ALISON Opfermann became the Island’s first Jurat to pledge her allegiance to King Charles III at a swearing-in before the Royal Court yesterday.
Mrs Opfermann was chosen by the electoral college on 1 December to replace Jurat Pam Pitman, who stood down after six years’ service, the first Jurat to retire under law changes approved earlier this year.
In a contested election last week, charity volunteer Mrs Opfermann pipped lawyer Alison Brown by 35 votes to 19 in a third round of voting after the two other candidates – Mary O’Keefe and Jane Pollard – had been eliminated in successive counts.
Before the full court, Mrs Opfermann took the historic oath of office for what the Bailiff, Sir Timothy Le Cocq, described as ‘the pinnacle of honorary office’ to become part of a judicial system which he said was the envy of many jurisdictions.
Drawing attention to Jurat Opfermann’s extensive service as a volunteer – leading the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal since 2019 and serving on the St John Ambulance appeals committee – and to her linguistic fluency in French and German, Sir Timothy said that she was a worthy successor to Jurat Pitman, whose educational background, he explained, had brought compassion and understanding to the role.
The Bailiff welcomed Jurat Opfermann’s family to court and also drew attention to the presence for the first time at such a swearing-in of the Lieutenant-Governor, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, and his wife, Karen.
Solicitor General Matthew Jowitt summarised the results of the electoral college’s deliberations before Mrs Opfermann – as she was before she accepted her red robe following the swearing-in – was accompanied into court by Viscount Advocate Matthew Swan to participate in the ceremony that she later remarked in her speech to the court had been conducted in similar fashion for centuries. It was possible, she said, to visualise an unbroken chain of Jurats passing their experience and wisdom from one generation to the next.
That ceremony involved not only the legal formality of the oath of office but also the informal congratulations of the full court – Jurat Opfermann shook the hand of the Bailiff and the Lieutenant-Governor before passing the bench of serving Jurats to receive the congratulation of each member in order of seniority. Finally, she was approached by the Solicitor General and the Viscount, and representatives of the legal profession.
Jurat Opfermann expressed her thanks to her proposer, Advocate Nuno Santos-Costa, and her seconder, Constable Karen Shenton-Stone, both of whom were present in court for the ceremony, her fellow candidates and her family: husband Christoph and her two sons Philip and Nicholas – the Opfermen, as she described them.
Describing her family’s connections to Jersey, Jurat Opfermann told the court how, although they had started life elsewhere and had moved here, they had come to love the Island, as she did following her arrival in 1967 with her brother, parents and Canadian grandparents.
Touching on her mother’s involvement in the Royal British Legion, she said: ‘Service and volunteering have been a way of life in my family for generations, so I plan to continue the tradition.’
Jurat Opfermann’s election is the first of three that will take place between now and April next year.