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The Judicial History Of Seychelles

1courtBy Tony Mathiot

IN 1756, France took possession of the Seychelles and in 1778, when the French created the first settlement of L’Etablissement du Roi on Mahé, the laws of the Code Noir was in force throughout the archipelago of the Seychelles. This was a decree passed by Louis XVI (1643-1718) of France in 1685 to establish the conditions of slavery in the French Colonial Empire. In 60 articles, the document aimed to provide a legal framework for slavery and to define a protocol governing the conditions of colonial inhabitants. It explicitly legitimized corporeal punishment and the death sentence for slaves who had absolutely no rights. The laws promulgated by the King of France were also in force.

On the 30th July of 1787, Francois Viscount of Souillac (1732-1803) and Augustin Montais de Narbonne (1747-1847), two successive commandants of Seychelles which was then subordinated to Ile de France (Mauritius), enacted a law containing thirty articles in order to regulate and control the economic, social and property organization of Seychelles. Article 1 of this law stated that land concessions or the authorization to cultivate land in Seychelles could only be accorded by the Governor and the Intendant of Ile de France (Mauritius) and Bourbon (Reunion). The total population of the Seychelles at that time was approximately 160 inhabitants including about 125 slaves.

2courtThe euphoria of the incipient French Revolution (1789-1799) spread throughout the French Colonial Empire to such an extent that on the 9th June 1790, a group of ten inhabitants established a Colonial Assembly to abolish the law of 30th July 1787 and consequently to make Seychelles independent from the administrative authority of Mauritius.

On the 1st August of 1791, the French flag was unfurled on Seychelles soil.


Extract of court proceeding pertaining to the trial of Pompée

On the 9th September of 1793, Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy (1748-1827) arrived in Seychelles to take up the post of Commandant. That same year, an old law of 1670 by which criminal affairs were judged was repealed. However, there was no court or a legal system in the country since the existence of the Code Noir already gave the French plantation owners’ disciplinary power over their slaves and the Commandant had the sole authority to adjudicate on civil and criminal offences in conformity with the edicts of the Colonial Assembly of Ile de France.

On the 17th May of 1794, the first capitulation of Seychelles to the British took place. On the 21st March of 1804, the French Civil Code, also known as the Napoleonic Code came into force. This law, together with the code of civil procedure in 1806, and the commercial code in 1807 was modified and adopted to the legal needs of the mascareign islands by Captain General Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen (1769-1832), the Governor of Mauritius from 1803 to 1810. This became known as Code Decaen.

In an attempt to establish criminal justice in Seychelles, at the instigation of the colonialists, on the 30th December of 1809, Quéau de Quincy requested permission from the Commissary of Justice of Ile de France to execute slaves who have been condemned to death. Early in 1807, he had inquired about specific laws regarding justice in Seychelles and the establishment of a Tribunal of Peace. On the 12th March of 1810 a law came into force which established a Special Tribunal to be consisted of a Commandant, a ‘Premier Suppleant’ and four notables.


French Civil Code-Source:

Shortly after, the first death sentence took place in the Seychelles. On the 28th July of 1810, a slave named Pompée was burnt to death for the assassination of a white overseer named Pierre-Michel Isnard.

This was the only execution that ever took place in Seychelles during the French Administration that ended on the 21st April of 1811when the first British Commissioner, Bartholomew Sullivan was appointed. However, the French judicial system was retained even after the 30th May of 1814 when the Treaty of Paris had ceded Seychelles to Britain. The colony of Seychelles was ruled as a Dependency of Mauritius which Britain had taken possession of on the 3rd September of 1810. On the 18th of March of 1812, De Quincy was appointed Juge de Paix by the Governor of Mauritius Robert Farquhar, a post he would hold until his death in 1827. In fact, for many decades, the civil agent or Chief Civil Commissioner of the Seychelles was appointed by the Governor of Mauritius. The administration of the Dependency was based on Regulations issued by the Governor of Mauritius to the Chief Civil Commissioner of Seychelles who then, by proclamation 5courtpromulgated the Regulations which then became law. Any amendments or alterations that needed to be made to these regulations were deliberated upon by the Board of Civil commissioners, which were appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. However, some specific regulations that were passed by the Board of Civil Commissioners had to be ratified by the Governor of Mauritius. These became law after they have been published in the Government gazette.

It is legitimate to assume that during the early 1800’s. The administration of Justice was mainly in regard to the Parliamentary Resolution of 15thMay of 1823. This was put into effect by the melioration laws of the slave Order that the governor of Mauritius Sir Charles Colville (1770-1843) issued, rather belatedly on 21st November of 1831 to implement slave reforms. This addressed slave marriage, slave labour and the ownership of property.

In April of 1831, the Mauritius Charter of Justice came into force. This authorized the governor, inter alia to established petty court in any of the dependencies of Mauritius, and to extend or limit their power.

With the Emancipation Act of 1833, followed by the abolition of slavery in 1835, Seychelles was ever more in need of a system of Justice to effect legal procedures, since social consequences pertaining to the freedom of over six thousand slaves in Seychelles were not negligible. There was a Registrar of slaves and a protector of slaves. There was a stipendiary Magistrate. The Chief Police officer was also the Public Prosecutor. In 1833, M. Devillaine occupied the post.

In 1843, a court was established in Seychelles by the Mauritian Ordinance no13 of 1840. Its constitution gave the Juge de Paix a jurisdiction tantamount to that of the District magistrate in Mauritius. At around that same time, there was a newly established police force in the Dependency.   This consisted of: one police officer, one brigadier, two under brigadiers, five 1st class guards, eight 2nd   class 6courtguards and 6 3rd class guards. Three guards were attached to the stipendiary magistrate, who had to reside near the town. The main infractions of the law were larcenies of coconuts and vagrancy.

The stipendiary Magistrate acted as the suppleant (Deputy Judge) and Assistant Judge.

In 1853, a District court was established in Seychelles. The title of Public prosecutor was known as ‘Procureur General’.

In the event of the Chief Civil Commissioner’s absence from Seychelles, or owing to incapacity through illness, or upon his death while in office, the District Judge was appointed Acting Chief Civil Commissioner by the Governor of Mauritius, to administer the Government of the Seychelles.

By an order in Council of 22nd April 1872, a Board of Civil Commissioners for “the Seychelles Islands was constituted and empowered to make regulations for the peace, order and good government of the islands”. In 1874, this Board was enlarged. In 1882, it was further enlarged.

At that time, the criminal law in use in Seychelles was the Penal Code enforced by Mauritian Ordinance No.6 of 1838, which was of course had been modified and amended by various subsequent enactments. Since Seychelles was a dependency of Mauritius, in addition to local legislation made by the Board of Civil Commissioners, various ordinances passed by the council of Government of Mauritius had the force of law in Seychelles Islands. The Seychelles Government Gazette of 7th April of 1883 informed the public that 17 of such ordinances had became law.

courtIn 1889, the office of the Chief Commissioner was abolished to be replaced by that of the Administrator who was accorded with all the powers of the Governor of Mauritius except the power of pardoning persons sentenced to death. An executive Council and a Legislative Council were established. Notwithstanding the fact that that Administrator could, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council make laws for Seychelles, the power of Legislature of Mauritius to legislate for Seychelles prevailed. In fact, since 1874, expenses of trials of Seychellois in Mauritius courts were borne by the Government of Mauritius. This applied mainly to the trial of capital offences. It was not possible to obtain a good jury because the number of persons understanding sufficient English to sit on a jury was very small, and it would happen that the same jury would sit on every case. Moreover the District Judge who conducted the preliminary inquiry also presided at the trial.

9courtMoreover, every ordinance passed by the Legislative Council of Seychelles had to be transmitted by the Administrator to the Governor of Mauritius for his instructions there on. The Administrator, in accordance with such instructions could signify his assent to or dissent from such ordinance, but subjected always to the final approval of her Majesty.

In 1889, the District Court became the Court of Seychelles, the District Judge became the Judge of Seychelles and the District Clerk of the said court became the Registrar of the Court of Seychelles.

In 1889, the Administrator was Thomas Risely Griffith (     ). The judge was Richard Myles Brown (   ) and R.M. Rannards was the Registrar. The notary public to the Government of Seychelles was James 10courtOsmin Seddon. The Judge was also the Stipendiary Magistrate.

8courtIt appears that during the last decade of the 19th century, the evolution of the judicial establishment in Seychelles necessitated many enactments in order to render the administration of justice more efficient in commensurate with the increasing number of court cases.

In 1890, the Registrar of the court was invested with the power to receive information and affidavits upon oath and to sign summons to parties charged and subpoenas to witnesses on the criminal side. In 1899, the Registrar was empowered to issue search warrants and warrants of arrest on behalf of the judge, and subsesquent enactments accorded him also jurisdiction in stipendiary cases. In 1890, Notaries practicing in Seychelles were compelled to comply to an old law of 1776 as to keeping and transmitting for record, duplicate minutes of their deeds, by the enactment of an ordinance that provided “for the custody of such minutes and for the transcription of certain deeds”. The following year, legislation stipulated that no person could be admitted to practice as Attorney in Seychelles unless he had been previously admitted to practice in the Superior Courts of Great Britain, Ireland or in the Supreme Court of Mauritius, and until he furnished security to the amount of Ten Thousand Rupees.

11court12courtIn 1898, two judicial establishments were created. These were a Police Court and the Office of Crown Prosecutor. The former was a Court of Criminal Juridiction in the charge of a Police Magistrate who was empowered to make criminal inquiries into capital offences and to commit any person or persons fro trial before the Court of Assize, and the latter was empowered to conduct criminal investigations and to institute prosecution before the Court of Assize based on his own information that did not have to be on oath. Such was the state of the judicial department that in 1899, the Crown Prosecutor was also the Police Magistrate. Furcy Alfred Herchenroder (1865-1968) discharged both duties. The Crown prosecutor was appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

During that particular period, it became evident that certain formalities enacted in the past to regulate the modus operandi of the court had to be dispensed with to render the administration of justice more efficient, regarding especially the trial of capital offences. An order of council of 1892 required that the examination and depositions should be transmitted to the Procurer General of Mauritius who had the responsibility to decide whether the prisoner should be put upon his trial for the capital offence, where upon he sent to the Judge signed documents. Until such information was received, no trial could take place. Where these formalities were enforced, there was regular monthly stream communication with Mauritius, but by 1899 there was no direct communications with Mauritius. Consequently, this caused considerable frustrations for both the court and prisoner.

13courtIn 1901, the administrator, Ernest Bickham Sweet Escott made provisions for the administration of summary justice in Seychelles Islands by appointing Justices of the Peace for the districts of Seychelles. Justices of the Peace did not need to have legal qualifications of any kind and had only jurisdiction to try minor criminal offences under the penal code, the maximum punishment for which was one month’s hard labour and Rs100/- fine.

In 1902, additional powers were given to the officer appointed to look after the outlaying islands. His title was changed from Justice of the Peace to Visiting Magistrate. His jurisdiction encompassed the enforcement of all contracts of service and the right to impose penalties for the breach or neglect of such contracts and to ensure that proper medicines or proper house accommodation is duly provided to the servants.

It was in 1903 when Seychelles was erected into a separate colony that the Judicial Establishment saw its major transformation. The Seychelles Judicature Order in Council 1903, created the Supreme Court of Seychelles. The court consisted of one Judge who was the Chief Justice of the Court. Appeal cases with final judgments of the court in civil matters were transferred to the Supreme Court of Mauritius. This applied also to convictions with penalties that exceeded two years imprisonment or Two thousand Rupees fine, but provided that the ground of such appeals were based upon erroneous applications of the law.

14courtThe Seychelles Capital Offences Order in Council 1903, provided that capital offences should be tried and sentences of death executed in the Seychelles islands. Section 116 stated that: Every prisoner sentenced to death shall when execution is assented to and ordered in accordance with provisions of this order be hanged by the neck until he be dead. The most notable of the application of the death penalty was in 1935, when on Saturday 4th of May; three men were hanged at 30 minutes interval for the assassination of a Chinese merchant on the 23rd 15courtJanuary of 1935.

In 1938, the Justice Authority felt that there was an absolute necessity to establish a Coroner’s Court in order that an inquest could be conducted on all deaths of a suspicious nature. The establishment of this Coroner’s Court was not upon the amendment of a specific ordinance. Two ordinances had to be amended: The Police Court Ordinance, 1914 and the Civil Status Ordinance, 1893 to include provision for a post-mortem examination to be carried out in the case of death due to unknown causes. The amended ordinances no. 21 and no. 22 respectively were published in Gazette No.63 of 31st December 1938.

The 1940’s brought gradual changes and progress in the administration of the colony’s Judicial Department. In the light of the population which had reached over 30,000 inhabitants and the 16courtfact that criminality was on the rise, it was obvious to the colonial authorities that the Legal jurisdiction of the court should maximize its application in all aspects. This was achieved by the enactments of various ordinances which established procedural methods for the courts to implement in the execution of justice.

In 1944, the Jurisdiction of the Justices of the peace was further extended, including the power to make inquiries into capital offenses. In 1945, laws were enforced regarding the admittance of colonial barristers and attorneys to practice before the Supreme Court of the colony. Thus, ordinance no.5 of 1923 was amended, and amended again in 1947.

17courtIn 1945, the Seychelles code of civil procedure 1919 was amended to make the crown prosecutor the defendant in a lawsuit instituted by the claimant against the colonial government of Seychelles. Rigorous procedures were established for the publication of revised reprints of written laws. However, as of 22nd December of 1947 the official designation of crown prosecutor became “Attorney-General” and the Assistant Legal Adviser General became “Assistant Attorney-General” .In 1948, a Registrar General for the colony was appointed and there was also the establishment of an official Notary to the Government of Seychelles. The most significant ordinance that was enacted during 18courtthat year was “An ordinance to make provision for Local Government in the colony of Seychelles” which came into force on 27th September of 1948. It provided for the creation of District councils with administrative limited and the power to make by-laws. This ordinance was drafted by the Attorney General Charles Evariste Collet.

By 1948, the courts had been re-organised so that the Supreme Court tried crimes where as the Police Court dealt with contraventions and misdemeanors. There was no appeal in criminal cases.

Araft Legislation was under consideration to enable the East African court of Appeal to receive such cases in the interests of Justice. The Appellate court of Mauritius dealt with civil cases from the Supreme Court.

Later, in 1950, one of the oldest of Mauritius ordinances still in use (no.19 of 1856) was amended. This applied mainly to the Table of Fees receivable by Notaries. Earlier in May, 63 obsolete enactments had been repealed: 13 Mauritius laws and 15 Seychelles Ordinances.

On the 15th January of 1951, the courts ordinance 1950 came into operation containing 234 section; it made provisions for every aspect of the Judicial Establishment.

In 1952, the Judicial Department was allocated the sum of Rs 58,259 for its expenditures from the National Budget of Rs 4,997,241. The monthly salary of the Chief Justice was Rs15, 000. In 1959, Legal Aid was available for criminal cases for the first time. A person charged with a capital offense was entitled to have a barrister or an attorney assigned for the purpose of his/her defense.

The year 1961 saw a landmark in the Legal history of the colony when on the 19th of June an ordinance was passed so as to provide for the trial of capital offenses by Jury. Previously, such offenses were tried by court of assize of Seychelles. By then there were 4 Magistrates courts in the colony: one in Victoria, one at Anse Royale and one at La Digue. In 1961, 2, 988 cases were filed before these various courts, most of which were crimes against property (Thefts, praedial larceny). This number rose in 1964 to reach 4, 616 cases of crime. That was the year when the criminal procedure code was amended ,extending the jurisdiction of a magistrate to impose sentencing of up to one years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000.and allowing him to remit any case to the supreme court for sentencing if he thought his own powers of punishment insufficient.

20court In 1965 the Seychelles court of Appeal was established to hear appeal in criminal cases. In 1966, The Barristers and Attorneys Ordinance was amended to require a person who had been called to the English Bar to complete the post final practical training course conducted by the Council of Legal Education before he could be admitted to practice in Seychelles. A landmark decision was taken in 1966 when capital punishment was abolished. Since 1948 when the last execution had taken place, there had been 7 cases of murder. In 1966, there were 6 cases of murder. From 1966 to 1976, there were 25 cases of murder/manslaughter.

During the next decade the Supreme Court of Seychelles exercised jurisdiction in every type of cases, civil and criminal. Sitting in its appellate jurisdiction, it heard appeals from the magistrates court the Rent Board, the board of income tax commissioners and the Licensing Court. Civil appeals of Mauritius and criminal appeals were dealt with by the Seychelles Court of Appeal in London. The Staff of the Judicial Department consisted of:

  • 1 Chief Justice
  • 1 Judge
  • 1 Senior Magistrate
  • 2 Magistrate
  • 1 Registrar
  • 2 Assistant Registrars
  • 1 Cashier
  • 1 Stenographer
  • 4 Interpreters
  • 3 Clerks
  • 3 Ushers
  • 1 Messenger
  • 1 Driver

21courtA new post of Senior Magistrate was created in 1974. The Senior Magistrate, in the exercise of his criminal jurisdiction had power to pass sentences not exceeding five years imprisonment and fines up to Rs25, 000. The sentencing power of the other magistrates were limited to imprisonment for two years and a fine of Rs10, 000. Mr. Frank Wood was the First Senior Magistrate to be appointed on 25 July 1974.

On the 25th February 1970, Louis George Souyave was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. He was the second Seychellois to occupy that post.

22courtOn the Eve of its Independence, Seychelles accommodated Legislation of outstanding importance and significance. On the 1st January of 1976, the civil code of Seychelles came into force. This new civil code which replaced the French Civil Code of 1804 was prepared by James Aiden O’Brien Quinn; the Attorney General in 1973.On the 22nd June of 1976, the Judiciary ordinance1976 came into force. It prescribed miscellaneous new regulations for the Justice Department, particularly in regard to the number of Puisne Judges (associate judges) that could be admitted to the Supreme Court and qualifications, salary and allowances of a judge.

23courtOn the 29th June of 1976 when Seychelles became a Republic, a new Seychelles Court of Appeal was constituted consisting of a President, 2 Justices of Appeal and the Judges of the Supreme Court as ex-officio members. Appeal to the Privy Council and to the court of Civil Appeal of Mauritius were abolished.

The coup d’etat on 5th June of 1977 occasioned the expulsion of James Aiden O’Brien Quin, who was then Chief Justice, where upon Justice Sauzier assumed the administrative duties of the Chief Justice until the appointment of Earle Edward Seaton (1924-1994) in 1978.

On the 23rd March of 1979, a Presidential decree enacted by President France Albert Rene (1935- ) gave Seychelles a new constitution. This provided for a one-party State government in which the Legislature consisted of a People’s Assembly, and the Judiciary consisted of a Supreme Court and a court of appeal. The Legislative power was vested in the President and the Assembly, thus during the era of the one-party state, the laws of the Second Republic of Seychelles were <Enacted by the President and the People’s Assembly.>

On the 23rd June of 1993, a new constitution came into force, in which the judicial power of Seychelles is vested in a Supreme Court, a court of appeal, and other subordinate courts or tribunals that may be established by legislature.

The Attorney-General and the judges of the Supreme Court are to be appointed by the President from candidates proposed by the Constitution for the 3rd Republic of Seychelles vested the Legislative power of Seychelles in a National Assembly which held its first session on the 14th October of 1993.



Sir Furcy Alfred (1903-1905)

Fury Alfred Herchenroder was born in 1865 at Mauritius. After studying at Royal college, he was called to the Bar of middle temple in 1888 and in 1893 he was appointed crown prosecutor of Mauritius.

He arrived in Seychelles in 1898 during the administration of Henry Cockburn Stewart ( …………….) to occupy the post of crown prosecutor, Legal Adviser, Police Magistrate, conservator of mortgages and Receiver of Registration Dues. He was acting Judge from 16th May to 19th November of 1899. On the 9th November of 1903, when Seychelles was proclaimed a colony, he was appointed the first Chief of Justice of Seychelles. During the short period that he occupied the post, he implemented the laws and regulations of the colony’s penal code with a steadfastness of purpose and sagacity that brought honour and distinction to the Governorship of Ernest Bickham Sweet Escot (……………..). He published a volume of Seychelles Local Laws.

He left Seychelles on 14th May of 1905 for Mauritius where he was appointed procurer General. In 1913, he was appointed Chief Justice of Mauritius, a post he held until he retired in 1929.

He died in 1932, at Paris.

Eric BlackWood Wright (1905-1908)

 Eric BlackWood Wright was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1860.After pursuing law studies in London, he was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple.

He was appointed Chief Justice of Seychelles on 12th May of 1905. During his First tear, he also discharge the functions of Police Magistrate.

During his time as Chief Justice, he presided over 1,549 cases/ most of which were contraventions and offences against the property or the person.

His concern for a reliable Legal system for the Colony induced him to introduce various legal reforms among which were ordinance no.10 of 1908 which abolished the system of unregistered mortgages to prevent fraud and ordinance no.4 of 1908 which permitted accused persons to give evidence.

His pragmatic approach in regard to the administration of justice was evident in the various amendments and modifications that he made to the penal code of 1904. In 1908, he published an English translation of the French Civil Code.

He left Seychelles on 9th May of 1909 when he was transferred to Trinidad where he was appointed Senior Magistrate.

He died in 1940.

Alfred Karney Young (1909-1913)

Alfred Karney Young was born in British Columbia in 1866. He was educated in England and after studying at Magdalene College, Oxford, he was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1889.

His long and distinguished colonial career began in the late 1890’s when he compiled a list of the colony’s laws. He first arrived in Seychelles in 1903 when he was appointed crown prosecutor and magistrate. He compiled a volume of local laws of Seychelles in collaboration with Furcy Alfred Herchenroder, the Chief Justice. He left the colony in 1906 to serve as Attorney-General of the British Central African protectorate. Before returning to Seychelles, he was stipendiary Magistrate in Trinidad.

He was appointed Chief of Justice of Seychelles on 30th May of 1909,and served under two governors Walter Edward Davidson (1859-1923) and Charles Richard Mackey O’Brien (…………..) whom he acted for on two occasions, respectively. Consequently, he assented to various important ordinances that brought a measure of social justice and economic prosperity to the colony.

He left Seychelles in 1913 when he was appointed Attorney-General of Fiji. He was Knighted in 1923.

He died in Tamboerskloof, South Africa in 1942,wher he had been appointed a Resident Magistrate.

Sir Ewen Reginald Logan (1914-1919)

Sir Ewen Reginald Logan was born in Dorset in 1874 in South West of England. After attending charterhouse and Exeter college (BA 1891, MA 1897) He was called to the Bar of Inner Temple in 1899.

After leaving his post of Magistrate of the East African Protectorate (Kenya) he was appointed Chief Justice of the colony of Seychelles on 17th September of 1914. During his tenure, various Defense Regulations and wartime measures were in force in the colony, and in conjunction with a barrister named Alfred Gelle, he drafted a code of Civil procedure for Seychelles. In the absence of Governor Charles Richard Mackey O’Brien (……….) he administered the Government from July 1916 to March 1917 and from May to October 1917.

He left Seychelles in 1919 to take up the post of puisne Judge of the Gold Coast (Accra, Ghana). In 1925, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Bahamas. He was Knighted in 1928.

He died at Bournemouth, England in 1944.

Sir Philip Bertie Petrides (1916-1924)

Sir Philip Bertie Petrides was appointed Chief Justice of the colony of Seychelles on 10th June of 1916, and served under two Governors, Eustace Twistleton-Wykeham Fiennes (1864-1943) and Sir Joseph Aloysius Byrne (1874-1942) previously, he had occupied the post of Legal Adviser and was a member of the Executive Council.

During his long tenure, he was the implementation of various regulations and the enactment of various ordinances such as the enforcement of British Judgments in the colony, and the issuing of passports in the colony.

In 1922, when he was acting Governor, he extended the exile of the Somali deportees. The three deportees who were members of the Watch Tower Society were exiled to Seychelles from 13th September 1919 to 31st August of 1937.

Petrides was transferred to Nyasaland in April of 1924.


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