Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Barclays win partial Sark victory

Sir David (l) and Sir Frederick Barclay
The tycoon twins have fought for more radical reform

Two billionaire twins have won a partial victory over reforms to an island off the UK mainland.

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, from Brecqhou in the Channel Islands had disputed two unelected posts on the neighbouring island of Sark.

The Appeal Court in London has now ruled the dual role of seneschal - as senior judge and president of the government - breaches human rights.

Sark's feudal system of government is ending with elections on 10 December.

The judges pointed out that neither the seneschal nor the holder of the inherited title of seigneur of Sark had the right to vote in the Chief Pleas, the island's government.

But they also said in order to comply with international laws, the seneschal should withdraw from his role as president of the Chief Pleas.

The island of Sark has operated a feudal system for nearly 450 years

The judges said the dual role breached the "fair trial" provisions of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Appeal Court judges refused the brothers' call to quash Sark's Reform Law, which would have halted the elections.

But one of the judges said there was "obvious merit" in allowing a newly-elected Sark parliament to consider what further reforms were needed to ensure the new constitution complied with the ECHR.

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Lords Justices Jacob and Etherton, said the seneschal's independence and impartiality "are capable of appearing open to doubt".

He stressed that his conclusion "in no way impugns the good faith or competence" of the present Seneschal, Lt Col Reg Guille, a direct descendant of the original 16th Century settlers of the island.

The island has operated a feudal system of government for nearly 450 years, but on 10 December Sarkees will elect 28 members to the Chief Pleas.

The 73-year-old twins, who own the Telegraph Group, have fought a long battle for more radical changes.

In a statement Lt Col Guille said, as seneschal, he was bound not to speak on political issues.

"I have read the judgement and see that of the five grounds of appeal the only one to be upheld was against the dual role of the seneschal," he added.

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