Wednesday, 30 June 2010

On the Spot Fines for Motorists Again

When I was reading  "The Norman Isles" by Basil C de Guerin (1948), I noted the following:

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.

and asked the question:

I wonder when that practice stopped, and why?

Thank to the extremely diligent Senator Ian Le Marquand (who has given his permission to share this), I can now note that it has not been rescinded in principle, but the level of the fine has increased proportionately.

The Centeniers retain substantial powers to fine at a parish hall level provided that the offender agrees that he is guilty and agrees to the level of fine. Those powers were recently increased to up to 200 pounds per offence.

Ian goes on to tell me how the procedure has changed, which means that it is less used for spot fines, although it could be used at a Parish level to reduce the demands on the Police Court:

However, what has changed is that a Centenier no longer deals with his own cases. In other words if a Centenier using a laser gun detects a speeder it will have to be another Centenier who deals with the matter at the Parish Hall. This principle therefore makes it more difficult to have on the spot fines given by Centeniers.

There are countries which allow police officers to ward and collect on the spot fines and they seem to ignore this principle.

He also mentions that there is also a long term review over whether States police officers should have the right to give fines, but this has difficulties with respect to human rights legislation.

I worked for some years on a group called the 1864 Group which was chaired by the Deputy Bailiff when he was the Attorney General. This group looked at the possibility of the development of on the spot fines by States police officers. We did not exclude it but it is not without difficulties particularly in relation to Human Rights issues.

It seems that moving back to the Centeniers dealing with it at a Parish Hall level may be the way to go. The really big question is whether the paperwork of Parish Hall Enquiries can be streamlined in some way.

A former Centenier told me that this seems increased workload seems to have come in after 1974 with the passing of the Police Law giving the States Police island wide jurisdiction, and the task of administration has gradually increased. He noted that up to recently (and probably still in place), the situation regarding paperwork and administration involved quite a lengthy chain of referrals:

In my time, before a formal Parish Hall Enquiry could be held, there had to be prima facie evidence of an offence and this had to be supported by a Police Report (completed either by an Honorary or States officer) using States Police forms. The report was sent to the Administrative Support Unit at States Police HQ and considered by them. They would then send back an Enquiry Results form containing a recommendation as to how the matter should be disposed of; it was in the discretion of a Centenier not to follow this recommendation but he would be expected to give cogent reasons as to why not.

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