System of Courts and Legislature in Jersey

4.5.1.L2 Updated on:5 November 2021

Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor is the personal representative of the Queen in the Island. Communication between the Crown and the Jersey Government take place through the Lieutenant Governor and their office.

The Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the Crown for a period of five years.  The Governor has a certain influence but has little real executive power. They are mainly a figure at the head of the Government of Jersey for they have certain influence but little real executive power. In certain circumstances, the Bailiff takes precedence over them.

The Bailiff of Jersey

The Bailiff’s role combines the functions of chief magistrate and president of the States. They are assisted by the Deputy Bailiff and one or more Lieutenant Bailiffs who are usually the senior Jurats. Since they are the sole judge of law in the Royal Court, the Bailiff is usually an advocate or a solicitor.

The Bailiff presides over the Electoral College which appoints the Jurats and confirms the results of local elections. The Bailiff is appointed by the Crown from suitably qualified local people. There is no fixed term of appointment but they must retire when they attain the age of seventy.

The Bailiff takes precedence over the Governor in the Royal Court and the States Chamber.

About the States of Jersey

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands with an area of 45 sq. miles (118.2 sq. km.) and is situated 14 miles off the northwest coast of France and 85 miles from the English coast.

It is a Crown Dependency and is not part of the UK. The Island is not represented in the UK parliament, whose Acts only extend to Jersey if expressly agreed by the Island that they should do so.

The Island of Jersey is divided into 12 Parishes: Grouville, St Brelade, St Clement, St Helier, St John, St Lawrence, St Martin, St Mary, St Quen, St Peter, St Saviour and Trinity. Each Parish is presided over by an elected Connétable, who deals with issues relating to civil matters and by a Rector who oversees issues relating to ecclesiastical affairs.

The Government of Jersey

The legislature of the Island is called The States of Jersey, members of which are elected by the public. The States is presided over by the Bailiff, and includes the Connétables (Constables) of the 12 Parishes and Deputies. The system of government is made up of a Council of Ministers and several Scrutiny Panels. The economy of Jersey saw a great deal of change during the latter part of the 20th century as markets became more international and global travel increased. Traditional Jersey industries such as agriculture and tourism were taken over by financial services as the main industry. The Financial Services sector has grown such that it now accounts for around half the total economic activity in Jersey and employs about a quarter of the workforce.

Detailed data about Jersey is available from the statistics unit.

The European Union

As a Crown Dependency, Jersey is not part of the European Union although it is in a customs union in order to allow the free flow of goods between the Island, the UK and Europe.

The Island neither contributes to, nor is eligible to benefit from, European Union funds and is only subject to EU rules in certain very limited areas. It is however sometimes considered fitting to bring in Jersey law to reflect relevant EU Directives.

Law

The Royal Court administers both the civil and the criminal law. It is presided over by the Bailiff or the Deputy Bailiff and comprises of the Bailiff or the Deputy Bailiff and twelve Jurats.  Although the Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff are the sole judges of the law in the Royal Court, there is no legal requirement for the Bailiff and the Deputy Bailiff to be either an advocate or a solicitor, although this has always been the case.

The Bailiff is appointed not elected. The normal way that a Bailiff is appointed is after they have worked in the Law Officer’s Department of the Island’s administration as the Solicitor General, Attorney General and then Deputy Bailiff. The Bailiff is also the Deputy Governor of Jersey.

Jurats

The office of Jurat is similar to that of a Justice of the Peace in the U.K. Jurats are elected by the Electoral College which is presided over by the Bailiff.

Attorney General and Solicitor General

The Attorney General and Solicitor General are appointed by the Crown. They act on behalf of the Crown and the States in all civil and criminal matters.

Viscount

The Viscount or Vicomte is an executive officer attached to the Royal Court and the function is similar to that of a Sheriff in the U.K. He also acts a Coroner.

Judicial Greffier

The Judicial Greffier combines the functions of Master Registrar and Clerk. They or their deputy (the Judicial Greffier Substitute) also acts as a judge in divorce matters when the case is heard in chambers.

Lieutenant-Bailiffs

There may be several Lieutenant-Bailiffs appointed to serve at any one time. They carry out all the Royal Court functions of the Bailiff, including signing warrants and injunctions. They do not preside over the States of Jersey chamber. They are appointed by the Bailiff, not the Crown.

Courts

The Royal Court can sit as either the Superior Number or the Inferior Number.

The Superior Number consists of the Bailiff, the Deputy Bailiff or a Royal Court Commissioner and a minimum of five Jurats.

The Inferior Number consists of the Bailiff, Deputy Bailiff or a Royal Court Commissioner sitting with two Jurats.

The Inferior Number is restricted in the penalties it can impose such as a maximum of 2 years in prison. A defendant may be found guilty of a serious crime by the Inferior Number but must go to the Superior Number if a sentence of more than four years is to be imposed.

Appeals against judgements of the Superior and Inferior Number

Appeals against judgements made by the Inferior Number are usually heard by the Superior Number.

Appeals against judgements made by the Superior Number are heard by the Jersey Court of Appeal.

Any further appeal against a decision of the Jersey Court of Appeal is heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which is in London. It is the highest Court of Appeal for Jersey. Appeal cases are heard in London.

Criminal Assize court

The Full Court sitting with a jury made up of 12 people is called the Criminal Assize.  This court hears serious cases of criminal offences. The jury can return a majority verdict but a minimum of 10 votes of guilty are needed to convict someone.

Petty Debts Court and the Magistrate’s Court

There are two lesser courts in Jersey; the Petty Debts Court and the Magistrate’s Court.

The Petty Debts Court hears cases involving claims for sums of money of £30,000 or less.

The Magistrate’s Court deals with cases involving traffic offences, assaults and petty thefts. It also hears committal evidence in more serious cases i.e. the court hears evidence to decide if the case is serious enough to go the Royal Court to be heard.

The Magistrates court is presided over by a legally qualified advocate or solicitor.

Every case that is presented before the Magistrate’s Court is brought by a Centenier, who presents it on behalf of the Constable of the Parish. The Centenier is responsible for bringing together the witnesses and organising all the evidence.

Defendants in the Magistrate’s Court may be represented by an Advocate who may

  • cross examine the plaintiff
  • plead for their client
  • submit that no prima facie case has been made.

The Magistrate’s Court cannot impose a sentence of more than 6 months in prison and it can impose a maximum fine of £2,000.

The Legal profession

The legal profession is made up of two types of lawyers; Advocates and Solicitors.

Advocates are Jersey residents who have passed the English Bar examination and an examination in Jersey Law. Advocates may represent clients in Court and do the work of Solicitors.

Solicitors are not permitted to plead in the Courts except in the Petty Debts Court.