Laws of Guernsey
The channel Islands have been part of the Duchy of Normandy since 933AD and a possession of the
English Crown since 1066. The local laws not surprisingly have their base in the customary (or Coutume) law of
Normandy and customary law continued to develop after the Napoleonic era, when they were scrapped in France. The
laws of Property and Inheritance retained much of their Norman origins. However in June 2011, complete
heriditary freedom was voted in by the States of Guernsey plus the ability to challenge a will in much the same way
as English law. This is a major departure from ancient Guernsey traditions where previously, the rights of
children and spouse were guaranteed in realty and personalty.
As the 19th century came to an end, the islands increasingly looked toward the English legal
system for guidance. In Guernsey the 1908 Companies law was modelled on the English one and has followed its
In the late 20th century, much legislation was passed based on International principles such as
for anti-money laundering. Trusts established in Guernsey are governed by the Trusts (Guernsey) Law 1989. The two
most common forms of trust are the Discretionary Trust and and a Life Interest Trust.
Clameur de Haro
Unique to the Channel Islands, the Clameur de Haro is thought to have originally been a plea to
Rollo, the Viking Duke of Normandy.
The petitioner must fall to his/her knees before two witnesses and state in French to the Duke,
that a wrong-doing has occurred. The Lord's prayer is then recited in French and the Clameur registered before the
Bailiff within 24 hours, or be guilty of contempt of court. Once registered at the Greffe, the petitioner has a
year and a day to start a Royal Court action. The Clameur will normally act as a Prevention order during that
The Clameur was last used in Guernsey on 30 March 2000 when in a packed conveyancing court, Paul
Moed blocked a property sale which he claimed was prejudicial and detrimental to his rights. It was previously
raised in 1997. In Alderney, it was last used in 1998.
Guernsey has Juvenile, Magistrate and Royal Courts, the latter being the principal court and was
established by King John. The judges of the Royal Court are the Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff, both of whom must be
qualified Advocates in order to hold office. The Royal Court enjoys unlimited jurisdiction in both criminal and
civil matters. Anyone can elect to go to trial at the Royal Court, the jurors for which are a standing group of
elected Jurats (from the Latin 'jurare', to swear as on an
oath) - mainly well respected senior members of the community.
There is also Appeal Courts comprising of the Bailiffs of Guernsey and Jersey and several
leading Queen's Counsel. Beyond the Channel Island Courts of Appeal, there is a right of appeal to the Privy
Council and ultimately to the European Court.
Guernsey has lawyers known as Advocates who combine the role of barrister and solicitor. They
must have qualified in England and passed the local Bar examination. They must also have successfully studied at
the University of Caen for a minimum period of three months (previously six)
There are also many practicing UK solicitors in the islands who advise the Finance Industry
wholly on UK legal matters.
Guernsey Legal Resources website