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Remote beach and rocky coastline on Sark Island. Source: allard1 / Adobe Stock.

Criminal Element Returns to Sark Island


Sark, the tiny Channel Island with a deeply criminal pirate history is once again “awash” with crooks, according to a police report.

At a mere 2.10 square miles (5.44 square kilometers), with only 500 inhabitants, Sark is part of the Channel Islands in the southwestern English Channel off the coast of NormandyFrance. With its own parliament, as an ancient royal fief, it forms part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and maintains Norman law and an island wide car ban renders only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles for locals to get around.

In 2011 Sark was designated the first ‘Dark Sky Island’ in the world, not to be confused with the first ‘Dark Sky Sanctuary’ which is in Elqui Valley in northern Chile. However, because the entire island is almost free of artificial light pollution this apparently helps both astronomers and criminals, if one reads PC Mike Fawson’s recent police report which describes the island as being “over-run with offenders”.

Ancient Imperial Violence

A report in the Daily Mail says PC Fawson has recommend officers on the island need “batons and pepper spray” to deal with the criminals, many of whom drink and drive, even though cars are banned, in their escalating fight against the increasing number of criminals residing on the once peaceful island.

Some places just seem to attract violence and such is the case for Sark, which was occupied by the Veneti, a Cetic seafaring tribe who inhabited the Brittany peninsula (France) and were ‘subdued’ by the Roman Empire about 56 BC. Cleared of Veneti the island became annexed and its history is sparse until 933 AD when it became part of the Duchy of Normandy and then united with the Crown of England after the 1066 AD Norman Invasion of Britain.

Sark Island is the last remaining feudal state in Europe. (Phillip Capper / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sark Island is the last remaining feudal state in Europe. (Phillip Capper / CC BY-SA 2.0)

A Crime-Wave Or Tsunami?

Order was maintained on the island by monastic institutions during the Middle Ages and everything went wrong in the 16th century when pirates took over the island, which brings us back perfectly to the modern criminals who are now using the island as a base for their criminal activities. PC Fawson says the offences range from intoxicated violence, drunk driving, and drug trafficking.

An article in the Jersey Evening Post discusses a number of Fawson’s suggestions for combating the crime including compulsory background checks for visitors to the island and all externally recruited seasonal employees having DBS vetting checks performed before they begin employment on Sark. And, he even suggested criminal record checks on anyone attempting to buy property on Sark but as you will now see, this is only the beginning of what needs done for this is more of a crime-tsunami than a wave.

The Charge Sheets Are Endless…

It seems that with changing times, come changing crimes, and while the island’s 16th century pirates bust up alehouses, over 267 crimes were reported on the island in the nine months up to the end of September 2019 including: 60 tractor driving complaints, eight carriage usage issues, three boat issues, and 11 cases of wasting police time.

Automobiles are not allowed on Sark Island. (Edgar / Adobe Stock)

But on the darker side, the police also dealt with 11 assaults, six criminal damages, 17 safeguarding incidents, a knife crime, an ordeal involving a firearm, three drone incidents, three missing persons investigations, a case of arson, and a narcotics bust. Not to mention three cybercrimes and the discovery of two unexploded bombs.

Is It Time For The Police To Fight Fire With Fire?

Earlier in the article we discussed PC Fawson’s suggested changes which he thinks might help in the police’s fight against crime, but he also thinks a permanent customs and immigration officer located at Maseline and Creux harbors might help in “detecting/preventing” illegal narcotics coming off vessels entering the Sark harbors. Furthermore, he suggested CCTV cameras should be installed at a number of points around the island and he asked for the island's two senior officers and force of special constables to be armed with weapons, which he called “tools to enforce the laws”.

Fawson is standing up and saying what ‘needs’ to be said, and his idea of equipping police officers with the tools required to meet the modern challenges of the job, in this case armed criminals, is a perfect reflection of an incident concerning the island in 1565. The island was so bastardized with pirates and oceanic criminals, Queen Elizabeth I offered Helier de Carteret, Seigneur of St. Ouen in Jersey, the entire island of Sark as a fief in perpetuity (for life).

Police on Sark Island need tools for defense, once targeted by pirates – Sark Island is now overrun by modern criminals. (U.S. Navy / Public Domain)

Police on Sark Island need tools for defense, once targeted by pirates – Sark Island is now overrun by modern criminals. (U.S. Navy / Public Domain)

The condition the queen placed upon her hero was that he kept the island free of pirates, and to achieve this he created 40 parcels of land (tenements) and each tenant provided “one man armed with a rifle” for the defense of the island. Arming defenders of the island worked in the 16th century and it will work again today and providing them with “batons and pepper spray” will only serve to tease these criminals.

What these cops need is cold steel, and I don’t mean swords, but big boys weapons - guns - to tackle big-bad-boys - with guns. Fire with fire an’ all that.

Top image: Remote beach and rocky coastline on Sark Island. Source: allard1 / Adobe Stock.

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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