Bailiff warns of potential risks to status of his role

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Mr Le Cocq, sworn in as Bailiff in October last year, has spoken for the first time about the Bailiff’s role as he discusses the significance of the forthcoming 75th anniversary of Liberation, the year’s major event for Jersey’s civic

He said that while it was too early for him to give a definitive view, his instinct was that changes to the Bailiff’s position in the States would impact on the role as civic head and he said that the public should have a say in any such changes.

‘There’s been a lot of talk about them and a number of meetings of the Assembly that have discussed those things and it’s never struck me as an inevitable outcome but ultimately the Bailiff’s role is a constitutional role – the Bailiff’s presidency of the Assembly is a constitutional presidency, set
up within documents of the Assembly.

‘The States can change that with the agreement of the Crown and there’s no reason to suppose that, if the States resolved that they should elect their own president, that’s something the Crown would not give its agreement to. It’s open to the States to do that. I would hope that if that is done, it’s done with the full understanding of what the consequences would be and the approval of the people of Jersey’, he said.

Jersey’s annual celebration of Liberation Day, when the Bailiff addresses the community in Liberation Square, is one of the most important occasions on which he speaks to the Island as its civic head.

Reports recommending that the dual role of president of the States and of the Royal Court should be separated, with the States electing its own speaker, have prompted speculation about whether the Bailiff could continue to be regarded as the Island’s civic head if his other responsibilities were only those of a chief justice.

Although he said that the issue was a difficult one to tease out, particularly since he had been Bailiff for only three months, Mr Le Cocq said that there was a risk that in time the role would

‘The Bailiff’s ability to talk to the people of Jersey, to reflect Jersey to itself, comes from the unique position that he holds with the other two roles – they all feed in to each other and that gives the Bailiff the authority and the knowledge to speak to the Island.

‘It’s a Bailiwick and it has a Bailiff presiding over it. You want to have a good reason to alter that and if you’re going to alter it you need to do so mindfully, not just as a knock-on effect of some other step’, he said.

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