Matthew Knights was awarded a travel bursary to visit Jersey and explore the different judicial systems
Here he talks to us about his exciting journey:
“The picturesque island of Jersey is a self-governing state and British Crown dependency situated off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel. The legal system of Jersey has concepts of both British and French law intertwined together as a result of its political and social history. In addition to this, the island was occupied by Nazi forces from 1940-1945 and has undergone many legal changes throughout its history. Its system of government and public law system is also distinctly different from the UK albeit with some similarities.
The island’s court system is completely independent from the UK and takes on its own unique format and hierarchy. Its principal officers and high ranking officials however, are appointed indirectly by the Crown. The highest-ranking official is the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, appointed by the British Monarch. The holder of this office acts as an intermediary between the UK and the independent government of Jersey. They are the de facto head of state but only act in a ceremonial manner such as issuing passports and ruling on deportations. They serve five-year terms and are usually ex-military personnel. As of 2010, positions such as Attorney General and Solicitor General are appointed by the Crown on the island’s recommendation.
The highest court in Jersey is the Court of Appeal but second to this is the Royal Court. The Royal Court sits in one of two formations. The first is known as a Superior Royal Court and involves the Bailiff sitting alongside at least seven Jurats. The second is the Inferior Royal Court where the Bailiff sits alongside only two Jurats and the formation used will be determined by the gravity of the offence committed.
Jurats are the nearest thing to what the UK would refer to as Judges. They are elected by an Electoral College which consists of the Royal Court and legal professionals. Unlike in England where judges will have previously worked as either a Solicitor or a Barrister; Jurats are not legal professionals because it is deemed that they should be judges of the facts and not the law.
The island has its own police force but there are two types in operation across the island’s 12 parishes. The States police, which mirrors our system in England and Wales, had uniformed officers as early as 1853. In 1954 a professional force was established. The second and more unusual type is the Honorary Police. These are elected to assist the parish’s Connétable who is elected to serve a three-year term. Despite being the seemingly more recognisable outfit; the States of Jersey Police cannot charge anybody with an offence. Any charges must be authorised by the Connétable of the respective parish.”