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Guernsey's Constitution

Royal Court House Guernsey

Royal Court House

Bailiwick of Guernsey

The islands consist of two Bailiwicks, Guernsey and its close neighbours and Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. The Bailiwick of Guernsey consists of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Jethou, Lihou, Breqhou and Burhou.

King John established the Royal Court, appointed a chief officer or Bailiff ("official in a court of law") assisted by 12 jurats (from the Latin jurare, to swear as on an oath) Gradually the office of Bailiff took over the duties of the Seneschal of Normandy and came to represent the civil authority under his own bailiwick. In 1455 during the War of the Roses, the administration was split into two bailiwicks, Guernsey and Jersey. Sark was uninhabited and Alderney was held under a private lease.

Gradually the Bailiff came to take advice from his citizens and by the mid 18th century, the States of Deliberation had been formed, separate from the Royal Court but the Bailiff still heading up both. To this day, the role of Bailiff remains the same. In the mid 19th century, the first peoples deputies were elected .

After 1945, the jurats were replaced by Conseillers elected by the rest of the States. The office of Conseiller was abolished effective from the 2000 General Election. The composition of the States is now as follows:

The States of Deliberation consists of:

  • A Presiding Officer, who is ex officio the Bailiff (or in his absence the Deputy Bailiff, as Deputy Presiding Officer)
  • Her Majesty's Procureur
  • Her Majesty's Comptroller
  • 45 People's Deputies
  • 2 Representatives of the States of Alderney

The States of Election consists of:

  • The States of Deliberation, plus
  • 10 Parish Rectors

The States of Guernsey is the government of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and handles all matters except diplomatic and defence aspects.

The UK Government, often these days as a result of an EC directive, will recommend new laws or amendments. The States are not obliged to accept such recommendations but often do subject to amendments to satisfy local requirements.. Many local laws however are still based on ancient Norman custom law and these include bankruptcy and inheritance.

All local legislative changes must be approved by the Privy Council for Royal Assent before they become enacted locally.  

The island has ten parishes and six of these are came into being as part of the community area linked to the church. These six have names linked to Saints. The four which do not are Vale, Torteval, Forest and Castel. The latter is so called because the site on which the parish church is built was originally a Roman fort. The commanding view form the site soon explains why the fort was built there.

In addition to the local parish council, the Douzaine, the office of parish Constable (or “Connetable”) still exists in both Jersey and Guernsey and they retain some law enforcement duties. Each official is appointed by the Douzaine for a two year period of office. They used to have a seat in the States of Deliberation but this is no longer so, although each Parish has one Douzenir in the States. The name Douzenir originates from the Latin doziner meaning a man elected by and to represent 12 free families.

Guernsey's Government site



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