THE most southerly of the British Isles, the Channel Islands should logically belong to France but owe allegiance to the Queen, while remaining fiercely independent.
They are not part of the British mainland’s political system, but maintain links through the Home Office. Their economies are strong in banking, investment management and insurance. As offshore finance centres of repute, they benefit from strict internal regulation and the ability to move swiftly in highly competitive markets.
Guernsey has an area of only 24.3 square miles and a population of nearly 59,807 (2001 census). The population grew rapidly through most of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, but at the last census in 1996 it had fallen by nearly 200. The island is governed by the States of Guernsey.
Known as ‘Sarnia’ to the Romans, Guernsey was once a part of Normandy, as were the other Channel Islands. This changed in the early 13th century. In the 15th century Guernsey, Sark and Alderney were placed under the control of a Governor, a role which later became the Lieutenant Governor, a post that still exists to this day.
The island’s Royal Court is presided over by The Bailiff, who is also president of Guernsey’s legislative body, the States of Deliberation. In recent years this dual role has been questioned and change is possible in the future. There is no trial by jury in Guernsey, instead a group of 12 Jurats, elected by the States of Election, sit in judgment on serious cases. Lesser matters are handled by the Magistrate’s Court, overseen by a single Magistrate.
The island’s main income is derived from its flourishing finance industry – Guernsey is an attractive destination thanks to the low rate of taxes and other advantages offered to companies wishing to set up offshore offices.
Tourism and flower growing provide a second and third leg to the economy, although these industries are some way behind finance in terms of the income they generate.
Efforts continue to be made to woo visitors, and once here the island has a lot to offer. From the spectacular coastal scenery in the south, to the beautiful clean and sandy beaches of the west. It’s also possible to enjoy day trips to the neighbouring islands of Herm and Sark.