Wednesday, 9 June 2010

On the Spot Fines for Jersey Motorists

Do you remember Tony Blair's idea about "on the spot" fines? I was reading "The Norman Isles" by Basil C de Guerin, and I came across something very similar.

This book was published in Oxford in 1948, before the reforms which removed the Jurats and Rectors from the States. On traffic control it notes that though all the regulations are enforced by the local police and honorary parochial officials.

But then it introduces something which does not apply today (regardless of the level of fine):

Of these latter the most important is the parish "Constable", or mayor, whose duty it is to issue licences to motorists resident within his domain. Under the local law these Constables and their junior officers known as "Centeniers", all of whom serve on an entirely voluntary basis, have power to stop any motorist or cyclist and to fine them on the spot up to a sum of 5/- for minor offences committed in the officer's parish.

I wonder when that practice stopped, and why?

Another practice which was in place was the registration of bicycles, for which some members of the States and members of the public have called to be introduced, little knowing that it was in place back in 1948.

As on all the Channel Islands, bicycles must also be licensed annually, at a rate of 2/6 per machine, the receipt for which must be displayed prominently on the rear fork. That this system adds appreciably to the local revenue is obvious when it is realised that before the war over 15,000 cyclists paid this tax, and the number is estimated to have increased beyond that figure to-day.

The note on revenue probably explains - in part - why the tax disappeared - as the motor car took over as the principal form of transport, the declining number of cyclists probably did not make it worthwhile; moreover, the booming tourist industry brought a new problem. While hire cars paid road tax, what of visitors who brought their bikes over to Jersey?

The last, and most peculiar part of Jersey's road traffic regulations concerns parking. I've never heard of this alternate side of streets rule, and would be extremely interested if anyone knows any more about it, and when it vanished (perhaps when the pedestrian precinct was formed?).

A peculiarity of these motoring regulations in the town of St. Helier which is somewhat confusing to visiting motorists, is the rule of unilateral parking on alternate sides of the principal streets on alternate days; as is the prohibition of parking without lights in certain thoroughfares, while other roads which are officially "private" do not come under this ban.

White lines and yellow warning lines are in evidence on the road surfaces, but abuse of these warnings can only be punished at the discretion of the Constable of the parish, who is also responsible for placing them in such positions as he personally considers necessary.

I suspect that the fines for parking show a confusion between Parish roads and Public roads, which until recently led to the farcical situation whereby two different sets of street cleaning machines would clean St Helier's roads, one paid for by the Parish, doing the Parish roads, and the other by the States on Public Roads. The cleaning brushes would be raised, the machines would be driven across one road, and start again with the gap of a road crossing in between!

Fortunately, this seems to have been resolved by Constable Simon Crowcroft in what could be properly termed "rationalisation", so that the responsibility for cleaning the roads has been allocated in more sensible geographical clusters, with the Parish taking care of cleaning the inner roads, and the States taking care of the outer roads.

Regarding this distinction, however, it is certainly the case that the Parish are in charge of policing the Parish roads and car parks, and St Brelade has, I believe, a traffic warden (or parking control officer) on its payroll. The same is true of yellow lines on Parish roads, road maintenance required of them, and the "branchage" when landowners have to cut back overhanging branches. These matters all come under the purview of the Parish roads committee, which still includes the Parish rector, and which usually repairs to a suitable hostelry for food after it has done the branchage.

Of course, there are still "private roads" in housing estates, and they have their own peculiar form of policing. The one close to me had a retired military type, who would come out from his front door, and berate anyone who parked on the pavement in his private road. Of course, the road was a private road for around 150 houses in the estate, but his particular locale was guarded fiercely, and he would emerge, red faced, shouting!
But along with on the spot fines, registration charges for bicycles, and alternative day parking, he is now long gone, just a distant memory.


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