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Court of the Seneschal

The Reform (Sark) Law 2008 provides that the Seneschal be appointed by the Seigneur with the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor.  The Seneschal has the right to serve for life but can retire and can be removed for good cause by direction of the Lieutenant-Governor.  The current Seneschal was in office when the 2008 Law came into force.

The Law also provides for a Deputy Seneschal and as in the past and provided for the first time for the appointment of Lieutenant Seneschals.  The Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey has power to appoint one or more Lieutenant Seneschals who must be Advocates of the Royal Court of Guernsey or Barristers or Solicitors qualified in the United Kingdom who have been in practice for a minimum of 10 years.  The Lieutenant-Governor must consult with the Seneschal and the Bailiff of Guernsey before making an appointment.

The Court of the Seneschal like the Court of Alderney has unlimited civil jurisdiction. 

It has criminal jurisdiction to impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding one month and/or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the Sark Uniform Scale and an aggregate term of imprisonment for more than 2 offences of 2 months and/or or twice level 4 on the Uniform Scale - that is to say a fine of £5,000 or an aggregate fine of £10,000 for more than one offence. Imprisonment for more than 3 days must be served in Guernsey.

The sentence of imprisonment in respect of contempt of Court is the same but there is a power to impose a fine of Level 5 on the Sark Uniform Scale.  Cases which may attract a greater sentence but less than one year are transferred to the Royal Court sitting as an Ordinary Court. 

The Law Officers have the power to direct that a defendant should be tried on Indictment in the Royal Court of Guernsey sitting as a Full Court and will do so in any case likely to attract a sentence of 12 months or more.

Appeals from the Court of the Seneschal in criminal cases are to the Full Court in Guernsey and in civil matters to the Ordinary Court.  From there appeals lie subject to certain limitations and procedures to the Guernsey Court of Appeal and thence to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The civil law case of Vaudin v Hamon, a dispute over the ownership of a Sark tenement known as Port à la Jument, followed the entire civil appellate course ending up in 1974 in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on a narrow prescription point.