Bailiff licensing public entertainment

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The Bailiff of Jersey has a variety of functions, the most important being his presidency of the States and the Royal Court.

One of the strangest, and least wanted by modern Bailiffs, is the licensing of public entertainment.

By permission

Every concert, fete, performance of a play and film at a cinema, among other forms of entertaiment, requires the Bailiff’s permit. Advertisements for such activities still carry the heading “By permission of the Bailiff”.

This requirement goes back to 14 November 1778 when the States passed an Act forbidding the presentation of any theatrical performance for money without permission having been received in advance from the Bailiff and Royal Court. Failure to seek this permission would invoke a fine, half paid to the Crown and half to the General Hospital.

In recent times the growth in forms of public entertainment has meant that the Royal Court is no longer involved in decisions, the function being exercised on the Bailiff’s behalf through his Chambers. But the Bailiff of the day remained the ultimate arbiter on what was deemed to be suitable entertainment for the public of the island.

Controversial decisions

This has led to some controversial decisions over the years, notably when the Bailiff has refused to sanction the showing of a film which has already been sanctioned by the British Board of Film Censors or the staging of a play which has been performed elsewhere.

In the late 20th century, in the wake of some particularly controversial decisions, a panel was created to advise the Bailiff on any potentially controversial decisions, but the Bailiff has not been able to divest himself completely of what is viewed by many as an unnecessaryfunction in the 21st century.

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