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History of the Honorary Police

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When William of Normandy conquered England in 1066, Jersey remained part of the old Duchy and continued to pay its taxes to Normandy. When France conquered Normandy in 1204, the Channel Islands attached their allegiance to the Crown of England and King John, since when they have been part of the British Isles. Even today much criminal law is often a mixture of Norman and English customs.

The Island is divided into twelve Parishes, their boundaries having been fixed since Norman times. They have retained the original character of an ecclesiastical Parish and this is now also a municipal unit; divided into districts known as a Vingtaine (or a Cueillette in St Ouen).

The head of the Parish is the Connétable (Constable) who at one time was responsible for the armoury and making sure that the militia was fully equipped. The title traces to the head of the Imperial Stables (Comte de l'Etable) and conferred upon such dignitaries as the Constable of France, of Scotland or the Tower of London. In Jersey the rank is similar to that of a Mayor, but there is no affinity with a Police Constable here or in England.

The judgement in Carter -v- Nimmo (1968 J.J. at page 1023) states –

"The Constable does not appear in our records as a parish official until 1462, and the first mention of a Centenier there occurs in 1502. These offices probably date from the time when the practice arose of the Bailiff and Jurats summoning to their assistance the "Commun Conseil" of the Island, which assembly later developed into the States. … In criminal matters the convenience of having a parochial officer in charge of the "enditement" (the jury of the parish) must soon have become apparent and it is not difficult to appreciate how the powers of the Constable in connection with police duties were gradually extended."

The Connétable had his own "court", now recognised as the "Parish Hall Inquiry", where he could severely reprimand an offender or decide that he be sent for trial. His chief assistant, the Centenier, is presumed to have been initially responsible for the behaviour of about a hundred (cent) families; followed by a Vingtenier, who had charge of twenty (vingt) families; and finally a number of Constable's Officers.

The Honorary Police provided the only law enforcement prior to the appointment of paid Police officers for the Parish of St Helier, in 1853, and later to serve the whole Island.

Following a "full and thorough independent review of the policing system in Jersey" the States approved, in 1998, recommendations –

  • to establish in law the office of Chef de Police for each parish
  • that the Centeniers Association and the Vingteniers and Constable's Officers Association should merge into single association.

These changes were enacted by the Honorary Police (Jersey) Regulations 2005.

All members of the Honorary Police are unpaid. The Honorary Police forms an integral part of Jersey's ancient tradition and their local knowledge, coupled with the high degree of efficiency of the States Police, provides a service that is unique in the British Isles.

 

Association of Centeniers

The Island Centeniers met frequently over the years and at a meeting on the 6th April 1946 a proposition was made to adopt the title of "Association of Centeniers of the Island of Jersey."

Rules for the Association were prepared in 1948 and, despite the Association's name being changed on a number of occasions, the Association stayed in existence until it merged to form the Honorary Police Association in 2005. 

The Honorary Police (Jersey) Regulations 1977 stated that for the purpose of promoting efficiency, there shall be an Association of Centeniers of which every Centenier shall be a member.






 

CENTENIERS DE L'ÎLE DE JERSEY 1943  
Photograph from St Peter's Parish Hall, thanks to Mr Stuart McAlister for creating the digital image.



 

Association of Vingteniers and Constables Officers.

The Vingteniers and Constable's Officers Association held its Inaugural Meeting on the 21st March 1966 at the Town Hall, St Helier.

The Constitution of the Association was adopted the following month on 30th March 1966. The Subscription to be a Member of the Association was 10 shillings and meetings were held quarterly.

The Honorary Police (Jersey) Regulations 1977 stated that for the purpose of promoting efficiency, there shall be an Association of Vingteniers and Constable's Officers of which every Vingtenier and Constable's Officer shall be a member. The Association merged to form the Honorary Police Association in 2005.

For further reading see 

The Jersey Law Review - October 2003 LE CONNÉTABLE ET SA PAROISSE by Steven Pallot