Island Life   

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Legal System

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 development since.

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 period.

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.

Useful Links

Guernsey Legal Resources website

Guernsey Bar



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