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Constitution of Jersey

Extent: Jersey
Updated 20 September 2019

Words you may need to know

Sovereignty - Supreme authority, especially over a state

Crown Dependency - There are three which are self-governing possessions of the Crown. They are recognised as "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible".

Geographically - by location, in nature

Judiciary - the part of government that is concerned with justice

Executives - the part of government that is responsible for making decisions

Conquered -  defeat people in war

Annexed - to take over land and add it into another country or state

Jurisdiction - authority or control

Constitution - a written statement with the basic laws or principles by which a country is governed

Legislature - elected representatives, parliament, governing body

Term - a period of office

Authorised – given authority to do something

Mandate - an official command or instruction from authority eg a deputy has a mandate to act because he was voted for by the people of his/her parish

Elected - voted in by members of the public

Sanction -  here, approval or permission

Accountable - responsible for; may have to justify actions taken 

Legislation - law

Criminal law - State made law that defines crimes and punishment. The State prosecute  

Civil law - this is about the rights of private citizens and you take a private prosecution

Stipendiary Magistrate - this is somebody who regularly receives a fixed amount of money as a salary or to cover living expenses, e.g. magistrate. Another example would be a priest

Municipality - town or borough

Preliminary - something that happens before the main event or something more important


Jersey is a Crown Dependency (as are the other Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and not part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is made up of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and Northern Ireland. Geographically Jersey is both part of the British Isles and of the British Islands.

Jersey has its own laws, judiciary and executives. When England was conquered by the Normans in 1066 the Channel Islands became subject to whoever was on the English throne since they had already been annexed by Normandy in the tenth and eleventh century. When France got Normandy back in 1204 the Channels Islands stayed under the jurisdiction of the English crown.

For more information on the origins of self government see:

 The Constitution

The Lieutenant-Governor is appointed by the Crown and is the Queen's personal representative. He has traditionally been a senior member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. He is also Commander-in-Chief of Jersey, and the Commander of the Armed Forces of the Crown in Jersey. Communication between Her Majesty's Government (through the Ministry of Justice) and Jersey is conducted through the Lieutenant-Governor.

The Bailiff is President of both the States and of the Royal Court. The Deputy Bailiff assists him and is able to perform the same functions as the Bailiff when authorised so to do. They are both appointed by the Crown.

 Also appointed by the Crown are the Dean of Jersey, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General.

The Legislature

 The island legislature is the States of Jersey.

 The States is made up of the Bailiff, the Lieutenant Governor, the Connétables of the twelve parishes, eight Senators, twenty-nine Deputies, the Dean of Jersey, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. Although they all have the right to speak in the Assembly only the forty-nine elected members consisting of the Senators, Connétables and the Deputies have the right to vote. 

The Senators are elected for a term and have an Island wide mandate.

 The Connétables are elected for a term by their Parish and serve in the States by virtue of the office they hold.

 The Deputies have a Parish mandate.

 Laws passed by the States require the sanction of Her Majesty in Council except in specific instances.

The Council of Ministers is made up of a Chief Minister and other Ministers chosen by all States Members. Each Minister is legally and politically accountable for their area of government.


Official language of the Courts

Meetings and debates in the States are conducted in English. Laws are now written in English although French remains the official written language of the Courts.

The Royal Court

Criminal and civil matters are both dealt with by the Royal Court which consists of the Bailiff (or Deputy Bailiff) and Jurats. There are twelve Jurats elected by an Electoral College. See:  Members of the Royal Court 

 The Magistrates Court

Minor criminal matters are dealt with by a Stipendiary Magistrate in the Magistrate's Court. In most cases it is the Centenier (see below) who brings the case to the Magistrate's Court, however in some circumstances a Prosecutor will bring the case instead of the Centenier. This happens when the case is likely to go on to the Royal Court or where more complex argument of law is required. This enables the Attorney General to be represented.

Petty Debts ( literally ‘small amount of money owed’) are also dealt with in the Magistrate's Court. See:

Magistrate's Court and Petty Debts Court


Jersey is divided into twelve Parishes, each having its own municipality. Each parish has its Connétable, Centeniers, Vingteniers and other officers elected for a term. The Governing body in each parish is known as the Assembly of Principals (ratepayers).

Parish Hall / Town Hall enquiries

A Parish Hall Enquiry refers to the process of preliminary investigation conducted by a Centenier (honorary police officer) to decide whether there is enough evidence to justify a prosecution and whether the matter should be presented before the court. It deals with both youth offending and minor offences committed by adults. In Jersey, the system dates back 800 years and is a customary, informal alternative to formal court processing. See:

 Parish Hall Enquiries