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Honorary police - "best kept secret in criminal justice in the northern hemisphere"

Honorary police -

Friday 02 September 2016

Honorary police - "best kept secret in criminal justice in the northern hemisphere"

Friday 02 September 2016


In the final part of our three interviews with Jersey Police Chief Mike Bowron, we reveal his admiration for the system of charging alleged criminals in the Island, which he once thought was an “oddity,” but now believes it is the blueprint for good policing.

Mr Bowron also says the parish-based honorary police are responsible for one of the lowest crime levels in the UK.

The police chief says the age-old system of using laymen - Centeniers - to charge defendants is a superb example of localisation. 

He said: “When I first came here I thought it was an oddity, but now I think it is the best kept secret in criminal justice in the northern hemisphere. The beauty of the honorary system and the traditions that we have got is that you are judged by your peers and locals and by and large you are dealt with locally. It is a brilliant, simple system. 

“The charging system doesn’t unduly worry me, whether it is a CPS lawyer, a grizzled old sergeant, or a Centenier. It makes no difference to me as long as it is consistent and professionally done. I have absolutely no issue with the charging system as it stands here because it works. It is local, appropriate and it is very quickly done and dusted.

“I don’t believe you need a whole load of legal qualifications to see if someone is worthy of being charged or not. It is straight forward. Should we charge this person and put him or her in front of a court of law? Yes or no. 

“If there was a Centenier who was only charging people who were then found guilty 100% of the time, frankly, we would challenge that. But the Centeniers get trained very well and I have never had one instance in six years of working here where I can say I’ve had a problem with the system. Not one. 

“The traditional system we have got here works for Jersey. If I was going to re-invent the charging system somewhere else I would say, let’s go and have a look at how they do it in Jersey. I think it is brilliant.”

Ditto, Mr Bowron is a fervent supporter of the honorary police system, which he says helps to bring down crime figures, both amongst adults and youngsters. 

He said: “If you take youth crime in Jersey, ask yourself why is it so low? That’s because we try and divert kids away from the criminal justice system. We try and educate them, keep them within the parish system and that’s why our youth crime figures are phenomenally low. 

“We don’t take any nonsense. We tell kids what the boundaries are and what will happen to them if they go over those boundaries.  

“On paper there are more honorary policeman than us, but the relationship has never been stronger and we work hand in glove with them.”   

'Keep it simple' is Mr Bowron’s mantra and although crime figures have declined every year since he took office in 2010, he insists there are other factors when it comes to providing a public service.  

“I don’t want to be measured by crime figures alone. I think public confidence in the police is so important. 

“A lowering crime rate does generate confidence, but it not just about catching villains. Far too many people in policing make it complicated. What I have known in my years of policing is to keep it simple. That, in my experience is always the most fruitful way.” 

Mr Bowron has served the community for many years, but his retirement date is already pencilled in. 

“I came here six years ago and recently I was voted in unopposed for another four years, which means the public are lumbered with me until January 4th 2021. 

“I am now the longest servicing chief of police in Great Britain and in my 37th year of policing. When you see those fuzzy old pictures of the miner’s strike in 1984, I was there. When you see pictures of the Brighton bombing in 1983, I was there. When you see the pictures of the London bombings in 2007, I was there. I was at the bombing at Aldgate East. 

“I think my wife deserves a life without policing and there are other things I’d like to do. I’ll be 63 by then. But I love my job and I genuinely love the people I work with.”

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