the Isles ", the independent Bailiwicks soon developed.
The present structure divides the Islands into two groups. The Bailiwick of Jersey, which consists of that island and the small islands around it, and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Jethou. Alderney has had periods of complete independence also. The island was a dependency of Guernsey until the year 1660 when the Seigneurie was granted to Edward de Carteret.
The hereditary governorship thus created was sold by the de Carterets to the Andros family, and they in their turn disposed of it to the Le Mesuriers, who retained the office until 1835 when John Le Mesurier surrendered it to the Crown. The Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey then became also the Lieutenant-Governor of Alderney, and the Royal Court of Guernsey became the principal instrument of government. Alderney, however, retained its own legislature and its own court, which had powers in minor actions both civil and criminal. In 1949, as an aftermath of the war, the States of Alderney became still more a subsidiary of Guernsey. The latter took over the maintenance of many public services as Alderney was no longer able to sustain herself as an economic unit. The Alderney States now have powers which are very similar to those of a local authority in England.
The island of Sark has a small measure of independent government. The island is still a feudal manor and has a "Court of Chief Pleas " which makes ordinances for the ordering of local affairs. There is a local court, the Seneschal's Court, whose decisions are subject to an appeal to the Royal Court of Guernsey. This structure is a development of the Seignorial Courts that governed the destinies of all manors in feudal times.
The Islands are quite independent in all matters of domestic policy, and the legislatures of both Jersey and Guernsey are sovereign bodies answerable only to Her Majesty in Council and to their own peoples. The Laws having passed through their various stages in the legislatures are subject to the approval of the Queen in Council (the Privy Council) which means, in effect, that they are vetted by the Council's legal officers. Laws are not often rejected, but this does happen on occasion. Recently in Jersey a law to control the sale and letting of houses was referred back, because the Privy Council objected to imprisonment as a penalty for technical infringements.
The States of Jersey have the power to pass, without the approval of the Council, laws which do not affect the liberty of the subject. These laws, which are known as "reglements", are renewable every three years and relate to subjects that would in Britain be governed by Ministerial regulations or bye-laws. The number of these " reglements " is now being reduced as the volume of delegated legislation grows. Most of the new acts that require detailed administrative action give power to make " Orders " to that Committee of the States responsible for their operation. Orders made by committee are tabled in the States Assembly, so that any member may raise objections if desired. The few remaining "reglements" that are not of a purely administrative nature are being gradually replaced by normal Acts of the States.
In Guernsey there is a similar class of legislation to the Jersey Reglement known as an Ordinance. These Ordinances are made by the Royal Court of Guernsey, which has retained much of the legislative powers that were removed from the Jersey Court by the Code of 1771.
There is a special provision for certain acts of the British Parliament to be registered ,and to have effect in the island. These are acts which have a bearing on matters which are of mutual interest to the British Government and to the Islands. Examples which may be quoted are the Merchant Shipping Acts, the Civil Aviation Act, the Wireless Telegraphy Act and the Copyright Act. Before the Order in Council transmitting the act is registered by the Royal Court the act is submitted to the Island States for its approval and recommendations. Ample opportunity is thus afforded for the Islanders to make a protest if they consider their rights are being infringed.
A recent interesting example of this procedure was that of the Civil Aviation Act 1946, which nationalised the internal air lines in the United Kingdom. Jersey was at this time served by an airline operated by Channel Islands Airways Limited, a company registered in the Islands. When the Act was presented for registration the company, faced with extinction, very naturally attempted to fight back by attempting to stir up local agitation against the law. This was unsuccessful, as most Islanders doubted very much if they would suffer any loss if the services were absorbed by the national airline. When the Wireless Telegraphy Act became law in the Islands, few people foresaw the developments in broadcasting that were to come and very little interest was taken in the subject. To-day, however, some look with envy on the lost possibilities of a "Luxembourg". Others complain that the levying of a wireless licence by the British Post Office is a contravention of the Islands' right to exemption from all taxes and duties levied by the British Government, and wish to retain the fee as a contribution to the general revenues of the States. These latter gentlemen have probably, on strictly logical grounds, an arguable case, but they ignore the moral obligation to pay for the entertainment they receive. As the Islands make no contribution to the general pool of radio service available for listening, they cannot rightly object to paying their share of the expenses of British broadcasting.
Matters of foreign policy and international relations are handled for the Channel Islands by the British Foreign Office. (In theory by Her Majesty.) It should be remembered that during the period when the foundations of Island Government were being laid, foreign affairs were the personal concern of the Sovereign and a matter in which legislatures had no more than a minor advisory interest. There has recently been an arrangement that, in cases where the Islands are concerned, the British Government shall consult the local legislatures and that treaties entered into on their behalf shall be subject to ratification by the States Assemblies. The Islands are not represented directly on international bodies of a political nature, but they take part in the work of other organisations. They are, for example, founder members of the International Colorado Beetle Commission.
The Queen's representative in each of the two Bailiwicks is the Lieutenant-Governor. The term "Lieutenant " may require some explanation for, contrary to expectation, he is no longer a "Deputy" for some non-resident Governor. Since 1854 no Governors have been appointed. The origin of the Lieutenant-Governor as the Royal representative has been one of continual delegation of power. In the thirteenth century, when the Dukedom of Normandy and the Crown of England again became separated, the government of the Channel Islands was entrusted to an officer of state with the imposing title of Lord of the Isles. The holders of this office rarely visited their charge, being for the most part content to draw the revenues that accrued from the enjoyment of the office. It may be said in mitigation that they were more often engaged in more important business, as during this period England and France were frequently at war. Before he became King in 1199, John was Lord of the Isles, but he did not visit the Islands until 1213. Similarly Edward I held the office when he was Prince Edward. When Edward became King he appointed Otho de Grandison to the Lordship, but it was not until 1323, when nearing ninety, that he paid a very brief visit to the Islands after having held the office for nearly fifty years. Until its abolition, the appointment remained a sinecure for officers of State or for Royal favourites. The absentee " Lords " appointed Wardens to administer charges on their behalf. When the "Lordship " was vacant, the appointment of the Warden was made by the King. The Wardens were generally successful soldiers, whose main preoccupation was the defence of the Islands.
Sometimes there were two officials, one for Guernsey and one for Jersey, but more often both islands were administered by one Warden, who was represented in the individual island by a Bailiff. It became one of the duties of these Bailiffs to preside over the King's Court in their respective island, in place of the Warden.
As the wars with France increased the military responsibilities of the Warden, he was forced to relegate a greater part of his civil duties to his Bailiff, and so the present division of responsibility began to emerge.
It was not until the liberation of the Islands from the French occupation of Maulevrier that Sir Richard 'Harliston was designated " Capitaine et Gouverneur de Jersey " and from this time onwards it was usual for the two islands to have their own Governors. The Office of governor itself in time became a sinecure. Some of the holders were engaged in other duties that kept them away, and others were unwilling to bury themselves so far away from their estates or the pleasures of London. The Governor often had a lieutenant to assist him and when the former was not resident his lieutenant exercised all his powers.
The Lieutenant-Governor, to-day, exercises the Royal power as the representative of a Constitutional Monarch. His position in the Islands is more like that of a Dominion Governor-General than that of a Colonial Governor. The States cannot be summoned without his consent and he had the power of veto over legislation. However, if he exercises this power he must support his action before the Council. He does not form policies nor is he responsible for their administration, except as the representative of the Crown. He has a seat in the States, but he has no vote, and his place in the assembly is rather that of a privileged spectator. The Governors were until recently paid by the British Government, but the responsibility for the maintenance of the office has now been assumed by the Islands themselves in exchange for the Crown revenues in the Islands. He is selected by the British Government, acting on behalf of the Crown, in consultation with the Islands. The Governor is usually a senior Army officer and is Commander-in-Chief of all the troops in the district.
When the Lieutenant-Governor is away from the island it is now usually the practice for the Bailiff to be sworn in as Deputy-Governor. When there was a garrison in the island the senior officer of the troops normally deputised for his commander. In '940· when the Islands were evacuated by His Majesty's Forces, the two Lieutenant-Governors, as Commanders-in-Chief, left with their troops and handed over their other duties to the Bailiffs, who remained the representatives of the King throughout the German Occupation. The German Commandant, however, exercised most of the functions of the Governor, and all the States acts had to be submitted to him' for approval. Many measures passed by the island legislatures during the war years were of permanent value and they were subsequently approved by the Privy Council after the liberation. It is odd to find that the copies of these acts of the States still carry the approval of- " Mons. le Commandant " instead " Sa Majeste en Counseil ".
The Lieutenant-Governor, as Her Majesty's representative, is responsible for the granting of naturalisation in the Islands, and local passports are issued in his name.
Much of the duty of the Royal representative is social. It is the custom for the-Lieutenant-Governor to hold a levee on the Queen's "official" birthday and this is one of the big social events of the year. In Guernsey the " Queen's Birthday " is also a public holiday. The occasion has been shorn of much of its former glory by the lack of a garrison. In the days before the first world war, when the island militias were at full strength, and there was at least a battalion of regular infantry with various other detachments, the Birthday Review was a great spectacle, often made more spectacular by the visit of a warship. To-day all the splendour has faded. The day is marked by a garden party at Government House, and the only armed display is provided by a guard from a naval vessel which conveniently visits the island at the time.
The chief of the civil administration in the Islands is the Bailiff, who is descended from those officers that the wardens appointed to represent them. The Bailiff to-day is appointed by the Crown, and is invariably a distinguished member of the local bar. It has been the practice in recent years, when the office becomes vacant, to appoint the Island's Attorney-General to succeed. The Bailiff is the head of the judiciary and presides over the Royal Court as " Chief Justice ". He is also President of the States Assembly, the island Legislature, and is also the nominal head of the Executive. The office has in the past been one with the potential for great personal power, which has not always been used for the public good. To-day, while the power of the more democratically elected States and the rights of appeal from the courts prevent the building up of any new despotism, the holder of the office can still wield a very great influence in island affairs, and both Jersey and Guernsey have been fortunate in men who have done much towards the steady development of their islands.
The early Bailiffs were the personal nominees of the Wardens, and were little more than their spokesmen. However, as the Bailiff presided over the Royal Courts, it was essential for him to be an Islander for, as Sir Philippe de Carteret explained to the Secretary of State in 1621, an Englishman "would find many great difficulties in the execution of the office, who can be but ill-acquainted with the common country language of the isle, the terms of our laws, customs, and the style of proceedings, hardly known to ourselves". Gradually, as the power of the Royal Court grew, the Bailiff became more and more the leader of the people and their spokesman in all disputes with the Governors and the King.
The foundations of the present administration were laid during the Tudor era, when the rather loose control over the Islands' affairs by the King's governments was tightened. This gathering of the reins of government was not peculiar to the Channel Islands, but was the first sign of the tendency to centralisation of power. Control in detail by the Royal Council, which has remained in theory the basis of Channel Islands' government, although, there have been modifications to suit the changing fashions in political thought, was in the sixteenth century also the instrument of government in Tudor England.
The first important steps in the stabilisation of the Islands' affairs, were two Orders in Council of Henry VII that laid down the responsibilities of the various officers of Government. These Orders were expressly related to Jersey, but the principles were equally applied to the government of Guernsey. During the first Elizabeth's reign, trouble between the Governors and the Royal Court resulted in several Orders in Council defining the positions of the. various instruments of administration and setting down a procedure for the settling of disputes between them.
In 1605 there was a further Order in Council relating to Guernsey which had the effect of defining the equality of the Governor on the one hand and the Bailiff and Royal Court on the other and their various spheres of influence.
These Orders were the result of a commission of enquiry, one of whose members was Jean Herault, of Jersey, who became Bailiff of Jersey in 1614. Herault was a strong character and he determined to reduce the office of Governor to commander of the garrison under the Bailiff. He was unsuccessful in his effort, but he did succeed in removing from the Governor the power of appointing the Bailiff and placing this in the Royal hands. The whole result of this period was to establish the Governor and Bailiff as a co-equal authority.
The rising tide of government by the people, rather than by the Royal will, gradually gave greater prominence to the legislature, and it was natural that the place of the President of the Legislative Assembly should also show a corresponding increase in its relative importance.
The Royal Courts in the Channel Islands first appear in the early Middle Ages. The first details of their work appear in the records of the fourteenth century, but the constitution of the Courts would suggest that they had been in existence some time before this. The origin of the Courts was feudal. In Jersey and Guernsey the Bailiff presided, and judgements were given by twelve Jurats, who were chosen by the people. In Alderney and Sark the Court was presided over by a Prevot and there were seven Jurats in Alderney and six in Sark. Besides its purely judicial functions, the Court had several other duties. These have been modified as the governmental machinery developed, and the constitution of the, Courts in the various islands has diverged from their common ancestry.
In Jersey the Royal Court still consists of the Bailiff and twelve Jurats. The Jurats were, up to the passing of the reforms of 1948, elected by a vote of the whole island, but they are now elected by an Electoral College, which consists of the Bailiff as President, the remaining Jurats, the Constables of the Parishes of the island, the elected members of the legislature (the States), members of the Jersey Bar, and certain solicitors of the Royal Court. The Lieutenant-Governor, the Dean, Her Majesty's Attorney-General, and Her Majesty's Solicitor-General are members of the College, but have no vote and cannot propose candidates for election. Anyone can be elected a Jurat, provided he or she is of Jersey birth or has been a resident in the island for five years. There are a number of disqualifications for the office, a paid servant of the Crown, lunacy, insolvency, and a connection with the licensed trade are the principal ones. A Jurat normally retires at seventy, but there are various provisions by which Her Majesty may, on the recommendation of the Court, extend the term of office. Prior to 1948 a Jurat was elected for life and had to petition the King for permission to resign. The office is unpaid and is considered a great honour, generally setting the seal to a life of public service.
The origin of the Jurats is obscure. They appear in many old records and in 1309, when the King's Itinerant Justices questioned by what right they were elected, the reply was that " their fore- fathers from time immemorial have always been wont to have twelve Jurats from among themselves", and it is interesting to note that when these Justices visited the Islands, the Jurats claimed and obtained the right to sit with them. The method of election that existed until the reforms of 1948 dated from 1605. Before this. Jurats were sometimes elected by the people, or appointed in various other ways, and sometimes elected by special assemblies. The present Electoral College is therefore not without historical precedent.
In all cases the Bailiff is the sole judge of law. The Jurats are judges of fact, except in the case of the Criminal Assize where there is a jury, and they also assess damages and determine sentences.
The jury at the criminal assize consists of twenty-four members, and, contrary to the English practice, the verdict is by simple majority.
In former times, the Vicomte was the principal officer of the Court. He was responsible for executing its orders, issuing summonses, making arrests, and the custody of the prisoners. He was the island coroner. The office of Vicomte, which was a Crown appointment, has become less important as many of its duties have been transferred to more specialised agencies, and its future is uncertain. At present a Sergent de Justice combines the duties of Acting Vicomte with those of Denonciateur. The latter, who was appointed by the Bailiff, proclaimed the new laws and Royal Proclamations in the Royal Square. The proclamation of laws has now been discontinued. In the days when the Royal Square was the Market Place and the new laws were few, the ceremony of public reading was a satisfactory method of publicity. To-day, when the Square has become a quiet retreat in the busy town, the practice would have little value.
The old methods of acquainting the people of the Acts of the States and the Orders of the Court are interesting. In addition to the public proclamation by the Denonciateur, it was the duty of the Constable of the parish to draw the attention of his parishioners to the measure at the parish church on the Sunday following the registration of the act by the Court and it was posted in the church box. The posting in the box is still continued, but the method is hardly to be considered sufficient for the complicated documents of modern legislature, and more convenient means of publicity are also resorted to.
The " Clerk of the Court " is the Judicial Greffier, who is now the head of a department that can be described as the Court Secretariat. There was formerly one Greffier for both the States and the Court, but, with the growth of the work of the two bodies, the office has now been divided, and we have the Judicial Greffier and the Greffier of the States. In Guernsey there is still only one official, but the general administrative structure is different and he has less responsibility in respect of the States than his Jersey counterpart. The Judicial Greffier in Jersey, besides maintaining the Court records, including the unique " Land Registry", is also competent to transact some of the non-contentious business of the Court in Chambers.
There are two law officers of the Crown, the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General. The Attorney-General or, as he should more properly be called, Le Procureur-General du Roi, is appointed by the Crown. He appears for the State in all civil cases and is the chief public prosecutor. He has also a seat in the States without a vote, as that body's legal adviser. The Solicitor-General or Avocat-General du Roi, is in effect a deputy to the Attorney-General.
The Jersey equivalent of the English barrister is the advocate, or avocat. Until 1860 they were chosen by the Bailiff, without having to prove any qualifications and their number was limited to six. To-day, this office is open to any British subject who may have been called to the English Bar or passed an equivalent examination to the French Bar, usually at the University of Caen, or passed a local examination. The duties are rather wider in scope than those of a barrister in England. The advocate performs much of the work which would in England be undertaken by a solicitor. The Jersey solicitor, or ecrivain, is mainly concerned with property transactions and similar matters. He cannot appear in any court except the petty debt court. Until very recently no one but an advocate could address the courts, and it was therefore impossible for a layman to conduct his own case. Because of this, advocates have always been required to represent those unable to pay for their services.
The Bailiff has the power to appoint his own Lieutenant-Bailiffs to assist him, and they are competent to preside over both the Royal Court and the Assembly of the States. It is usually the practice to appoint Lieutenant-Bailiffs from the senior Jurats. They need not, however, be members of the Court, and in addition to the Jurats who are appointed, there is usually a prominent lawyer, so that there may be someone able to deputise for the Bailiff in important legal cases. By ancient custom, if the Seigneur of St. Ouen is elected a Jurat he becomes the senior from the date of his election, and similarly if he is appointed a Lieutenant-Bailiff he takes the precedence in this office also.
The bulk of business is conducted before Courts consisting of the President and two Jurats, usually referred to as Courts of the Inferior Number. There are three of these Courts. La Cour du Samedi, or Saturday Division, which, as its name suggests, sits each Saturday and deals with the routine business such as a registry of property, wills, companies and similar matters. It also deals with some classes of criminal cases which are outside the limited powers of the police court. The Billet Division deals with civil cases relating to debt and rentes. And lastly the Matrimonial Causes Division, which was set up in 1950 to deal with divorce when Jersey's first divorce law was passed. The Full Court—-the Superior Number—sits as an Appeal Court in certain cases; and also transacts the ceremonial business, the most important part of which takes place at the Assize d'Heritage.
The Assize is the occasion for a somewhat self-conscious display of medieval pageantry. All the members of the Court wear their robes and there is a bodyguard of halberdiers. Originally provided by the men of the Royal garrison whose uniforms once matched their weapons, this now consists of a party from the Victoria College Cadet Force in their twentieth-century battledress. The Seigneurs of the principal fiefs, called "francs tennants ", who owe comparence for their fiefs, attend to answer their names. Absence for more than three occasions renders the offender liable to forfeit his fief to the Crown. The Prevots du Roi attend to report any occurrences that may affect the King's revenues, and to present a list of those persons who have died, without direct heirs, in the period since the last assize and whose land may, in accordance with ancient custom, be enjoyed by the Seigneur for one year. There were originally Prevots for all manors which had their own seignorial court, but, as these courts died out, the Prevots died with them, and there are now only the Prevots du Roi, one for each of the parishes in which there is a Royal Fief. At each assize the Advocates of the Court renew their oath of office, and the Arpenteurs, or Land Surveyors, are appointed and sworn.
Before the development of the States as a legislative assembly, the Court of Chief Pleas of the Assize d'Heritage was in effect the governing body of the island. The Seigneurs were consulted on matters requiring legislation and the decisions were given by Ordinances of the Court. The calling in of the Constables of the Parishes to advise the Court was the first step that led to the establishment of a separate legislature. After this had split away from the Chief Pleas, the Court still continued to issue these Ordinances until a riot drew attention to the practice. A mob forced its way into the Court and, intimidating the members, forced them to issue Ordinances to redress grievances. Investigations into the cause of the riot resulted in the Order in Council of 1771, which instituted the code of laws known as the Code of 1771, which is the basis of the present government of the island.
This code removed the legislative powers from the Court, and its only remaining contact with legislation was the registry of Acts of the States after their approval by the King in Council, and orders transmitted by the Council for registration. The Courts sits as the Assembly of Governor, Bailiff and Jurats for the licensing of premises for the sale of liquor. The procedure of licensing is curious. The applications are submitted to the Parish Assembly, who either recommends or refuses to recommend the application. This is then considered by the Court, which either grants or refuses the licence, not necessarily in accordance with parish assembly recommendation. This latter is simply used as guide to local feeling. The Seigneur of St. Ouen and the Fief de La Motte have the power of issuing licences in their fiefs, and, until the new licensing law of 1950, did so. These licences now come before the general licensing assembly, but are still issued in the name of the Seigneur, who retains his rights.
The Royal Court of Guernsey, though no doubt of a common ancestry with the Royal Court of Jersey, has developed on different lines. The Court is presided over by the Bailiff of Guernsey or his Lieutenants, and the officers of the Court are similar to those of Jersey with a few exceptions. The Greffier has, as we have seen, a dual responsibility for the Court and the States. The Crown officers are the same, but the origin of the Solicitor-General's office is interesting. The old title was Comptroller-General du Roi and he was originally concerned solely with Crown revenues. The Guernsey equivalent of the Jersey Vicomte is the Prevot du Roi, or Her Majesty's Sheriff. He is elected by the States of Election, a body which also elects the Jurats and the Conseillers of the States and is similar in function to the Electoral College in Jersey, but with a different composition.
The Sheriff, in addition to his duties as the chief executive officer of the Court, has certain other duties in connection with the States, including attendance on the Lieutenant-Governor when the latter is present in the assembly. A second officer of the Court is the Sergent du Roi, or Her Majesty's Sergent, who, among other duties, is the Process Server of the Royal Court, the police court and the petty debts court. He is appointed by the Crown.
The Full Court, which in Guernsey requires seven of the twelve Jurats, is the senior court. It sits as an Appeal Court for cases from the junior courts, and also in certain cases exercises original jurisdiction. In criminal matters it takes the place of the Criminal Assize in Jersey and may award any penalty, including death. It is also the island licensing authority and is responsible for the " swearing in " of the Governors, Bailiffs and officials.
The Ordinary Court consists of the President and two to four Jurats, and deals with all civil cases and the routine registration of contracts, etc. There is a special Heritage Court, La Cour de Plieds d'Heritage, which consists of the President and three Jurats, and deals with certain property cases. The Ordinary Court has no criminal jurisdiction, except in appeals. The Guernsey Police Court has much wider powers than its Jersey counterpart, and those cases which are outside its jurisdiction are dealt with by the Full Court. Matrimonial cases in Guernsey are dealt with by a special court which is presided over by the police court magistrate, with an appeal to the Full Court. The Ordinary Court is also the first court of appeal from the courts of Alderney and Sark.
The Court of Chief Pleas corresponds to the Jersey Assize d'Heritage, but it has retained its legislative functions. The Court is constituted as for the Full Court, but with the addition of one Constable from each parish as the representative of the people. We have here one of the first stages in the development of the island's legislatures, still functioning alongside its now fully developed offspring. The Ordinances of the Chief Pleas have the full force of law. The origin of this body is very old, certainly older than the English Parliament. Before the fourteenth century, English, and previous to this Norman, judges had visited the Islands, but by this time these visits had come to an end and the Island Courts had become the only courts of law, their decision being final, except for the right of appeal to the King in Council. The Islanders have always been fond of litigation, and in spite of the cost of an appeal to the council, there have been many who have undertaken what was often a hazardous step. It was this stream of appeals from the Channel Islands that brought into being the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which, as the Empire developed, gradually became the final court of appeal from courts all over the Commonwealth.
It had been obvious for some time that the appeal procedure in the Islands contained several anomalies. Consequent upon the recommendations of a Privy Council Committee, which visited the Islands after the war, a new Channel Islands Court of Appeal is to be established. This court will hear appeals from the Royal Courts of the two islands. The Presidents of the court will be the Bailiffs of either island, and the Judges of the court will be selected from persons who have held high judicial office in the Commonwealth or have been members of the Channel Islands or British Bars for at least ten years. This court will not interfere with the right of appeal to the Queen in Council, but will form a valuable intermediate tribunal.
There exists in both islands an Ecclesiastical Court which is presided over by the Dean. In Guernsey this court still retains the granting of probate of wills, but in Jersey this has now been transferred to the Royal Court.
The basis of the laws of the Channel Islands was the Common Law of the Duchy of Normandy, which has been modified by a vast mass of local precedent and custom. In Jersey the written law was codified in 1'771, and in Guernsey a codification of customary law was attempted in 1583. Many new English residents in the Islands are surprised to find that many local laws of a fundamental nature are quite different from the English practice, and, some, with the Englishman's confidence that there is no legal system as good as his own, are apt to condemn. It should be remembered, however, that the Islands have not the same background and history, nor do the same conditions of life apply to-day, and the seemingly odd customs and laws have been evolved to meet the needs of these little communities.
In Jersey the rather complicated law of inheritance is a case in point. Without the provisions for dividing the estate, the prosperous community of small owner-farmers would probably have been swallowed up in big estates, and there is no doubt that the island would have been the poorer.
The most interesting provision of the inheritance laws is the rule for the division of the property. Real estate cannot be left in accordance with the whim of the testator. A wife has an automatic life interest in one-third of all estates in the possession of her husband on the day of their marriage, all those that come to him by inheritance, and all estates that he is in possession of at his death. The remainder of the estate is divided among the children. The eldest son is entitled to a number of privileges, and after these have been satisfied the remainder is divided among all the children, including the eldest son, in the proportion of two-thirds to the sons and one-third to the daughters. It is laid down that in this division no daughter shall get a larger share than a son. The widow's rights are not affected by the sale, without her consent, of any part of the estate before the husband's death, as the purchaser is then liable to provide for her. There are no provisions made against the remarriage of the widow. In the case of a widower he is entitled to enjoy all the real estate that his wife may have at the time of her death, but, if there are children, only so long as he remains unmarried.
In the case of personal property, the disposition is also fixed by law. If a man is married, but has no children, he may dispose of half of his personal property as he wishes. The other half is his wife's by right. If there are children the wife has one-third, the children another third, and the remaining third may be left as he wishes. If his wife has predeceased him, the children get two-thirds. One advantage of living in Jersey becomes clear. One cannot be cut off with the proverbial shilling.
The inheritance laws of the other islands have a similar basis in the old law of Normandy, but there are a number of individual differences between them. An alien may purchase property in the Islands, but he may not transmit it to his heirs. They are, however, allowed to sell and to receive the proceeds of the sale.
There are laws of bankruptcy which are peculiar to the Islands. In Jersey, when a person is unable to meet his liabilities, his affairs are declared " en desastre " and the procedure for dividing his assets is very similar to that in Britain. There is, however, a provision by which a man may renounce his real estate, placing it " en decret ". His creditors then declare their claims and anyone who fails to register automatically renounces his right to any subsequent payment. The most recent creditor is then offered the estate, subject to his meeting the liabilities. If he declines he forfeits his claim, and the offer is made to the next on the list until someone agrees, in exchange for the estate, to pay all the debts previous to his own.
Guernsey has a procedure by which a creditor may be granted the enjoyment of a debtor's property only until the debt is settled. This is a preliminary step to a similar procedure to the Jersey " decret" which results in final dispossession.
In both islands there was a method of raising loans on real estate known as rentes, which is in some ways similar to a mortgage, but has important variations. The holder of a rente cannot claim repayment providing the interest is paid, but he must accept repayment if it is offered. A rente is considered real property, and in the event of bankruptcy has a first claim. Rentes were at one time payable in kind, but the cash value has now been fixed.
The most famous of the ancient legal processes is the " Clameur de Haro!" The origin of the custom is obscure. It dates from Norman times and is, in effect, an appeal to the Ducal Court. The story is that the appeal was to Rollo himself and that first words, Haro ! Haro! Haro! are a version of Ha! Rollo. Some experts differ, however, and have other explanations which are far less romantic and suggest that Haro! is just a cry for help. The procedure is as simple as it is effective. When anyone thinks he is being wronged, he goes to the scene of the crime with witnesses and, falling down on his knees, he calls: "Haro! Haro! Haro! A l'aide mon Prince! On me fait tort." After this in Guernsey he repeats the Lord's Prayer, but this is not necessary in Jersey. Immediately the action complained of must stop. The Royal power has been invoked and the matter must be brought before the Royal Court without delay. The "Clameur" must not be raised in a frivolous matter and if the appellant loses the action he is liable to a fine. However, the appeal is made occasionally, even to-day. The most famous occasion when a "Clameur " was raised was at the funeral of William the Conqueror. When building the Abbey of St. Stephen at Caen, William had demolished several houses without paying any compensation to the owners. As his coffin was being lowered into his grave in this same Abbey, a clameur was raised by one of the dispossessed and the claim was allowed. The clameur was abolished in Normandy in 1583, but it is unlikely that it will die in the Islands, for, apart from the desirability of keeping a romantic and interesting custom for its own sake, it is a rapid and effective means of obtaining redress.
The roots of much of the Islands' legal and governmental systems are deep in the ancient feudalism that still exists, though this is now but a shadow of its former glory. Only in Sark has more than the empty shell remained. The island is one fief and the Seigneur has retained many of his original powers. From the eleventh century the Islands were divided into fiefs which owed homage and service, first to the Duke of Normandy and then to the King of England. The fiefs were of varying importance, some had greater powers and greater privileges. The Seigneur had the right to hold a court for the ordering of his domain and had power to punish offenders. These courts still exist in both Guernsey and Jersey, but in the latter they hardly ever sit now, and most of the work that might remain to them can be more easily effected by the post or the telephone. In Guernsey, meetings are held, but there is little business, and the principal feature is the dinner that follows. This, by ancient custom, is held at the Seigneur's expense. Seignorial Courts were usually held in the open air and the sites may be seen in several places in Guernsey where the stone table still exists. In former times, besides ordering the affairs of the estate and giving judgement on matters between the tenants themselves, or between the tenants and the Seigneur, these courts had in many instances considerable criminal jurisdiction.
Before the centralisation of government in the Islands, the fief was the main social unit, and the Seigneur had the power to control much of the life of his tenants, and the feudal courts could fine and imprison. Some fiefs had the duty to maintain a prison, where not only their own malefactors were confined, but also those committed by the King's courts. A Seignorial Court is presided over by a Seneschal, who is the Seigneur's bailiff. The other officers of the court are the Vavasseurs, who are similar to the Jurats of the Royal Courts and act as assessors; a Greffier to keep the records, and a Prevot to execute the orders of the court. The Guernsey fiefs prepare a record of all the tenants at regular intervals known as the Livre de Percharge. Some fiefs have copies of this record dating back to the Middle Ages. There is no equivalent in Jersey. Payments in respect of seignorial rights are still required to be made on much of the property in the Islands, but of recent years many people in Jersey have bought off the rights of .the Seigneur and this link with the feudal past is fast disappearing.
In Guernsey, where the feudal structure still functions more completely, there are over seventy fiefs, many of them very small. In addition to the yearly dues, the tenants also owed to their Seigneur the twelfth sheaf, or " Champart ", which was paid (until its abolition in 1942) in kind, and then later at a cash equivalent, "Poulage", which was a charge on dwelling-houses originally paid in poultry, and lastly " Conge ", which was a levy paid on the purchase of land. In the present day, when most of the practical advantages of the feudal structure have vanished, the question must arise whether, in spite of its historical interest, it would not be to the advantage of the Islands for the whole of this rather unwieldy edifice to be swept away.
Just as the tenants have to make payment for their holdings, so the Seigneur has to pay rents to the King for his fief. These rents are still assessed in the ancient currency of Tours, the Livre Tournois. In addition to the annual rent, many of the Seigneurs have duties to perform whenever the King is in residence in the Islands. The Seigneur of Saumarez in Guernsey and the Seigneur of Rozel in Jersey have the obligation to perform the office of cup-bearer. The Seigneur of Trinity in Jersey has to provide a pair of mallard, and the Seigneur of Eperons in Guernsey a pair of gold spurs. In a year when this obligation is discharged, the rent for that year is no longer payable.
As mentioned above, the Seignorial Court of Sark is the sole court of justice in the island, but there is a right of an appeal from its decisions to the Royal Court of Guernsey. The Sark court is presided over by the Seneshal, who is appointed by the Seigneur, with the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey. The court officers are similar to those of the courts of the other islands, but their duties are more varied, for there has been little change from their status in the original constitution of Helier de Carteret. The Greffier is the Clerk of the Court, and the Prevot the executive officer who, in addition to executing the court's orders, is also the public prosecutor. The Constable of Sark has powers which are more like the Constables of Jersey than of Guernsey. He is the island police, and he is also responsible for the collection of taxes and the administration of public services in the island.
The Government of Sark is the Court of Chief Pleas, which normally meets three times a year, but which may be called to extra sessions if the need arises. In addition to the officers of the Seneshal's Court the other members of the Chief Pleas are the forty tenants and twelve deputies elected by the remainder of the islanders. The Seigneur has no vote as such, but, by virtue of his holding several of the original forty tenancies, he has a vote in respect of each of these. The Seneshal is the president of the assembly and enjoys a casting vote in addition to his ordinary vote. The office of Seneshal is interesting, as it shows an earlier stage in the development of the office of Bailiff in the other islands, the relationship of the Bailiff to the Crown being comparable to that of the Seneshal to his Seigneur. The Seigneur has the right of veto over the decisions of the Chief Pleas, but there is again a right of an appeal from this veto to the Royal Court of Guernsey.
Guernsey laws can be applied to Sark after ratification by the Chief Pleas. It is not often that the latter refuse to ratify an act transmitted to them, but this does sometimes happen, as in the case of the recent Guernsey divorce law, which was refused by Sark.
The Legislature of Guernsey is the States of Deliberation, though, as we have seen, the Royal Court still has legislative powers. The Bailiff is the President of the States and its members consist of twelve Conseillers, thirty-three People's Deputies, ten Douzaine Representatives and two Alderney representatives. The Lieutenant-Governor has a seat and may speak, but he has no vote. The law officers also have seats as the legal advisors, but they have no votes. The Conseillers are elected by the States of Election. The office was created in 1948 as part of the reform of the Channel Islands' legislatures. Before 1948 the senior members of the States were the Jurats, who were also members of the court and who were elected for life. It was considered desirable that the legislature and the judiciary should be separated and the new status was devised to provide a leavening of "elder" statesmen who, being elected for a longer term of office and by a different means from the majority of the members of the assembly, would provide a better continuity of government.
The States of Election, who elect the Conseillers, and as we have seen also elect the Jurats of the Royal Court and some of its officers, consist of the Conseillers, the Jurats, the ten Rectors of the Parishes, the Crown Officers, the People's Deputies, thirty- four Douzaine Representatives, and, for the election of Conseillers only, four Alderney representatives.
The People's Deputies are elected for three years by popular suffrage and on a parochial basis. The Douzaine Representatives are the delegates from the Parish Douzaines or Parish Councils and are the representatives in the national government of the local government machine. There are now ten Douzaine Representatives—one for each parish—but before the reforms the parish of St. Peter Port had an increased representation. In 1846, an attempt to make allowance for the rapidly increasing population of the town provided for its division into four Cantons, each with its own council, but co-ordinated by a Central Douzaine. Each Cantonal Douzaine had one representative in the States and the Central Douzaine was represented by two members. The Douzainiers were appointed for each session of the assembly, but to-day they are appointed to serve for one year.
The inclusion of members from Alderney is a new feature consequent upon the greatly increased responsibility for Alderney affairs which is now undertaken by the States of Guernsey.
Before the Reforms of 1948 the Rectors of the parishes had seats in the States of Deliberation by virtue of their office, but they no longer enjoy this privilege, and thus all the members of the States are elected, the majority by popular vote. There is no reason, however, why a Rector shall not stand for election to the assembly, and some have already been elected.
The States of Guernsey meet fairly regularly throughout the year. It was always the practice to try to confine the sessions to the agricultural " off seasons ", as many States members were farmers, but the press of modern legislation has now required more frequent sittings.
The States originally came into being as an advisory body to the Royal Court and, in Guernsey, all legislation is still theoretically derived from the Court. In fact, most proposed laws are initiated by the various States committees. A law is first drafted in a form known as a Projet de Loi, and this is circulated to members of the States by the Bailiff in a Billet d'Etat which is, in effect, a convening notice and the agenda for the meeting. The circulation of the Projet gives the members, particularly the Douzaine Representatives, time to consult their "constituents". When the measure has passed its stages in the States, it goes to the Royal Court, and then to the Privy Council for the Royal assent. After its return, it is registered before the Royal Court as an Ordre en Conseil.
The administrative functions of the States are undertaken by committees, the presidents of which are in fact the Islands' ministers.
The Government .of Alderney has undergone great changes consequent upon the devastation of the German Occupation. Before the war, when the island had a large measure of independence, its institutions were similar to those of Guernsey. The President of the Court and the States was the Judge, an office similar to the Bailiffs of the other islands, but generally considered to be slightly junior to them in status, as there was a right of appeal from his court to the Royal Court in Guernsey. Alderney had in addition to the Judge, a Procureur du Roi, a Greffier, Sheriff and Sergent, all of whom were appointed by the Crown, and six Jurats elected by the islanders. The court had powers to pass laws and ordinances in the same way as the Royal Court of Guernsey. In addition, there was a Court of Chief Pleas, which consisted of the same members with the addition of the twelve Douzainiers—the local equivalent of parish councillors— and four Constables, the latter being elected every three years by the Chief Pleas. The States of Alderney consisted of the Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey, the Judge, six Jurats, the officers of the Alderney Court, four Douzainiers, one Douzainier-Delegate, and three People's Deputies. The Douzainier-Delegate was appointed by the Douzaine to represent it as a corporate body. The four Douzainiers were elected each year by the ratepayers. The People's Deputies were elected by popular vote and sat for three years. The Douzaine fulfilled similar functions to the Douzaines of Guernsey, being the instrument of local government. The ratepayers elected twelve members, who sat for six years. Two members retired from the Douzaine each year, but were eligible for re-election until they attained the age of seventy. To-day, all this rather overpowering structure for so small an island has been swept away. The Alderney Court, which is rather like an English magistrates' court, has only the Jurats. The office of Judge has been abolished. The Jurats are appointed by the English Home Secretary. The States of Alderney consists of a President and nine members. The President is elected and serves for three years. The members are also elected, serving for three years. All are eligible for re-election. Two Alderney deputies are elected by the States to sit in the States of Guernsey.
The States of Jersey has a similar basic constitution to its Guernsey counterpart, but its procedure was simplified by the Code of 1771 which removed all legislative power from the Royal Court. The President of the States is again the Bailiff, but the Conseillers of Guernsey are replaced by twelve Senators, who differ in that they are elected for nine years by the people of the whole island. Four retire every three years, and the retiring Senators are eligible for re-election. There are twenty-eight Deputies, who are elected for three years, and represent the parishes of the island. Most of the parishes have one Deputy, but several with larger populations have two members. The town of St. Helier is divided into three districts, with three deputies each, and the Parish of St. Saviour has three districts with one deputy each. The Constables of the Parish are members of the States by virtue of their office. Their status in the assembly is analogous to that of the Douzaine Representatives in Guernsey. When the States assemblies first came into being, the Constables, as the head of their parish and the representatives of their people, were called to advise the Court of Chief Pleas. When later it was thought that the States, which had started to enjoy a separate existence, required further representation, the Rectors were drawn into the assembly. It was thought that they were the persons best fitted to express the feelings of their parishioners, and there can be little doubt that they performed good service in the States, for they were probably the best educated body of opinion in the island. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the Deputies, elected by the people, were given seats.
The States of Jersey administration is operated through committees in a similar manner to that of Guernsey. In each island, before the war, it was the practice for a Jurat on each committee to be its president, but during the German Occupation the practice lapsed, and, as the Jurats no longer sit in the States, the practice has not been revived. The Presidents of the Committees are elected by the assembly, after which they themselves select their committee for its approval.
The Jersey legislative procedure was laid down by the Code of 1771- New measures, which are usually initiated by a committee, although individual members have the right to present one at any time, are presented in the form of a Bill (or Projet de Loi). The Bill, after presentation, is Lodged au Greffe. This means that discussion is postponed for at least fourteen days, during which time it may be printed and distributed to members for their consideration, and they may, if they wish, consult their constituents. After lodging, the measure is formally read a first time on the most convenient day after the interval and then discussed in detail on second reading. If amendments are accepted on the second reading, the Bill must be lodged for a further fourteen days before the third reading, when it is either accepted or rejected as a whole. If there are no amendments, a measure may. receive its second and third reading on the same day. The Bill, which has now become an Act of the States, is then submitted for the Royal assent through the Lieutenant-Governor. After its return, unless special provision is made for a commencement date, it becomes law on registration by the Royal Court.
There are no party politics in the Channel Islands. All the members of the legislature act as individuals, and although there have been members elected in recent years with party affiliations, any semblance of party discipline has vanished as the election faded into the past. The inevitable grumbles of the German Occupation produced an enthusiasm for reform, which, on the liberation of the Islands, came to the surface. Several parties and groupings made their appearance and for a time flourished. When, however, the excitement of the "brave new world" subsided, and the reforms of the States became an accomplished fact, the party spirit died. The only semblance of co-ordination appears among the Trade Unionists, but even here it is co-operation rather than discipline. Channel Islands' political battles are to-day conducted in a mild atmosphere, and only on rare occasions are meetings lively. Public opinion is slow to be roused, and the average Islander, having elected his man to office, prefers to leave him to the job so that he may be free to disagree with what has been done. Even since the advent of the more democratic assemblies the Islander feels that he has little to do with his government. They are the mysterious " they" who should "be doing something about it" and who, in some manner which is entirely their own concern, should be in a position to provide the necessary finance for any scheme which our Islander feels would be to his benefit. It must be admitted that the States members, probably unconsciously, and probably rightly, seem to foster this detachment. In a small community it is difficult to avoid being influenced too much by contact with interested parties.
It is unfortunate that, particularly in Jersey, there has appeared a growing split between the town and the country. The agriculturalist is by nature rather conservative in his outlook, and for the most part he is still trying to live in a pre-war world. It must be remembered that in 1939 life for the Channel Islands stopped, and six years of somewhat alarming progress passed them by. The first few years after the war were ones of unsurpassed prosperity for everyone, and the countryman was quite prepared to see the enactment of much social legislation which he did not really believe in. Several bad seasons, however, have made him count the cost, and he has a feeling that he has been rushed into schemes that are only of benefit to the worker in the town, for whom he has little sympathy. There is also an underlying antagonism between the agricultural industry and tourism. While the latter was a profitable little sideline, the agriculturalist was happy to tolerate it, but now the tourist has become an industry rivalling his own and requiring the spending of much public money for its development, he disapproves. Our countryman of the old school lives in a rather narrow world, and he is unwilling to spend money to benefit the shopkeeper and the hotel industry. He is reluctant to agree to regulations to improve the amenities for the visitor which in any way restrict his own complete freedom of action, and he is still doubtful of this talk of indirect advantage to himself from a general prosperity. Constantly, on many diverse issues, this cleavage of opinion between town and country presents itself. It is a serious danger to the Islands' well-being, and we can only hope that education and continued prosperity will heal the sore.
Channel Islands' politics have not always been peaceful, and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were fierce party struggles in Jersey. During the French Revolution and the succeeding periods of political unrest and awakening on the Continent, Jersey was continually invaded by armies of refugees, and these visitors brought with them the advanced ideas of their day and quickened the political pulse of their host. Guernsey was not affected in the same way, for the period was her golden age when the profits of privateering and smuggling produced a prosperity that was stony ground for the seeds of political unrest. The struggle in Jersey was the inevitable one between those who believed in an hereditary fitness to rule and being in power intended to stay there, and those who at least paid lip service to democracy.
The first phase of the struggle was between the Magots and the Chariots. The latter were the supporters of Charles Lempriere, the Lieutenant-Bailiff, who was an autocrat and a strong man determined to wield power through the Royal Court. His high- handed actions at a time when the example of the French Revolution had encouraged liberals everywhere, resulted in bitter strife. His opponents were led by Jean Dumaresq, a young man who was able by his gifts as a political organiser to bring together the hitherto rather ineffective opposition to the dictatorship of Lempriere. Dumaresq's party became known as the Magots (Cheese Mites) when they adopted the name given them by their opponents. The party war was bitter and the whole island split. The victory of the Magots was gradual, and in the end somewhat hollow, for their leader, sickened by the excesses of the French Terror, himself became reactionary. He became Lieutenant-Bailiff in 1802. The existence of Lieutenant-Bailiffs at this time is interesting. After the civil war the Bailiff ship became hereditary in the de Carteret family, and a great grandson of Sir George de Carteret, the Earl Granville, and afterwards his son, held the post, but neither ever visited the Islands and their lieutenants were Bailiffs in all but name.
The second phase of the struggle started with the end of the Napoleonic wars. The two factions had new names. Rose and Laurel, after the emblems of their parties, but the causes they fought for were the same. Should the island be ruled by its people or by an hereditary ruling class? The struggle was very bitter and both sides used every means, both legal and illegal, to further their cause. Inglis, writing in 1834, says: " It is impossible for anyone not acquainted with Jersey to form an idea of the length to which party spirit is carried. It taints the fountains of public justice and enters the most private relations of life. A Laurel and a Rose man are as distinct as if they were, not only of different countries, but of countries hostile to each other. The families of the different parties do not mingle. Even tradesmen are affected in their custom." Memories of this struggle and its affiliations are still recalled by some of the older country people. This party warfare very nearly cost Jersey her home rule and it was directly responsible for the introduction of the Deputies into the States. The Magot-Charlot contest had been responsible for the intervention of the Council in the island affairs and had resulted in the Code of 1771. The Rose and the Laurel had stimulated intervention by the Council again, and in recent years it was the renewal of party politics that produced the reforms of 1948- While it may be argued that all the reform so far has been for the good of the island, Jerseymen are conservative at heart, and with the example of the past there can be little wonder that they have little enthusiasm for parties in the island.
The executive machinery of the Islands is manned by an efficient and courteous civil service, which has the great advantage of being in personal contact with the people it serves. It is fashionable in the Channel Islands, as elsewhere, to deplore the increase in the public service in recent years, but so long as we continue our efforts towards a better ordered society so we will have to provide the machinery for its administration. However, much service to the community in the Islands is performed by public-spirited Islanders who give much time and not a little treasure for their fellows. The tradition of this honorary service is very strong and this is particularly so in local government in Jersey.
The local government structure is founded in the parish, which is both an ecclesiastical and a civil unit. This grew up, naturally, when the centre of a district's life was the church and the priest was often the only man of any education. The method of parochial administration differs in Jersey and Guernsey. In Guernsey the parish council is the Douzaine, which is descended from the Douzaines that were the governing bodies in the old fiefs. The Douzainiers are elected by the ratepayers and until the reform of 1948, in common with many other officials in the Channel Islands, anyone who was elected had to serve, even if elected against his wish. There were penalties for failure to do so. To-day, anyone who is on the voters' list of the parish is eligible, but he must be willing. The duties are to-day principally concerned with the administration of the parish, with responsibility for parochial assistance, control of common parks, certain duties in connection with education, rating, sanitation and similar measures. In the sixteenth century, when Guernsey was Calvinist, the Douzaine also had a curious duty of acting as arbitrators when, after the calling of banns, an objection was made to a proposed marriage. They were enjoined to consider the matter as it affected the well-being of the parish, and not of the parties, and to give judgement accordingly.
In Guernsey, Executive officers of the Douzaine are the Constables, or Connetables. They are unpaid, and they should not be confused with the English police constable, although they had police powers, which were of much greater importance before the introduction of a paid professional police force. They are elected, and in this. case are still required to serve if they have been elected against their own wishes. They are responsible for the collection of the parish rates and for a vast amount of work in their parishes, but they have neither the power nor the prestige of the Constable of a Jersey parish. They at one time represented their parish at the Chief Pleas, and subsequently were the Douzaine Representatives on the States of Deliberation. In this latter duty they have now been replaced by an appointed Douzainier.
The Jersey parish assembly takes the place of the Douzaine and has a much more elaborate constitution. There is only one Constable, who is the head of the assembly, its chief executive officer, its representative in the States, and the "Father of his Parish". He is elected for three years, though contested elections are rare. The assembly consists of the parish officials and principals of the parish (i.e. all ratepayers who are assessed above a certain figure). The chief parochial officers are the honorary police. The head of the police is the Constable, and he has two assistants, Centeniers, who were originally supposed to be responsible for the control of a hundred families. The Centeniers conduct all police investigations in their parish, and they present offenders before the courts. The Parishes are divided in Vingtaines (St. Ouen's calls them Cueillettes, but, as all Jerseymen will affirm, "St. Ouen's is always St. Ouen's"). The Vingtaine is the unit for the collection of the parish rate, and the Vingtenier is the elected officer responsible for its collection. He also assists the Constable and the Centeniers in police work. The parish has a number of Constable's Officers who hold the junior rank in the honorary police, and also assist with other parish duties. This is usually the first step to higher parochial office.
The powers of the honorary police are unique. The island now has a paid police force, but until 1952 this was only operative in St. Helier. Occasionally other parishes would borrow policemen from St. Helier for special duties, but this was rare, except that in recent years the detective branch of the force generally assisted in protracted routine enquiries. To-day the force has been made an island one, but it can only operate in a parish with the consent of the Constable. Theoretically only the Constable and the Centeniers have the power of arrest, and the other members of the honorary force and all the paid police only exercise the ordinary citizen's right of detention of a wrongdoer. In minor offences the honorary police may levy a fine on the spot. All other cases are first brought before the Constable, who has the power to settle minor matters himself, or to decide if they shall go before the police court. To the outsider, used to English procedure, this police structure may seem strange, but it has served the island well. The task at the present time is to reconcile the growing need for the efficiency and training of the professional with the desire to retain the personal and human touch of the old system.
There is an interesting point in connection with parish representation in the States. If the Constable is ill, or away from the island, his place in the assembly is taken by the senior Centenier so that the wishes of; the parish as a corporate body may continue to be represented. It is the only case where a substitute is allowed, as all the other members are elected to the States as individuals.
The Constable only sits there by virtue of his office. There are a number of ancient customs connected with the parish, two of the most fascinating being the Visite Royale and the Visite du Branchage. The former is an inspection of the inspection of the parish administration by the Royal Court. The Court meets at the parish hall, and, after inspecting the records, proceeds in solemn procession through a part of the parish. The Court is preceded by Voyeurs, specially sworn, who are supposed to lead the Court through the worst roads of the parish. The Sergent de Justice carries a long measuring staff and any obstruction that is encountered is checked by him with the staff, and if it is found to be an encroachment on the highway the Attorney-General moves for a fine and, if the Court agrees, an order is made for the removal of the offending object. After the procession, the Court and the Parish officials are entertained to dinner at the expense of the Crown. Two parishes are "visited" each year.
The Visite du Branchage is an inspection of the parish roads carried out every year by the "Municipality" in each parish. This inspection results in the very trim condition of the Jersey banks and hedges. The owner of the land bordering the roads is responsible for seeing that his trees and bushes do not encroach on the highway. Every year when " branchage season " comes there is an orgy of cutting and trimming. The route of the parish procession is not known beforehand, and thus all the hedges are cut. Fines are collected on the spot, but the receipts are small for the work is well done and the dinner that concludes the ceremony is, one presumes, a financial loss.
There was a similar roads inspection in Guernsey known as the Chevauchee de St. Michael. This consisted of a mounted procession of the Court and its officials accompanied by the parish officials. The inspection followed a similar route every year. Its origins go back far beyond the idea of an official progress, and some authorities consider that it was an adapted survival of some ancient fertility rights. This ceremony, like many others in the Channel Islands, was concluded by a dinner. A dinner at the King's expense was the only fee to which the members of the Chief Pleas were entitled. The Guernsey Douzaines are now responsible for ensuring that the hedges, walls, banks, etc., are kept in good order.