What is the Parish Hall Enquiry system?
Parish Hall Enquiry refers to the process of preliminary investigation conducted by a Centenier (honorary police officer) to decide whether there is enough evidence to justify a prosecution and whether the matter should be presented before the court. It deals with both youth offending and minor offences committed by adults. In Jersey, it dates back 800 years and is a customary, informal alternative to formal court processing.
What are the characteristics of a Parish Hall Enquiry?
The attendee will appear before a Centenier who will decide what action to take in respect of the alleged offence.
The enquiry is not a court of law. Enquiries are usually held in the evening, attendance is voluntary and the attendee can request that the case be heard before the Magistrate.
The Parish Hall Enquiry is a participatory forum and there is much negotiation between all the parties about the circumstances of the alleged offence and the appropriate penalty.
In the case of youths, parents must attend and are asked for their opinion about the offence and the penalty.
What is the purpose of the Parish Hall Enquiry?
The purpose of the enquiry is for the Centenier to decide:
- whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a charge
- if there is a charge, whether it is in the public interest to prosecute or whether the matter can be dealt with at the enquiry
- the appropriate penalty if a charge is to be handled at the enquiry
Who attends the Parish Hall Enquiry?
The enquiry is a private hearing. The Centenier may admit anyone to an enquiry and will not normally exclude anyone with a bone fide interest. However, young people under the age of 18 must always be accompanied by a parent or other appropriate person. Officers from the Probation Service attend all enquiries for young people to offer assistance to the Centenier in his / her decision making.
Are outcomes of Parish Hall Enquiries made public?
Although outcomes of Parish Hall Enquiries are not published in the local newspaper, a record of every decision is maintained by the Criminal Justice Unit at the police headquarters. These records are not criminal convictions, but regarded as ‘parish hall sanctions’.
Records may be produced at subsequent enquiries and court appearances within the Island. However, there is no requirement to declare parish hall sanctions on job applications or visa requests. There is no reference to parish hall sanctions in the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Jersey) Law 2001 because they are not recognised as criminal convictions.
Who can make referrals for enquiry?
Most cases are referred for enquiry by the police.
Alleged offenders can also be referred by:
- honorary police officers of the parish
- customs and excise officers
- agriculture and fisheries officials
- education welfare officers
- head teachers
- members of the public
What penalties can the Centenier enforce?
The Centenier has a number of options available as reparation for the offence:
- issue a written caution, give words of advice or even decide that no further action is necessary. There is often an element of reparation or restoration attached including a letter of apology or compensation to a victim
- defer the decision to a later date. This tends to be used in conjunction with other conditions such as paying compensation or writing a letter of apology. At the conclusion of the deferment period, the Centenier will either give words of advice or issue a written caution
- impose fines up to £200 for certain statutory offences
- place young offenders under voluntary supervision orders with either the Probation Service or the Alcohol and Drug Service. Supervision programmes may involve drug and alcohol education, victim awareness, restorative justice initiatives, employment and training support and bereavement counselling
- charge and bail for a court appearance. The Centenier has the power to formally charge and bail offenders to appear before the Magistrate
For further information about the Parish Hall Enquiry system you can download 'The conduct and effectiveness of Parish Hall enquiries' report.
The conduct and effectiveness of Parish Hall enquiries report (government and administration section)