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Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 5 months ago

The British Isles: Law and Constitution

The "British Isles" is a geographical term for a group of islands off the western coast of Northern Europe which share cultural values, historical origins and a dominant language (English).


The British Isles consists of two sovereign states, five self-governing Dependencies of the Crown, and some eight or nine legal systems/jurisdictions (depending on whether how you classify the legal system of Wales).


Sovereign States


The two sovereigns are

(a) The Republic of Ireland (A completely independent state since 1945)

(b) The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (which has existed in much the present form since the 1920s).


The Crown Dependencies


In addition, within the British Isles, there are five self-governing Dependencies of the British (technically English) Crown which are not part of the UK and are self-governing, but for which, by constitutional convention, (recognised and re-confirmed in a Protocol to the Treaty of Accession to the European Community) the UK has responsibility for defence and foreigh affairs.


The Crown Dependecies in the British Isles

Isle of Man

The Channel Islands


Guernsey consists of the Island of Guernsey itself, and some smaller islands, such as Herm (which has a hotel and an exquisite sandy beach) and Lihou (a former middle ages monastery)


Jersey consists of the Island of Jersey itself, and some smaller rocks, such as 'The Minkies (Les Minquiers) which were the subject of a territorial squabble with the French Republic which was only settled in the 1950s by a judgment of the International Court.

Historically, Jersey is a Bailwick of the Crown, with a Bailiff (presiding officer of the legislature and the judiciary). The Bailiff is the Bailiwick's most senior judge.


Alderney is considerably smaller than Jersey and Guernsey. It is also, in principle, self-governing. Its legislature consists of ten Members of the States (Les Etats d'Aurigny), which the author has had the honour to be elected to, and served on.


Before the Second World War, the States was presided over by Alderney's Judge (Juge d'Aurigny) who was also Chairman of the Court. The post-war Government of Alderney law separated the powers of the pre-war judge and the Presiding Officer is a directly elected President of the States (currently Sir Norman Browse) who has no judicial function..



Smaller Islands in the Channel Islands

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