Robert Le Masurier

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Sir Robert sitting in the States

Sir Robert Le Masurier - Bailiff of Jersey 1962-1975

The formal procession to the Town Church after the swearing-in of Robert Le Masurier as Bailiff

Robert Hugh Le Masurier became Bailiff in 1962, just a few months after being appointed Deputy Bailiff, on the untimely death of his predecessor, Cecil Harrison. He was a popular holder of the office, recognised for the clarity of his Court judgments and his sense of humour.

The son of a solicitor, he was born in 1913 and educated at Victoria College, and Pembroke College, Oxford. He began his legal career in 1938 as an Advocate of the Royal Court, but this was interrupted naval service in the Second World War.

He was involved in an abortive attempt to land in Jersey during the German Occupation to gain information about the strength of the occupying German forces. The torpedo boat used to bring him to the island was delayed while dropping off men to land in Guernsey, and the impending daylight forced it to return to England with Le Masurier still on board.

He resumed private practice after the war, becoming Solicitor-General in 1955, and then Attorney-General in 1958. He had only held this post for three years when he was persuaded by the Bailiff, Lord Coutanche to take on the role of Lieut-Bailiff to support him during the illness of Cecil Harrison. Lord Coutanche wrote in his memoirs:

"I should be less than frank if I did not say that Bob Le Masurier was very reluctant to fall in with my wishes. He was a very new Attorney-General and a comparatively new Law Officer. He had every right to look forward to many years of being a Law Officer, something that most people enjoy. However, when it was put to him by General Erskine and by me, he accepted what he felt to be his duty, if that was our wish and if the Island wished it, which I assured him was certainly the position."

Sir Robert succeeded Cecil Harrison as Deputy Bailiff at the end of 1961, and a few months later on Harrison's death, he was catapulted into the office of Bailiff at the age of just 49. He retired in 1974 and lived in retirement until 1996.

He married Helen Sheringham in 1941 and they had one son and two daughters.

Humour

Sir Robert's court was, as far as was compatible with the serious nature of the business transacted there, a cheerful one. He was renowned for his sense of humour. Jerripedia administrator Mike Bisson recalls an occasion when he was covering a Friday afternoon court as a young reporter at the Jersey Evening Post:

"The beginning of Friday afternoon's sitting was always chaotic, with dozens of lawyers and their clients crowded into the benches and the aisles waiting to pass contracts for the sale of properties. Sometimes it was extremely difficult for the Bailiff to make himself heard above the general hubbub and for he and the Jurats to identify the group, or sometimes groups, of people concerned with a particular contract and to ensure that they all appreciated that their moment had arrived and that they understood what was happening. On one particularly busy and chaotic afternoon proceedings ground to a temporary standstill as Sir Robert struggled to make himself heard and called once again for silence. Then a voice boomed from somewhere on the floor of the court. It was Advocate Peter Giffard, a man renowned for frequent use of strong language, calling out:'This is (expletive) ridiculous'. Everyone had heard and sections of the courtroom tittered, while those who on the advocate's benches who recognised the voice of their colleague laughed loudly. Sir Robert's response instantly defused the situation and restored order:'Are you addressing the Court, Advocate Giffard?', he inquired, to the instant amusement of the whole courtroom, which then fell silent.
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