French lawyer bites back

Following your article "Guernsey backed on French lawyer's ban", I have lodged a complaint to the European Commission on behalf of Mr Leverrier claiming that Guernsey has no right to impose island law on fishermen caught in British waters and that I was illegally prevented to address the local court.

The Paris Bar is supporting my claim and has lodged a similar complaint to the European Commission to which no answer has yet been given.

The important point is not only that I am requesting a right of audience before a Guernsey court. It is that French fishermen, arrested by the British navy for allegedly fishing in British waters adjacent to Guernsey, should normally be tried in a British court according to, in this case, English law.

But the British Government, for what I can only suppose to be reasons of convenience, have "sub-contracted" the judicial process to Guernsey courts.

The Guernsey courts apply the laws of Guernsey, based on archaic Norman laws.

These laws often contravene human rights: for example, individuals are held in custody by the police without being brought before a judge for periods well in excess of those practised by English courts. The Guernsey courts also apply higher fines than their English counterparts.

The main issue which we are bringing to the fore is that the British Government should not and cannot "sub-contract" its jurisdiction to another legal system and such a system should apply the law so that every boat is treated in the same way.

This would be an internal matter if British subjects were involved. In our case French nationals are being subjected to unfair practices and exorbitant fines for the sake of the convenience of the British authorities.

The problem would be mitigated if Guernsey were to apply English law and imposed fines according to English precedent, but this is clearly not the case.

The fact that I, as a French lawyer, have not been allowed to appear in a Guernsey court illustrates the fact that the UK authorities have "sub-contracted" to a jurisdiction that does not apply English regulations.

The British Government is reviewing the status of the Channel Islands as a tax haven. It would be appropriate to review its stance on the issues concerning fishermen as the matter concerns the fundamental rights of the individual and is not just a question of money.

Monique Fauchon, Fauchon & levy.