Wasting the Court's time in Guernsey French: folles adjonctions, June 1826

Frivolous actions for defamation, from the Gazette de Guernesey of June 24, 1826. The newspapers liked to print letters and other examples of Guernsey French, but even the French language newspapers such as the Gazette often seemed to be scoffing at the 'rustics' of the country parishes: these antagonists were from the Forest.

An explanation of the nature of une cause en adjonction, usually a private civil (mixte) action for libel or assault seeking compensation, and the proceedings it entailed can be found in the Second Report of the Commissioners &c., 1848, pp. 187 ff., in the Library. It was worth pursuing as a successful prosecution resulted in the awarding of damages. The Crown lawyers had the exclusive right of pleading in these cases, one for the plaintiff, the other for the defendant. Advocates Peter Le Cocq and John Jeremie, who objected to the exclusion of advocates from these proceedings, had complained to the Privy Council, but in a judgment of 6th July 1809 the Council had merely passed the matter back to the Royal Court. Eventually in 1821 it had ruled definitively on the matter, that the Procureur and Comptrolleur should retain their exclusive rights, but that they should be encouraged to employ an advocate to plead for them. The Star of December 22nd, 1836, discusses these sorts of cases at length, pointing out that the representation of both sides as la partie publique, by virtue of both being represented by Crown Officers, had degenerated into an abuse of the system.

If a married woman was accused of defamation, her husband came before the court, as he had responsibility for his wife. Husbands can often be found agreeing with the plaintiff. The husband also had to undertake on his wife’s behalf that she would be bound over not to repeat the defamation, and persuade her to make the apology that automatically followed a guilty verdict, and which was published in the local newspaper. Unfortunately for the husband, the wife would not always do as she was told!


Sieur James Gavet actioned Sieur Jean Guille of the Forest, as representative of his wife, who was accused of having last 5th or 6th January called Sieur Gavet a thief (voleur), accusing him of having caused her tea to be impounded and telling him that, in her and other people's opinion, informers are no better than rogues.

Four witnesses, out of the five called by the plaintiff, demanded to be paid a shilling for the day, as the law says, and this was paid to them, or at least offered, and they then gave the following evidence:

George Dodd, Sieur Gavet’s servant:

'J’etois à pu-près le 5 ou 6 d’Janvier drain à travailler dans un courti du sr. James Gavet, et j’ouïs la femme du sr. Jean Guille criai, Sieur Jean! Sieur Jean! Allon vée un Grec! (criant au sr. J. Du Four), après chunna a dit au sr. James Gavet, je ne fais pas pu de cas d’un delateux qu d’un voleux, et a l’y die qu’il eroit du thez a bouan marchi, su qui le sr. Gavet s’mie à dire vère, si vou v’nai m’payer chuc vou m’devai.'

[Last 5 or 6 January or so, I was working in one of Mr Gavet's fields, when I heard Mrs John Guille shout (to Mr John du Four), "Mr John! Mr John! Come and meet a Greek! Then she said to Mr James Gavet, "A snitch is as bad as a thief as far as I am concerned, and you'll be getting some tea cheap now", to which Mr Gavet replied, "You're right, if you're going to pay me what you owe me."]

Sr. Jean Du Four: 'J’etois à travailler ove l’sr Jean Guille, et j’entendis le sr. Gavet criai: j’leron!—j’leron! L’affaire va bien, il y en a qui s’conte chrétiens qui n’y sont pas! La femme du sr. Guille vint un jour sie s’elle com’ j’yettois, a l’te bien effraie et m’die qu’a l’avoit rencontrai Gavet qui s’etoit aperchi d’elle, et ya’voit r’gardai sous s’en chapé, qu’a pensé qui s’en alloit la battre, et qui lie die connie-tu Jean Guille et Ch. Allez qui s’grie en grec pour allai volai les gens?'

[I was working with Mr John Guille, and I heard Mr Gavet shout, 'I will have him! I will have him! It comes to something, when there are people who call themselves Christians when they are obviously not.' Mrs Guille turned up one day when I was there and she was really scared, and told me that she had met Gavet, who had come up to her and stared at her threateningly, and she though he was going to attack her, and had said to her, "Do you know that thieving pair of Greeks, John Guille and Charles Allez?"]

Madame Le Lacheur: 'J’vou declare positivement, Messius, que j’napperchi pas d’lendré en question, chu jour la j’étois a St Pierre; je n’y étois ni ouïe ni veux, j’n’vis qu’la Betsi Guille chu jour la, et vous le savai, sr. Gimmin, a l’equittai d’vote conscienche.'

[I swear to you, Gentlemen, that I was nowhere near the place in question, that day I was at St Peter's; I didn't hear or see anything, I only saw Betsy Guille that day, and you know perfectly well, Mr Jimmy-my-lad, that you should rightly let this go.]

Marie Williams: 'Messius, je ny connie rien.' [I know nothing about it, Gentlemen.]

Dame Marie Le Lacheur, s’adressant au sr. Gavet: 'Je sie surprise que vous m’actionnai à venir en Cour, vous savai bien que j’ne connie rien dans vos querelles, mais un jour Madame Guille me die que vous l’avéte bien effraie en v’nant d’la ville, et v’la tout chu que j’en sai.' (Ici elle depose comme le sr. Du Four au sujet des grecs.)

[I am shocked you called me as a witness, you know perfectly well I've got no idea what's going on between you two, but one day Mrs Guille did tell me that you had put the fear of God into her on the way from Town, and that's all I know about it. (She repeated what Mr Du Four had said about Greeks.)]

The Court, having heard the Comptroller speak on behalf of the plaintiff, and the Procureur and Advocate MacCulloch for the defence, ruled that Sieur Gavet had brought a frivolous action and was liable for costs. [From the French.]


Sr. Pierre de la Mare, of Mount Durand, accused Margueritte Brouard of having claimed that he had murdered Jean Bro[u]a[r]d; that he used a skeleton key to gain entrance to their rooms, and other similar slanders. These slanders were not proved; the parties had quarrelled; as for the keys, only one witness had actually given corroborating evidence, the others saying that Mr Brouard had simply said 'that Sr. de la Mare’s keys could open ses appartements (the door to his rooms)'. A witness reported that the plaintiff was in the habit of throwing filth out of his window onto the defendant's merchandise, and that he had previously shaken his fist at her.

The Court, after having heard the plaintiff, the Procureur, and the Comptroller, declared that Sieur de da Mare had brought a folle adjonction and should pay costs. [From the French.]

A very rare book in the Library collection, Samuel Elliott Hoskin's arch A Sarnian Glance at 1826, comments upon this case, and tells us that Mr de la Mare used to throw dirty water down onto Mrs Brouard's fish (she sold cod, apparently). (See Gazette de Guernesey 4th August 1810; Jean Brouard is accused of informing to customs about smuggled Tea; John Brouard of Mount Durand sells good cheap vinegar and cider-vinegar.)

See also 22 July, Clothilde Briant, wife of Jean-Nicolas Le Bair, actioned Aimable Ferre for slander. Folle adjonction, and The Comet of November 24, 1834 for the amusing case of Bradley/Robinson v. Almond/Rundell.

Thanks to Jan Marquis.