Brave young men who protested against the Island’s death sentence


After all, as recently recorded in Temps Passé, 32-year-old Huchet had been found guilty of a particularly callous crime, motivated by theft and carried out so incompetently that his guilt was never really in question.

There were, however, dissenting voices. Three young men, all of whom went on to achieve prominence in Island life, disputed neither Huchet’s guilt nor the despicable nature of his actions, but argued that the state had no right to take an individual’s life.

The three were Philip Le Brocq, son of the police chief of the day and now a leading figure in the sphere of the arts and heritage, Richard Falle, who now serves the Island as Acting Magistrate, and Francis Hamon, now a Commissioner of the Royal Court.

As well as writing to the Evening Post saying that Huchet’s sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment, the three men, who were on the verge of leaving the Island to go to university, petitioned the British Home Secretary, R A Butler, in an attempt to secure the reprieve.

They also collected signatures to back up their appeal, but only 144 people chose to sign, among them just one Island clergyman.

The petition cited five ‘outstanding reasons’ why Huchet should be spared. Its signatories were of the opinion that the death penalty was an ‘inhuman and immoral institution’, that society should not engage in acts of ‘revenge’, that there is always potential for repentance, that death cuts off all opportunity for reform and that the condemned man was being denied the chance of reaching a ‘state of grace’.

Predictably, the petition attracted correspondence which was published in the EP. Some letters to the editor, such as one signed with the pen-name Lily Pajot, vehemently rejected the objective and the reasoning of the petition, but others were supportive.

Among the writers saying that Huchet should live were Sidney Showell, Robert Dewar-Campbell, Victoria College master Ronald Youngs, Geoffrey Coppock, who later became Greffier of the States, E French and A P Laurent, a man who earned his living as a basket-maker but whose home-spun philosophy was widely respected.

The petition even attracted the attention of UK national newspapers.

The People of Sunday 12 September 1959 carried a paragraph on the subject, but the Sunday Express of 20 September went to town with several column inches that included direct quotes from Philip Le Brocq.

Both reports mentioned that Mr Le Brocq was the son of police chief Henry Le Brocq.

Describing the 20-year-old petitioner as ‘tall and fair-haired’, the Sunday Express reported that he had said to them: ‘I told my father I intended to start a petition. He could have stopped it. I’m under age. He said he knew it could make life uncomfortable for him.

‘But just as there were some principles for which he would be prepared to lose his job, so he felt he must allow me to stand by my principles.’

Reflecting on the petition and the execution, Richard Falle, who was 19 in the autumn of 1959, recently said that he and his two friends had had the support of the Quakers and the Jersey Communist Party, whose members included Norman Le Brocq, later a States Deputy.

However, there was very little backing from other quarters. He had just come to the end of a period as head prefect at Victoria College, and recalls that the school chaplain of the day – ‘a sickening man’ – had advised him that he was too young to have an opinion and that it was not ‘in his interest’ to protest.

Philip Le Brocq, too, was told to ‘leave it to older people’, but neither was deterred from taking action. Initially, they tried to collect signatures in the Royal Square, but were ‘moved on’, finally making their stand near the Le Sueur memorial in Broad Street.

‘I remember being thankful that people were taking our petition seriously,’ said Mr Le Brocq.

Richard Falle added that there was ‘no rancour’ among those who passed by or showed an interest.

In the event, Huchet was executed at 7.30 am on 9 October, the first person to have been hanged in Jersey for 52 years.

Although no one else has suffered the same fate since, many other death sentences were passed by the Royal Court and then automatically commuted until the penalty was finally removed from the statute book for all offences in 1987.


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