The Channel Islands are neither part of the UK nor sovereign states or colonies. Originally part of the Duchy of Normandy, they remain possessions of the Crown with their own legislatures, judiciaries and executives. In practice, the British Government is responsible to the Crown for the defence and international relations of the Islands and also has the ultimate responsibility for its good government. The legislative position can be summarised as follows:

  • Jersey and Guernsey have complete responsibility for their own internal affairs, including legislation for taxation and company law;
  • since the Second World War, Guernsey has been responsible for Alderney including the administration of income tax. However, Alderney has its own company and general legislation;
  • whilst being subject to Guernsey in certain matters Sark has a mixture of feudal and democratic government and has power to legislate on domestic matters. Sark has no company law and levies no tax on income.

The Sovereign is represented in the Islands by the Lieutenant-Governors of Jersey and Guernsey who are non-voting members of the States Assemblies in their respective Island. The Crown also appoints the Bailiff (normally a member of the Island's legal profession, known locally as an "Advocate") to preside over the States Assembly and the Royal Court.

The States of Jersey and of Guernsey are the Islands' legislative assemblies and are democratically elected bodies. There are no party politics and members of the States vote independently on any motion. Matters of planning and administration are carried out by Committees, composed mainly of members of the States, which are responsible to the legislatures for their functions. Jersey and Guernsey each have a Royal Court with both civil and criminal jurisdiction. In addition there is a Police Court in Jersey and a Magistrates' Court in Guernsey to hear minor cases. Appeals from the Royal Court are heard by a Channel Islands Court of Appeal being a panel of three judges. The panel includes the Bailiff of Jersey or of Guernsey and two English QCs. The Bailiffs do not normally sit as judges on appeals from their own Island. Further appeals from the Court of Appeal are heard by the Privy Council.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

For further information contact Jonathan G. Hooley on Tel (indirect line): + 44 (0) 1481 721000, Tel (direct line): +44 (0) 1481 719544, Fax: +44 (0) 1481 722373.