18th August 1855

Jersey judge and prosecutor find themselves prosecuted in court turn-around

“So much for Jersey justice!” was the verdict of the Jersey Independent in reporting a curious case in which the prosecution found itself in the dock.

When the barmen of the Victoria Club stood in court to answer charges that they’d been selling alcohol without a licence, they pointed out that they were only acting under the direction of their employer, the club, which was owned by its members. Two of those members were the Chief Magistrate, who was overseeing the trial, and the Attorney-General, who was prosecuting.

Chief magistrate’s case to answer

Having considered this point, the Chief Magistrate agreed that he may have a case to answer himself, and divested himself of his robes of office so that he could appear in the dock. The Attorney-General, however, had other ideas. Having argued that the men had broken the law he could hardly be seen to change his mind now that he appeared to be equally – or perhaps more – culpable, he argued that it was no responsibility of his and that the prosecution should proceed against the barmen as it had been doing.

The court disagreed and so, finding himself at risk of being prosecuted, the prosecutor decided that he would “forego the prosecution”. In effect, he dismissed the case against the men that had suddenly become a case against himself.

“Had [the barmen] … been stewards either of a Mechanics’ Institute or of The Working Man’s Association, would the Attorney-General have acted as he did…?” asked the paper in its edition of 25 August. “We leave the question open for the consideration of the public.”


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