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although pointed out and animadverted on by royal commissioners, has in any way been mended. Mr. Le Quesne, indeed, expressly tells us (p. 451) that “the right of election of jurats has always been considered by the people of Jersey as one of their most valuable privileges. Like their ancestors, they have always been jealous of the judicial power. The presence of twelve jurats of their choice on the Bench” (albeit in so small an island twelve men cannot always be found possessing all the legal knowledge and acquirements desirable for jurats.—Ibid. p. 22) “ acts as a check to encroachments, and to the exercise of arbitrary power by the bailiffs, in whom, in the absence of written law, and without the presence of assessors, too much power would otherwise be vested." This state of things, however, as above depicted, is manifestly anomalous and bad, and ought to be put an end to, albeit we can well understand the repugnance which may be entertained in the island itself to innovation, and the disinclination which our Government may feel to the forcing of reforms upon a loyal and well-affectioned people.
Mr. Le Quesne, who is himself a jurat of the Royal Court, writes con amore on his subject; he writes, moreover, with good sense and discretion, and does not take a wholly one-sided view indiscriminatingly favourable to the institutions of his own country. Into the purely historical portions of his work we cannot appropriately inquire, although we have perused them with much interest, and can commend them to the attention of our readers. The feuds of the ancient Jersey families would furnish ample matter to "point a moral” or “adorn a tale.” We will rather quote from our author some remarks explanatory of the functions, sessions, and mode of procedure of the Royal Court.
“From very early times," says Mr. Le Quesne, “this Court has formed itself into two tribunals, according to the nature of the causes to be tried. These are the Cour d'Héritage and the Cour de Catel. The former takes cognizance of matters relative to real property; the latter of possessory questions of goods and chattels, and of criminal matters. The Cour de Catel, however, at present has, as such, very little civil business; there being now two subsidiary courts, called la Cour du Billet and la Cour du Samedi. At la Cour du Billet, which sits on Fridays during term, actions for debt are brought, but particularly for arrears of rents or mortgages. Actions for debt are also brought before the Cour du Samedi. This Court derives its name from the day on which it is usually held; but it sits on other days besides the Saturday. The cases which are brought before the Cour du Samedi are of various kinds. Criminal prosecutions are commenced before this Court, and they occupy much time. Matters that affect personal property, contested elections, repeals of wills, commercial and shipping affairs, police business, the poor, the militia service, the King's revenue, are of the cognizance of the Cour du Samedi.
“The Court of the greatest dignity,” however, " and which opens the business on the first day of its sitting in term with much ceremony, is the Cour d'Héritage. It was formerly a Court of great importance, and had the power of making ordinances or provisional laws. At the Assize d'Héritage, or first day of sitting, the principal feudal seigneurs or lords, holding in capite from the Crown, are bound to appear and to answer to their names, either by themselves or by procureurs duly authorized by them, when called by the procureur-général. Three consecutive defaults are followed by the resumption of the fief by the Crown. The Lieutenant-Governor is usually present at the Assize d'Héritage, where he owes comparence et suite de Cour, as the representative of the bishops, abbots, and abbesses of former days, who possessed fiefs and property in this island, till they were taken possession of by the Crown.” No cases in litigation are heard by the Court at the Assize d'Héritage; but agreements between parties relative to real property may be produced there and made binding by registration. At this Court also matters touching the revenue of the Crown are inquired into. The proceedings of the day appropriately terminate with a dinner given by the Crown to the Governor of the island, the Bailiff, and members of the Court, and to the seigneurs of fiefs, who owe comparence at the Assize d'Héritage.
Thus much as to the civil jurisdiction of the Royal Court: it has also jurisdiction in all cases of crime committed in the island, except high treason. The Court in cases of murder sentences the criminal to death, and has not only la haute justice, but la “haute justice royale,” to use the words of the old Norman Coutumier. This of course it has, being a Royal Court; but it is remarkable how an old Norman custom, which indicated the existence of a Court having la haute justice royale, has been preserved in Jersey to the present times. According to the Coutume de Normandie, “Les haults justiciers ont gibet à quatre poteaux, et les bas justiciers à deux, donc que les moyens justiciers doivent avoir gibet à trois poteaux. Il est une haulte justice royale, qui est et appartient au prince, et une autre justice haulte qui appartient aux seigneurs submis et qu'ils ont du don du haulte et la plus souveraine, et est celle qui a à corriger les autres justices et peut congnoistre de moult de cas dont les autres ne peuvent congnoistre. Et pour l'excellence et dignité d'elle, est raison que le gibet d'icelle ait aucune prevention au devant des aultres haultes justices. Pourquoi l'en peut dire que les aultres haultes justices qui ne sont pas royaux ne doivent avoir leur gibet que à trois poteaux. Et la haulte justice royale ent doit avoir quatre, et est le nombre commun.” It may appear singular that the number of poteaux should be a distinguishing mark of the rank, dignity, and authority of a Court. That the Royal Court of Jersey was and is a Court of the highest dignity, is therefore evident from the fact of the continued existence of four poteaux or stone pillars on Gallows Hill, where executions take place. These pillars were a few years ago demolished, but without the knowledge, sanction, or permission of competent authority. The last criminal executed in Jersey was Philip Jolin, in the year 1829, for parricide, and the execution took place on Gallows Hill, where the pillars were in existence. The keeping of the pillars in proper repair was part of the duties of the Vicomte. There is an act of the Court of 14th October, 1630, directing the Vicomte “de faire bâtir deux pilliers de la Potence, n'y en restant plus que deux, et d'y faire mettre quatre poutres, aux frais et charges du Roi; lequel Vicomte délivrera sa bille au receveur pour être payé accordamment.”
But although the Royal Court of Jersey is privileged to have and maintain, for the infliction of extreme penalties, a gallows à quatre poteaux, its decrees do not seem to be characterized by that certainty and uniformity which are elsewhere deemed essential to the due administering of criminal justice. The reason of this has been already partly indicated by the allusions which we have made to the constitution of the Supreme Court. Another cause of the unfixed state of the law in Jersey is to be found in the rarity of recorded precedents. “The law now rests almost exclusively on the modern practice of the Royal Court; but the number of decisions is small, and these are not reported so as to furnish adequate means of instruction in the principles recognised by the Court. The annual number of offenders tried by the Royal Court on an average of ten years is only 137, of whom fifty submitted in the first instance. There is a record of every cause, and occasionally this contains the ruling on some disputed point. But the grounds of the decision never appear, otherwise than by a very brief and technical recital of the view which the Court takes; no detailed judgment showing the reasoning which has led to this view appears, nor are the arguments of counsel set forth. It is almost impossible that decisions so few in number, so slightly reported, and not published at all, can afford a foundation for a fixed system of law." -(Report, p. 28.)
Precisely to the same effect Mons. Le Cras testifies, in his volume on the Laws, Customs, and Privileges, and their Administration, in the Island of Jersey (Introd. p. iv.), that “the laws have hitherto been unknown to the public, because they have been confined to the breasts of the jurats, who exercise an almost absolute despotism," &c. And to quote again from the Report of the Commissioners (which is well worthy of careful examination by those who feel interested in the past and present condition of the Channel Islands), we there meet with this résumé of the subject :-“The result of this examination into the present state of the criminal law of Jersey appears to us,” remark the Commissioners, “ to be that, except in the case of those lighter offences, and the few more serious ones which have been the subject of specific enactments, neither the definition of crimes nor their punishment rests upon any authority which can be deemed permanent for the future, or even certain for the present. The offences now punished are scarcely in a single instance classified according to the ancient law, nor have there been substituted for this either direct legislative provisions, or new practical principles capable of being distinctly ascertained, or possessing any assured stability. In other countries, where the penal system has not been reduced to a code, the definitions of offences, and the punishments by which they are visited, have become perfectly known from a long course of precedents, carefully recorded, constantly referred to, and furnishing a system as well understood, if not as scientifically arranged, as can be constructed by a formal code. Law so laid down is fixed till a change is made by the legislative power, openly announced, and asserting an equally positive rule. But in the law of Jersey the practice which innovates on the custom, introduces in its stead nothing which is not equally liable to change. The evil is not mitigated, but aggravated, by a nominal reference to the works which are the supposed depositaries of the ancient law. For wherever the law as there exhibited differs from the law as practised, a reference to it amounts in effect only to the recognition of an additional disturbing force. The practice which is now constantly prevalent of referring to English legal works and precedents as authorities, seems indeed to have become almost the only practical mode of introducing fixed principles into the criminal law of the island.”
Not only in the Royal Court, but amongst some of the inferior ministerial officers of the island of Jersey, viz. the connétables and centeniers, does a lack of legal knowledge seem to be prevalent.
The word connétable, or “constable," conveys to English lawyers the idea of an authority much inferior to that which the constable, and as acting for him the centenier, constitutionally possesses. These officers have functions partly resembling those of our police magistrates. They may, in certain cases, take bail from a party arrested, where the offence does not amount to felony; they can also bind parties to keep the peace. In numerous cases they assume the exercise of a discretion which in England would not be thought compatible with the duties of a police officer. In the case of an assault, the consta