Landmark & Views

Royal Court Building

Jersey / Europe

The Royal Court Building is in Royal Square and contains not only the Royal Court, but also the States Chamber and other government offices.  A building has been here since the 12th century, but this one dates from 1648, with reconstruction work in 1769 and 1879.  

The Royal Court is the principal and oldest court in Jersey, exercising both criminal and civil jurisdiction.  It can sit in a number of configurations, depending on the type of case and the powers to be exercised.  Its origins date back to the 13th century when King John ordained that Jersey should remain under Norman customary law.  Thus the Royal Court exercised both judicial and legislative functions for the Island, although the power to make laws moved to the States Assembly in the 15th century.

The Bailiff of Jersey is President of the Royal Court.  Individual trials may be heard before the Bailiff, the Deputy Bailiff (also a full-time role) or a Commissioner.  Commissioners are part-time judges, appointed from the ranks of judges in the Commonwealth or senior experienced lawyers from the Channel Islands, United Kingdom or the Isle of Man, either for defined periods of time or for specific cases.  

The States Assembly is the parliament of the British Crown dependency of Jersey. The origins of the legislature of Jersey lie in the system of self-government according to Norman law guaranteed to the Channel Islands by King John, following the division of Normandy in 1204. The States Assembly has exercised uncontested legislative powers since 1771, when the concurrent law-making power of the Royal Court of Jersey was abolished.

The Assembly passes and amends laws and regulations; approves the annual budget and taxation; appoints and removes the Chief Minister, ministers, presidents and members of committees; debates and matters proposed by the Council of Ministers, by ministers or by individual members. Members are also able to ask questions to find out information and to hold ministers to account. Executive powers are exercised by a Chief Minister and nine ministers, elected from among the members of the Assembly and known collectively as the Council of Ministers. Ministers are accountable to the assembly for the conduct of their departments.

Until 1887, the States had no meeting place of their own. They used to meet in the Royal Court on the Royal Square. The present Chamber was opened in 1887 after a proposition was lodged au Greffe eleven years earlier providing for the establishment of a States Room above the Royal Court extension. The first President of a States meeting in its new home was not the Bailiff, who was on sick leave at the time. Instead, the Lieutenant Bailiff presided. The development and construction of the Chamber were symbolic of the Assembly’s increasing prominence and independence, and of Jersey’s growing autonomy.  Seating is arranged in horseshoe form, around the twin seats of the Bailiff and Lieutenant Governor.

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