John William Dupre

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John William Dupre

Jean Guillaume Dupre (1790-1866) became Attorney-General and changed his names to John William.


He was the second son of Dean Edouard Dupre and Marie Patriarche, born in St. Helier, where his father was Rector, on 16 November 1790.

When 13 he entered the Navy as midshipman on the Kite under Commander Philippe Pipon, and was present at the bombardment of Granville in 1803. He was captured by the French in 1809, and remained a prisoner of war at Verdun until the peace of 1814.

His letters, which his father read to the States, led them to start a relief fund for Jersey prisoners. When Napoleon was crushed, many naval officers were unable to obtain ships, and Dupre's uncle, Thomas Le Breton, Attorney-General, advised him to take up Law.

By paying an elderly Advocate to retire he obtained a place at the Jersey Bar, where the number of Advocates was then limited to six. He was sworn in on 18 March 1815. Here he soon came to the front. In his first term he earned £15, in his second £75. In 1816 his father appointed him Greffier of the Ecclesiastical Court, and in 1822 he acted for a time as Deputy Greffier of the Royal Court.

Politics and journalism

He plunged strenuously into local politics, and became one of the foremost champions of the Laurel Party. This led him into journalism. From 1817 to 1819 he edited the Gazette de Cesaree, and in 1820 with five friends he started Le Constitutionnel as a counterblast to the Rose Party's Chronique. For 56 years this remained one of the leading papers in the Island. He edited it till 1826, and afterwards often wrote leading articles. Many of his verses appeared in its Almanac.

In December 1820 he had to flee from the island to escape arrest. In a duel between Thomas Le Breton and Aaron de Ste Croix the latter was killed, and Dupre had been Le Breton's second. He was back, however, by 1 February 1821, when he married Jeanne Hemery of Plaisance. The wedding was followed an unpleasant Breach of Promise case, in which a Janey Messervy sued him for damages. This was eventually settled out curt.

On 10 January 1824 he was sworn in as Solicitor-General. He then resigned his commission as Captain in the Town Regiment, which he had entered as 2nd-Lieutenant in 1815. In 1826 he published anonymously with a Rev J Haynes A Brief description and Historical Notices of the Island of Jersey, a little guidebook which passed through many editions.

It gave the best short account of the history of the island yet written, and its chapter on Law is interesting as the work of the leadingg lawyer of the day.

On several occasions he was sent by the States to plead various questions before the Privy Coouncil.

Procedural law

In 1835 he drafted a Law on Judicial Procedure in Criminal Cases. This was debated clause by clause in the States, and each separate clause accepted; yet, when the final vote was taken on the bill as a whole, it was rejected. He had it reintroduced however in 1865, and it was them adopted.

It immensely simplified and entirely altered the procedure at criminal trials. Henry Le Vavasseur dit Durell, a later Attorney-General, said:

"It is a law of which any country might be proud. I had the privilege of applying it for many years as an Advocate and as a Crown Officer, and everything has been provided for; no fundamental principle has been altered, and it remains today a model of simplicity, of accuracy, protecting on the one hand the rights of society and on the other those of the accused".

At the time of his death Dupre was drafting a similarar Law on Procedure in Civil Cases. In 1848 he was appointed Attorney-General, and in 1858 it was expected that he would become Bailiff; but he was passed over.

The Voix des Iles asserted that the French ambassador had represented to the British Government that Dupre's friendship with the Proscrits who came over with Victor Hugo made him undesirable.

The Nouvelle Chronique said at his death, "He was fond of irony in his pleadings and sarcastic banter, but he never stooped to personalities. He had remarkable charm of character. His affability was proverbial, and he was accessible to everyone. He was friend, counsellor, and guide to all beginners at the Bar. They flocked to him for advice, and he always received them with the greatest kindness".

Toward the end of his life he was handicapped by deafness. He died on 25 June 1866, and was buried at St Saviour. His portrait by W W Ouless hangs in the Royal Court.

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