Thursday, 3 February 2011

Jersey Under the Swastika - V The Royal Court and the States Assembly

Continuing the occasional transcription of Ralph Mollet's account of the Occupation of Jersey, this extract looks at the Government of the Island.

The beginnings of Occupation saw very much "business as usual". The Germans were keen to show that this was, in the memorable title of Madeline Bunting's book, "A Model Occupation". As Colin Platt noted in "A Concise History of Jersey":

As the victims supposedly of a colonial regime, [Islanders] were at first given almost anything they wanted. 'We shall be only too pleased', said the new Kommandant, `to see normal trading re-established between the two Islands.' Prayers for the Royal Family and the British Empire were permitted in Jersey's churches; wirelesses were still allowed; and the cinemas and other places of entertainment remained open. In civil government also, the Germans were happy to leave most administrative matters to local people, while reserving the right to try military offences and to veto any new legislation.

Of course, some of that was to change very much to the worse, but having a local administration meant that the German's could hold the Channel Islands up as a model of how Britain would be treated, that everything would go on much as before (apart from the limitations imposed by war). It was very like "nothing has changed in Austria" , which is the memorable phrase used which sums up the German takeover of Austria in the film "The Sound of Music.". Mollet notes that there were no elections for Deputies during the Occupation - the "model" had limitations where democracy was concerned.

So we see in Mollet's account that the Royal Court still continued, with the Royal Mace and unchanged deeds mentioning the monarch. It could certainly be argued that the harshness of sentences carried out in German courts would have been worse, as indeed they were for those later caught and found guilty of wireless infractions once wirelesses were forbidden.

Mollet's "notable case" is interesting. Meat was evidently scarce, but there are intriguing unanswered questions - did those who bought the horse meat on the black market know that was what they were buying, or had the butcher sold it as something else?

The sentence, involving "hard labour", is a sign of the times. Hard labour and penal servitude was not abolished in Jersey until the Criminal Justice (Jersey) Law of 1957 (it was removed in 1948 in the UK under the Criminal Justice Act 1948), but the death penalty was only abolished by the Homicide (Jersey) Law 1986 and the Genocide (Amendment) (Jersey) Law 1987, long after the UK abolished it in 1969. As usual, Jersey lagged behind the UK significantly.

But it was not until the tidying up of the Jersey law with the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) in 2007 that all references to hard labour and corporal punishment would actually be removed from the statutes.

Jersey Under the Swastika by Ralph Mollet

During the whole period of occupation the Bailiff presided resided as usual over the Royal Court with the Royal Mace before him.

Owing to the buses arriving in at. Helier at 10 a.m., and Central European Time being enforced, the sittings of the Court commenced at 10.30 a.m., and the "contracts" or deeds were passed before the Royal Court on alternate Saturdays at 11.30 a.m. The heading of the "contracts" was not altered, viz

" A Tous Ceux Qui ces presentes Lettres verront ou orront Alexander Moncrieff Coutanche, Ecuier, Bailli de l'lle de Jersey sous notre Souverain Sire George Six, par la grace de Dieu Roi de la Grande Bretagne, de l'Irlande, et des Dominions Britanniques d'outre mer, Defenseur de la Foi, Empereur des Indes. Salut en Dieu."

The criminal cases arose generally out of infractions of the rationing and agricultural regulations, robberies, and black-market activities. A notable case was one in which a butcher bought a horse for £200, slaughtered it, and sold the meat in the black-market ; he was fined £500, with imprisonment for one month with hard labour for slaughtering an animal without a licence.

The first day of Term was 12th September, 1940. The Advocates renewed their oaths of office on the First Day of Term instead of at the 'Cour d'Heritage.'

The Criminal Assizes were held when necessary, but the restricted transport, the regulations governing rationing, and the lack of hotel accommodation caused the sittings to be suspended daily at 4.30 p.m., and the jurymen had to return to their homes daily during the Assize.

The States Assembly met about twenty times, permission to assemble being first obtained from the Field Command, to whom the minutes were submitted wards for approval.

The General Election for Deputies which was due in December, 1940, was deferred for a year, and that order was repeated each year, as no public election can be held during an Occupation. The parish meetings were held as usual, and elections of parochial officers were permitted at these meetings.

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