Peter Crill

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Bailiff of Jersey 1985-1995
Sir Peter Crill


Peter Crill when Attorney-General

Escape from occupied Jersey

As a young man Peter Leslie Crill was one of the few people who successfully escaped from Jersey during the German Occupation. With two friends he retrieved the family’s dinghy from store, hiding it while it was made seaworthy. They set out at 8.15 pm at the end of the first week in November 1944, choosing a place where they knew the nearest German guard was at least 100 metres away. The danger was that if they failed to get far enough out to sea, they would simply be carried round the island by the tide and spotted at daylight.

Rowing out through a heavy swell until they could safely start the engine, they soon had to stop, to go to the aid of a second boat behind them. When the engine would not restart, they put up a small sail, but lost the compass in a squall an hour later. With the sea too rough to sail, they allowed the boat to drift, feeling thoroughly seasick after years ashore. Soon after dawn the tide began to carry them away from land. Finally they restarted the motor and landed safely at Agon-Coutainville near Coutances.

Two first-person accounts of the escape


He later followed a legal career, being called to the Jersey Bar in 1949. He then entered politics, first being elected to the States of Jersey as a Deputy for Saint Clement in 1951, and then being elected as a Senator in 1960.

He gave up politics in 1962 to become Solicitor-General, rising to become Deputy Bailiff in 1974 and then succeeding Sir Frank Ereaut as Bailiff in 1986. As Bailiff he was involved in the controversial sacking of the Deputy Bailiff Vernon Tomes.

Following his retirement in 1995 he was active in organizations promoting the culture of Jersey, including La Société Jersiaise and the Jersey Arts Centre. His activities in latter years were curtailed by the onset of motor neurone disease.

An autobiography was published posthumously, entitled "A Little Brief Authority".

Personal recollection

Jerripedia editor Mike Bisson was editor and then managing director of the Jersey Evening Post during Sir Peter Crill's term as Bailiff and has fond memories of his dealings with him, official and unofficial.

'I first encountered Peter, as I came to known him, in the Royal Court one day in 1970 when I was a very junior reporter and he was Attorney-General. At the conclusion of a very boring case I was told by the Court Usher that Mr Crill wished to speak to me. I hurried across the Court from the Press bench wondering what misdemeanour I could possibly have committed. I should not have worried: "Will your mother-in-law have any turkeys available at Christmas?" was all he wanted to know of me.
In later years I became used to being addressed by the then Sir Peter in three different ways in letters or phone calls. If the familiar voice called 'Hello Mike' I knew that all was well. If the greeting was 'Mr Bisson' it was likely to be the prelude to something more formal. If I was addressed as 'Mr Editor in a letter from the Bailiff' I knew that something had upset him. I'm pleased to say that whatever the introduction to our conversations, they invariably ended with 'thank you Mike'.
There is also a lovely story of the time when my predecessor as editor, Mike Rumfitt, was invited to dinner at the Crill home on the occasion of a visit by a prominent Fleet Street journalist - sufficiently prominent that Sir Peter did not want to be seen with him in a public restaurant, but thought it appropriate to entertain him at home. Lady Crill was away at the time, so Sir Peter thought it appropriate to invite the doyen of Jersey's press to join in the dinner.
Sir Peter was cooking the dinner himself when the door bell rang. 'That will be him, would you let him in please, Mike', said Sir Peter. The journalist, whose name I cannot recall, was, indeed, on the doorstep and introduced himself saying :"You must be his butler; Sir Peter is expecting me". I recall that the evening went very well after that.

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Bailiffs of Jersey
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Sir Frank Ereaut
Sir Peter Crill
Sir Philip Bailhache
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