Legal system

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Legal system

Jersey prides itself on its political independence and its allegiance to the British Crown, through the Privy Council. It is an independence which has been nurtured and developed over more than 800 years since the separation from Normandy in 1204.

In many respects the independence and antiquity of the island's legal system are considered of equal or even greater importance. Jersey law today is based partly on ancient Norman law, partly on British Law as it has developed over the centuries and partly on its own unique characteristics and procedures.

The situation is summarised in a 2009 article by Tim Thornton in the Jersey and Guernsey Law Review. See full article:

"More than a century after the separation of Jersey from Normandy consequent on the failures of the reign of King John, the first confirmation of the Island’s liberties was granted by Edward III in 1341. The customs of the Island had been documented over the previous century, for example through royal inquests, as in 1247 and 1248, and in quo warranto proceedings such as those of 1309. They provided that the Island would not be governed by the law of England or that of Normandy, but by a distinct set of political, social and economic rights and duties which defined the status of the inhabitants and guaranteed the whole through the participation of the Jurats in the judgments given out by the king’s courts in the Island, and exempted the people of Jersey from summons to a secular court elsewhere".

The Courts

  1. The Youth Court, formerly known as the Juvenile Court, deals with criminal cases involving offenders under the age of 18. The court, which was established in 1994, comprises a Magistrate and two members of a panel known as the Youth Court Panel, one of whom must be a woman. While the Youth Court has a variety of sentencing options in dealing with young offenders and to discourage offending, no person under the age of 21 years can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment
  2. The Petty Debts Court adjudicates on civil claims and was first established in 1853. It is presided over by a single Judge (Magistrate) and currently deals with claims which do not exceed £10,000. Since 2004 the Petty Debts Court has also operated so that small claims can be resolved by mediation

The judiciary and administration


The police


Jersey has two police forces, the paid States of Jersey Police, which covers the whole island, and an honorary force in each of the 12 parishes. The paid force, which initially operated only in St Helier, was formed in 1853. The orgins of the Honorary Police are less certain, but it is generally accepted that, although specific references to the roles of Constable, Centenier and Vingtenier can be found no earlier than the 16th century, there were parochial police forces as early as 1331.



Jersey has two types of lawyer, Advocates and Solicitors. They perform fairly similar functions, but only Advocates have the right to be heard before all the island's courts. Originally there were only eight Advocates, appointed by the Royal Court, but today their numbers are not limited providing they have obtained the necessary qualifications. There are many legal practices in the island, some purely local and others part of international groups employing hundreds of staff in Jersey.


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