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Monday, 24 October 2011

Jurats an affront to your civil liberties

Extract from:
Italics indicate editorial additions.

Jurats are elected to serve inthe Royal Court and to decide questions of fact in court cases. They sit nextto the judge and not only decide the facts in both civil and criminal trials;they also award damages and fines as well as determine sentences.

Jurats led by Jurat Le Breton, Liberation Day 2008
The work of the Jurats is unpaid (although they receive substansial 'expenses' and benefits such as free parking in Vine Street) and they are appointed by the Electoral College, consisting of the Bailiff,Jurats, the ConnĂ©tables of the 12 parishes of Jersey, the elected Statesmembers, members of the Jersey Bar and Solicitors of the Royal Court.

It seems likely thatthis would cause a declaration of incompatibility under Article 3 of Protocol 1of the Convention as all elections for public bodies must be held by universalsuffrage.

When there is a vacancy, a copyof a letter from the Bailiff announcing this is delivered to each member of theElectoral College. If there are as many candidates, as there are vacancies –all the nominees become Jurats. If there are more people wanting to be Jurats thanthere are vacancies, a ballot takes place at a specially convened meeting ofthe Electoral College held in the Royal Court. If the first ballot results inan equal ballot of votes for each candidate the Bailiff calls for another vote.If the result of the second ballot is inconclusive, only then is the Bailiffpermitted to vote and declare the final result of the ballot.

Any person who contests thevalidity of the appointment of a Jurat by the Electoral College may present aRemonstrance (Representation) to the Superior Number of the Royal Court.
Every Jurat appointed by theElectoral College is required to take an oath of office before the SuperiorNumber of the Royal Court. The oath is most likely to have been in existencesince 1204.
Cases heard before Jurats in theInferior Number of the Royal Court

The Bailiff and two Juratsconstitute the Inferior Number of the Royal Court. The Inferior Number triesall contested civil matters (other than within the Petty Debts Court).Customary law offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape, grave and criminal /indecent / common assault, fraud, and theft are tried before a jury at aCriminal Assize (Crown Court).

The Inferior Number tries themore serious contraventions (e.g. breaches of a Law passed by the States),which are beyond the jurisdiction of the Magistrate. The criminal cases mostcommonly tried by the Inferior Number are contraventions of the Misuse of Drugs(Jersey) Law 1978 and Customs and Excise (Jersey) Law 1999 which can attractprison sentences of up to 14 years.
The Inferior Number may impose acustodial sentence of up to four years. However the Inferior Number tries allsuch cases even though the sanction that might be imposed in the event that theaccused is found guilty might exceed the limit of its sentencing jurisdiction.

The Superior Number of the RoyalCourt consists of the Bailiff and at least five Jurats The Superior Numberprimarily sits as a sentencing Court in criminal cases where a custodialsentence is likely to exceed four years. The Superior Number also possesses aresidual appellate jurisdiction to hear an appeal against sentence only imposedby the Inferior Number. The Superior Number does not sit to try civil orcriminal cases at first instance.

The respective functions of theBailiff and the Jurats are set out in Article 16 of the Royal Court (Jersey)Law 1948. The Bailiff is the sole judge of law and procedure and has the powerto award costs.

The Jurats decide the facts,award damages and determine the sentence or fine or the sanction in criminalcases. In all causes and matters, civil, criminal or mixed, the Bailiff has acasting vote:
(a) if two Jurats are divided asto the facts or the damages to be awarded or the sentence, fine or othersanction to be imposed; or
(b) if more than two Jurats aredivided as regards any one or more of the matters specified above that acasting vote is necessary for the finding of a majority opinion

Jurats act as Returning Officersfor all public elections i.e. where candidates stand to be elected members ofthe States of Jersey (Legislative Assembly) as Senator (12), Connétable (12)and Deputy (29), as well as for Procureur du Bien Public and Centeniers.

A declaration ofincompatibility is likely in regard to any matter relating to elections as under Article 13 of the Convention as the Royal Court Rulesrequire that any case bought under Part 9A of the Royal Court rules (Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000) must bebought in the first instance to the Royal Court which must consist of at leasttwo Jurats. As Jurats serve as officers for both the election and the Courtcase there is thus no effective remedy because the demands of natural justice cannot be served. There is no independent tribunal available. 

How much longer the position of Jurat continues to exist is largely a matter of how long before someone brings the incompatibility with the Convention to the attention of the Court, but how can the case ever be heard in Jersey when the rules require Jurats to sit?

Jurats also sit as members of theLicensing Assembly (granting liquor licences), Gambling Licensing Authority,Probation Committee, Prison Board of Visitors, the appeal panels fromdisciplinary decisions of the Attorney General in relation to Honorary Policeand from disciplinary decisions of the Chief Officer of Police in relation toofficers of the States of Jersey Police.