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These are the Law-makers and the Law-givers of the Island. The elective States are composed of the above body, with the Douzeniers and two Constables from each Parish, in all 174; and assemble to elect Jurats, and to consider any new projects of law, &c.
The Royal Court is of a two-fold kind. All causes are first heard before the Bailiff and two Jurats; the majority decide the question, but from their decision lies an appeal to the twelve Jurats or full Court, seven of whom form a quorum. Thus, justice in all its varied and complicated forms is administered by the Bailiff and Jurats.
The same men who authorise a mountebank to exhibit his tricks in the street, decide on character, life, and property ; and, with rare exceptions, are elected from the mercantile class, ignorant of the principles of jurisprudence, and pronounce judgment from their individual views of the subject.
From these lie an appeal to Her Majesty in Council, provided the object in dispute, if real property, amounts to the value of £10 sterling, per annum; or, if personal, to £200 sterling. The appeal to be made within six months.
Questions of right, of law or custom, which involve serious consequences, are without the benefit of a direct appeal; for instance, the case of the Receiver-General v. Tissier, where the ostensible question was, whether several houses of the defendant's were liable to the payment of a couple of hens to the Crown—a question therefore of right, in which most of the proprietors of houses were interested; yet, although the Court in this case refused the direct appeal, on the ground that the sum at stake was below the limitation, admitted the parties against whom judgment had been given to deposit £10 at the Greffe’s-office, and go to Council in the character of Doleant.
The appeal by doléance is by an Order in Council of the 27th of June, 1627, granted for sums of less amount than £40, to every person who, besides giving the usual bail to pay costs, deposits £10, to be forfeited to the poor in the event of his failing in his doléance. Very few litigants are able to find the required bail, particularly amongst the British residents, who are thereby compelled to put up with all the decisions of the Royal Court, however unjust.
These have become so numerous of late, that at a meeting of the States, 16th July, 1842, Judge Edward Nicolle said, as far as regarded himself, “ he was perfectly aware that a reform was needed—the present constitution may have done very well for the time in which it originated, but did not suit the present age ; there was no justice to be obtained in Jersey, and that he should like to see the whole concern overthrown."
The Constable of St. Saviour's (Advocate Godfray) said, “that he too was of opinion that a reform was indispensably necessary. The greatest abuse was, that the Jurats were Magistrates, as well as Legislators—the Judges ought to be taken from the Bar. The first thing was, to purify the bench. He maintained that in the Court, as at present constituted, there would be always party spirit amongst the Jurats, who would give party decisions; so that, in fact, justice could not be obtained in the Island.”
London, 45, Essex-street,
[No. 1.) To Thomas Le Breton, Esq., Her Majesty's Attorney-General for Jersey.
Sir,—It is with unfeigned delight I perceive in you as a public functionary, that in so grave a charge of rape, you have deemed it necessary to hold up to execration, that part of the laws of your country, which have so long disgraced it. But, sir, allow me to ask, how late since the year 1827, when I had the honour of meeting you in the public courts of Jersey, is it you have discovered, that a change in the jurisprudence of the Island has become necessary. That the Jurats who in this case should have decided on such a charge, that the niece of an accused uncle could not be admitted as evidence against him, is to me not a matter of surprise-but that you, who for years have stood in the situation of public prosecutor, could have allowed such decisions to have escaped you, on precisely the same grounds, and not to have openly denounced them, is to me a matter of the greatest astonishment. This is not the only instance in which you ought to have been the public prosecutor of as grave a charge as the present, where not only the interests of the crown have been heedlessly wiped away and overlooked, but where the interests of private individuals have been also shamefully trampled upon and derided.
The case of John Beaugie, for alleged incest with his two daughtersin-law, must be strong in your recollection, as well as Mr. Sheriff Godfray's, where, although in reality no incest existed at all, you made it so, by obtaining from the States an ex post facto law, and the man was subjected to seven years' transportation in England, and to a confiscation of all his estate and effects;- I appealed, by petition, to the privy council, who regretted the laws in criminal cases did not allow of an appeal, but hoped the time would arrive when an alteration would remove the stigma.
Year after year rolled on, and you, sir, knowing the deeply-rooted insults that have been offered to numerous individuals seeking justice in the royal court, have never until now permitted the dawn of reason to alight on you. Why, sir, you must have been either the dupe of a political party, or have allowed the two denunciators (who run away with nearly all the practice in the Island) to have lulled you into absolute consent, or you must have been the stalking-horse of both.
The long list of category, on the defective state of your laws and the administration of them, would fill too wide a space for entering on them here in detail.
But one word on your victim--Captain Collins : You advocated his imprisonment when you knew it was contrary to the laws of your country,--you sought to frustrate the law of cession by subpænaing witnesses from England and elsewhere, when you knew you were departing from the accustomed practice of the Island. In short, you refused him the privilege inherent to every British subject : that of swearing to the truth of his schedule, whereby to obtain his liberty, when the law granted it to all others; and you continue to harrass him with endless adjournments arising out of your system of litigation, till his hopes are blasted and his health destroyed.
These, sir, are considerations which I trust will reach your admitted conviction of the desperate state of the laws of Jersey, and arouse you from your apathy and indifference to the happiness and welfare of your fellow men.
With these brief remarks I hope to see you rise in public estimation, and become the unshackled advocate of justice and reason, and the denunciator of every species of tyranny and oppression. I have the honour to remain, Sir,
Your obedient servant, 45, Essex-street, Strand,
J. BOWDITCH. 26th Sept. 1842.
[No. 2. ] To the Editor of the Jersey News. --May 21, 1842. Sir --It is really distressing to see an Englishman, such as Capt. Collins, so harrassed and imprisoned in an Island calling itself British.-I contend that the courts of Jersey have not the power to arrest upon an English judgment, according to its constitution and laws. It is a j.ower aggrandized, and cannot be upheld.
Really, sir, I ask, how can Capt. Collins be so advised as to make cession in Jersey. If he has estates in the East or West Indies (nay in England) would the decrees of the royal court be noticed there?the thing is too absurd and ridiculous to be for a moment entertained. The attorney-general may well spare himself the trouble of looking after mortgages and leases in England, - his right to sell would be laughed at,--and the power of the royal court authorising him to do so, would sink into utter insignificance. This must be apparent to his own common sense.
The present is a case which ought to arouse the sympathy of every man ; and a subscriber, who a few weeks since offered fifty guineas to expose the mystifying practice of the Jersey court, who arrested him for 253., would do well to enter into the good work of getting up a subscription, to appeal against the exercise of such deadly powers, so fatal to the liberties of the subject.
I challenge the law-officers of the crown to maintain their point, they know full well that the power is assumed. In England, the creditor cannot hold the personality and person of his debtor at one and the same time. The sheriff is bound to return a sale of the for. mer before be can touch the latter. I deny the right of the royal court to arrest upon any judgment or debt arising out of the Island, any more than that we can this side of the water enforce an appearance (to a writ served in Jersey) at Westminster-hall.
The competency of the court is what remains to be mooted—it has never yet been done ; and until it is, endless will be the vexatious arrests of those who seek a temporary asylum in Jersey. A country blessed by nature, but cursed by its inexorable laws.
Instead of making cession, why does not Capt. Collins follow up his appeal to the full court. If he again fails, appeal to the privy council. I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
[No. 3.] To the Editor of the Jersey News.-June 23, 1842. Sir,-Since I have entered so fully into the illegality of Capt. Collins's arrest, permit me to draw your and the public attention to a fact that stands on record, uncontradicted, and which ought at once to throw open the prison door to every man who has been arrested on suits arising out of the island.
In the year 1832, Capes, the beadle of St. Pancras, was sent over to Guernsey with two paupers, under an order of removal, but the bailiff contending on the illegality of the order, directed the beadle immediately to quit the island, together with his charge; and on refusing so to do, he was committed to gaol, where he remained four days. Lord Tenterden immediately issued a writ of habeas corpus, to bring the body of Capes before him without delay. No return to the writ was then made; but the following deputation from both islands came to England, and made their protest against any interference with their respective laws and jurisdictions :