Barrister David Pannick has told the High Court that feudal offices in the English Channel island of Sark breach human rights and are inconsistent with a modern democracy.
Mr. Pannick is representing the Barclay brothers who own one fifth of the island as well as having substantial business interests in Britain. They are claiming that recent reforms to the feudal system in Sark are not enough.
The reforms have left the feudal offices of Seigneur and Seneschal in place. The first is an heredity "lord" who leases the island from the British head of state. The Seneschal is the chief civil and criminal judge who also presides over the parliament.
Sark has operated under a feudal system that was established 400 years ago when Elizabeth Tudor issued its "royal charter". Its governing chamber has been composed of 40 landowners and 12 elected deputies. In April 2007 the British Privy Council approved legislation to replace this with an elected parliament of 28. Islanders had voted in favour of this in response to pressure from Britain. Sark is a "crown dependency".
Success for the Barclay brothers could increase the pressure for reform of feudal institutions in Britain. The country has a feudal head of state and feudal legislators-for-life, some of whom inherited their seats in Parliament. Those who will not swear allegiance to the feudal institution of monarchy are barred from public office.