Parish Hall Enquiries
When are Parish Hall Enquiries held?
You may be asked to attend a Parish Hall Enquiry at the Parish where the alleged offence has been committed. Cases are dealt with in small rooms, in private and often result in cautions.
A caution is a warning not to do something again or more serious action will be taken. A caution appears on police records but not criminal records.
What type of case may be heard?
Only certain types of offence can be dealt with at Parish Hall level.
Other types of offence might include minor motoring offences, speeding, letting your dog mess the pavement or roads, not keeping control of dangerous dogs, dropping litter, minor vandalism and shoplifting.
More serious offences or second or further offences may be sent to the Magistrate’s Court where they can fine you up to £10,000 or send you to prison for up to twelve months.
The Centenier may send the case to the Magistrate’s Court after listening to all the facts if it is felt that the offence is too serious to handle at the Parish Hall Enquiry, if the case is disputed or complicated.
The Advantages of Parish Hall Enquiries
Where the offences are not too serious and they can be handled at Parish hall level, they are usually heard faster and it means the Magistrates can use their time to hear more serious offences.
For offenders, it is better for them because it is more relaxed and a lower penalty is likely. Cases are usually dealt with in the evening when you are not working and in a less formal way.
Refusal to attend
A person asked to attend a Parish Hall Enquiry can say no. If this happens, the case would be sent to the Magistrate’s Court to be heard by the Magistrate and the offender and any witnesses would be required to attend.
Penalties that the Magistrate can give are more severe so the offender risks getting a higher penalty. But some people may feel their case would be dealt with more fairly by a Magistrate, rather than a Centenier.
Normally witness evidence is taken in a written statement to use at the Parish Hall Enquiry. Sometimes when information is not clear or there are different stories, the Centenier may ask a witness to attend and the offender may question the witness.
Witnesses asked to attend a Parish Hall Enquiry can refuse. The Centenier might then decide to send the case to the Magistrate’s Court, in which case the witness would have to attend.
Attendance by a lawyer or friend
It is up to the Centenier whether an offender or witness can have a friend with them for support. The offender is allowed to have a lawyer but this is unusual as it would usually cost more to have the Lawyer there than to pay any fine given.
If the possible offender does not admit the offence, the Centenier cannot carry on to deal with them and the case will be sent to the Magistrate’s Court.
The Magistrate’s Court option
Anyone called to a Parish Hall Enquiry can ask for the case to be dealt with by the Magistrate’s Court. After a Parish Hall Enquiry, the offender can ask that the case be dealt with again in the Magistrate’s Court if they feel unhappy with the outcome.
You cannot be sent to prison by a Parish Hall Enquiry. The most you can be fined at a Parish Hall Enquiry is £200 per offence.
In some cases, e.g. your car is not roadworthy, more than one law may have been broken.
The Centenier is not allowed to stop you from driving, but a Parish Constable can take away a person’s driving licence on health grounds. The Centenier can give you a written or verbal caution or a fine.
The Centenier or Constable cannot order you to put down an animal but could ask for your help to control it.
Any penalty given at a Parish Hall Enquiry is known as a sanction and will be on a person’s Police Record and you don’t have to put it on job applications or visa requests.
Parish Hall sanctions are not mentioned in the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Jersey) Law 2001 because they are not considered to be criminal convictions.
The Parish Hall Enquiry is thought to be the best way to deal with a young first offender.
Youths can be given a caution or in some cases fined by Centeniers, but if the offence is more serious or the Centenier feels the young person may re-offend, the Children’s Service or Probation service may be involved.
If the young person does not agree with the sanction, the Centenier can send the case to the Youth Court.
Every attempt is made to stop young people from getting criminal records and from having to go to court. A minor should have a parent or guardian with them. If this is not possible, the Centenier should be advised of this well in advance so that it can be arranged for an appropriate adult to be in attendance.
Guidance Notes for Centeniers at Parish Hall Enquires. Click here.
There is a Code on the Decision to Prosecute. Click here.