Wednesday, March 28, 2012


There were a couple of hundred parrots in Royal Court No 2 today. Not actually flying around the room and talking their heads off – but they might as well have been.

Many of them have been on the endangered list for decades - but not so long as the Jersey legal system has been facing extinction. Today, their futures must have looked dismal before dawn – a bad parrot day as they were saying in court - but it’s amazing how the darkest hour brightened up once the lawyers’ cash registers started to ring up a few hours of fees.

Back in October 2009 Martin Fernando was complaining that a helicopter was buzzing his collection of rare species in St John and that several birds died from shock. He blamed his wealthy neighbours then. Presumably they were from the de Zille 11K family – though not named at the time in the JEP – but identified now in Court because the Minister for Health – Deputy Pryke – had been persuaded to invoke her abatement powers under the Jersey Nuisance Law against the noisy parrots.

What was a nuisance? Was it the English meaning that applied in Jersey for these exotic creatures and how about Article 8 Rights under the ECHR for “respect for private and family life”? Everything was very confusing – even the wording of the Jersey Statute defied interpretation.

It was Deputy Bailiff Bailhache (the presiding judge) who raised that rights-issue though he stressed it was Mr Fernando’s rights he had in mind – not the parrots and - and towards the end of this very tiring day he did suggest that strangling the wearisome oiseaux might have been one way of removing the nuisance at little cost.
But the legal argument was very complex on what should have been so simple really.
Does Jersey have its own Jersey law and legal system or not?
It’s a question that has been heard thousands of times since the glorious day (for lawyers) in 1204 when King John lost Normandy and the Channel Islands finished up in a legal no-man’s land.

Since then it has never been clear which law actually applies on so many basic things.
Even with the offence of fraud - as they reminded themselves today - do we follow English interpretations and statutes or rely on obscure Jersey “common law”.

After all, this was vitally important in the finance industry - but some of us had heard it all before in the case of the unfortunate Peter Marriot many years ago. We remembered too how fraud was interpreted then as English on Mondays and Wednesdays but anybody’s guess on market days.

As it turned out, today being Wednesday, it was probably English Statute Law that prevailed but the written judgment has not yet been delivered so we do not know for sure.
Tomorrow it could be Norman law, or “Jersey common law” or Amazon parrot law for all that it matters to Mr Average Joe - now or ever.

Of course, for big Ian and Cyril of the “common law” fan club today’s proceedings would have sounded like the return of the true messiah and “Voisinage” was being bandied about as the true Jersey common law solution – just as it had  been applied to the unfortunate recyclers in the “Reg’s Skips” case of blessed and sacred memory!

Why hadn’t the aggrieved neighbours initiated an action under this bit of Jersey law themselves and why was the Minister becoming a party on the “public’s behalf”?

For the parrots, their best chances for a future seemed to be bound up in yet another international treaty namely CITES but its relevance here today was not clear (Although they do have their own FACEBOOK campaign page.).
Today though, logic was being swamped under endless discussion of yet more international standards on “noise nuisance.” According to WHO (the World Health Organisation of the UN) the range of 45 to 55 decibels was considered relevant. The lack lustre Solicitor General and some Health Department staff reports based upon countless site visits used these standards too but the judge wondered if the parrots were really worse than native crows…

It was a great pity that the parrots could not be allowed to speak for themselves especially since their homes had apparently been bulldozed this very morning in an effort to satisfy the vague abatement notice demands. But it was not even certain if there was any requirement for Mr Fernando to do anything within the 91 days prescribed or whether the 21 days allowed for the appeal stayed any penal sanction being applied. The Solicitor General assured the court that he would not seek any Draconian punishment if the decision went against the appellant, which was nice…especially since it was not clear whether there was a nuisance at all.

In any case, as it was revealed, the affected neighbours had already bought another house in another Parish (Trinity – but not too near the Zoo we in the public seats hoped) and it was only some parts of their garden that was affected. The parrots could not be heard at all from within the house.

Proximity was another issue and the Judge wondered if Crabbé shooting range might be shut if anybody complained to the Health Minister because it interferes with the peaceful enjoyment of their land…and how about moto-cross…?

Jersey would become a very quiet place if this judge’s thoughts prevailed it seemed.

At the end of this day, the latest saviour of our civil rights and the parrot’s protection rested with the Human Rights lawyers’ favourite concept - namely “proportionality.” Was the Ministers decision to issue an abatement notice proportionate?
She was not in court and so did not hear the learned Judge deliver his decision FOR Mr Fernando and the parrots with costs. The full reasoning will follow and the costs are to be discussed but nearby, in de Gruchy’s shop window at the moment is displayed one of only a few surviving skeletons of the extinct  Dodo.
When and where might we similarly display the corpse of Jersey’s law and legal system?

1 comment:

  1. I think Martin should of lost the debate. Those parrots are extremley ennoying and worthless. I live a few houses down and I hear them late at night and very early in the morning. I think Martin Fernando is up to something. Those helicopter pilots were right to do whjat they did!!