UPDATE: Guide to Caribbean Law Research


By Yemisi Dina


Yemisi Dina , B.A, M.A, LL.B, MLIS is Associate Librarian/Head of Public Services at the Osgoode Hall Law Library, York University, Ontario, Canada. She was formerly Manager of Adult Services at the Central Library, Richmond Hill Public Library, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada; Law Librarian at The College of The Bahamas Law Library, Nassau, The Bahamas; Law Librarian at the Adeola Odutola Law Library, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria and Principal Librarian at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus, Nigeria. Her areas of research include law librarianship, legal research methods and information technology and law.


Published October 2014

(Previously updated in January/February 2010)

See the Archive Version!


Table of Contents

1.      Introduction

2.      Legal System

3.      Power Structure

4.      Court System

5.      International Law

6.      Legislation

7.      Law Reporting

8.      Journals

9.      Textbooks

10.   Research Guides

11.    Useful Citations

12.   Legal Education

13.   References


1.      Introduction

The Commonwealth Caribbean describes all Caribbean countries geographically located in the West Indies. The region is made up of dependent and independent states. The following are dependent states:



The Caribbean is made up of jurisdictions with growing legal literature. This guide covers the following English-speaking Caribbean countries:



Legal literature considered for the purpose of this publication includes legislation, law reports, journals, textbooks and websites.


2.      Legal System

Historically, the legal system of the Commonwealth Caribbean can best be described as mixed. The legal system of most of these countries is based on the laws of former colonial administration. Antoine (1999) also confirmed this, saying that:


“The countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean continue to exhibit perhaps excessive tendencies of reliance on the form, structure, substance and content of the law as expressed in England.”


With the exception of Guyana and St. Lucia, the legal system of the English-speaking Caribbean countries is based on the Common Law system. The legal systems of Guyana and St. Lucia are best described as “hybrid”, because Guyana has the influence of the Roman-Dutch tradition, while that of St. Lucia has a strong influence of the French civil law.


While many of the legal systems of the Commonwealth Caribbean have a very strong influence of the Common Law, there has been a reception of other legal systems, such as Hindu, Muslim and Indian law. These traditions and customs have been incorporated into the legislation of these countries. Nevertheless, the content of the laws of these countries today reflect their cultural, social, political and economic needs.


The dependent territories earlier mentioned have no independent law and legal systems to speak of, as they are under the sovereignty of the Crown.


3.      Power Structure

The power structure in all the Commonwealth Caribbean countries is between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. 


4.      Court System

In the Commonwealth Caribbean (except Guyana), the Judicial Council of the Privy Council is the final court of appeal in the territories. However on April 16, 2005, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was inaugurated in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean Court of Justice is a regional judicial tribunal established on February 14, 2001 by the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice of 2001 (the full text of the agreement is available on the CARICOM website). This Court was established to further strengthen regional integration; nonetheless the agreement has only been signed and ratified by 12 countries. The CCJ is designed to exercise both appellate and original jurisdiction and ultimately aimed at replacing the Privy Council. This is still being debated in some territories. 


Inferior courts are courts of summary jurisdiction made up of magistrate courts, petty session courts and coroners’ courts. They have a dual function – investigative and trial in criminal matters. However its jurisdiction is limited by the nature of civil offences.


There are also specialized courts/tribunals, which may be inferior, intermediate or superior courts, namely juvenile, family, divorce, administrative, gun, revenue and industrial courts.


The superior courts are usually divided into two tiers - High Court and Court of Appeal. They are summarily referred to as the Supreme Court. The High Court is the trial court or court of first instance. They have original and appellate jurisdiction over matters arising from the inferior courts. They have unlimited jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters.


The Court of Appeal has the appellate function of the Supreme Court. They hear appeals from the magistrate courts, high courts and special courts.


In the Eastern Caribbean, recognition is given to the regional court known as the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. This is a superior court of record for nine member states, namely: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and three British Overseas Territories, namely, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat.


5.      International Law

All independent countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean belong to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). These countries are signatories to regional and cooperative agreements and treaties. Details can be found on the CARICOM website listed below.


Most of the Commonwealth Caribbean countries are also signatories to other international treaties, such as those of the United Nations, Organization of American States (OAS), and Commonwealth of Nations.


6.     Legislation

All of the aforementioned countries have published their own legislation after independence and they come in series. This area has seen a significant development in the last 20 years. Subsidiary legislation is usually published in Official Gazettes but some territories compile and publish them at the end of each year. These publications are usually handled by the Attorney General’s office/ the Ministry of Legal Affairs. The table below shows the available legislation in these countries:





1. Statutes and Regulations of Anguilla Volumes 1-12 (Available on CD)

Attorney General’s Chamber


2. Statute Law of The Bahamas Volumes I-VIII Subsidiary Legislation Volumes I-VI

Government of The Bahamas


3. Laws of Barbados Volumes I-XIV

Government of Barbados

1971 - 1997

4. Laws of Belize Volumes I-V (available on CD)

Attorney General’s Office


5.The Revised Laws of the British Virgin Islands (BVI)

Government of BVI


6. Laws of Dominica Volumes 1-12

Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica


7. Laws of Grenada Volumes 1-10

Government of Grenada


8. Montserrat Ordinances and Statutory rules and order

Government of Montserrat


9. Laws of St Lucia 1958


1958 with subsidiary legislation. Revised editions available from Government Printery.



10.Revised Laws of Turks & Caicos Volumes 1-7


Attorney General’s Chambers




The Faculty of Law Library, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados publishes an index of statutes – Consolidated index of statutes and subsidiary legislation for each country, which gives an extensive update of changes in statutes in all English-speaking Caribbean countries.


7.      Law Reporting

Jamaica has the earliest history of law reporting from 1774.


Newton (1978) observed that law reports in the Commonwealth Caribbean were short-lived and punctuated by long gaps. According to her,


“No law reports have ever been published for Belize, The Cayman Islands, the Leeward or the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Bahamas Law Reports never continued beyond Volume I, which contained a selection of Supreme and Magisterial Court cases for the period 1900-1906.The Barbados Reports reached volume 2. The first volume covering cases relating to Barbados which were determined in local courts and found in English Reports for 1694, 1831 and 1853-1893; the second containing cases decided in the island’s Court of Error during the years 1860, 1863, 1878 and 1894-1903.”


Newton further identified the main reasons why most unit law reporting efforts have not been sustained:


Today, the above-mentioned reasons have prevailed upon the publication of law reports in the Commonwealth Caribbean, as only these countries currently publish law reports: The Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago.


There still exist gaps in some of these publications.  Below is a table showing the law reports that the writer has been able to access at this time:





Law Reports of The Bahamas

1965 – 1980

1987 - 1990


Barbados Law Reports

1948 to date



The Cayman Island Law Reports

1952 to date

Law Reports International, Oxford

Jamaica Law Reports*

1934 – 1994 (on CD)

1977 – 1994 (print)

1995 – 1996 (forthcoming)

Caribbean Law Publishing Company

Trinidad & Tobago Law Reports

1990 - 1995

Caribbean Law Publishing Company

OECS Law Reports/Judgments Volumes 1- 3

Published in 1991 and covers judgments of superior courts of the Eastern Caribbean States

Faculty of Law, University of The West Indies and USAID

1996-98 volumes are available directly from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Order forms are available on their website.


Law Reports of the Commonwealth


Covers judgments of English-speaking Caribbean countries



West Indian Law Reports*

1958 – to date Covers most English-speaking Caribbean countries



* Also available on CD, the West Indian Reports (WIR) are also available as an online service.



Judgments for Caribbean countries that have come before the Judicial Council of the Privy Council are available on the Privy Council website .


The Faculty of Law Library at the Cave Hill campus of the University of The West Indies has an extensive collection of unreported judgments from the various Caribbean countries. These cases are available by subscription to the database CARILAW .


Caribbean legal information can be accessed on the following websites:


This website provides access to a number of legislation related to financial services such as Anti-Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime etc.

This website provides access to selected legislation for Antigua and Barbuda.

This is a list of relevant legislation and treaties that are being administered by the Barbados Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Office.

This website links to the official website of the Attorney General’s Ministry and the Judiciary of Belize and you can access the laws of Belize listed alphabetically, the Constitution of Belize, Court Rules, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Judgments.

The BVI Financial Services Commission website provides access to a selection of legislation related to financial services in its Legislation Library.

This is the website of the BVI Official Gazette. This website provides links to the full text gazettes. Registration is required to access limited materials on this website.

This is the website of the Caribbean Community. The website provides access to the organization’s publications such as treaties, legislation, speeches, reports, communiqués and news.

The Caribbean Court of Justice is the regional judicial tribunal for the Caribbean region. The website provides access to publications of judgments of the court and its other publications.

This is the website of the Legal Division of the Caribbean Community. The website provides links to legislative materials, treaties and legal jurisprudence about CARICOM.

This is a searchable database containing statute laws relating to children in the Caribbean. This website is a joint initiative between the Faculty of Law Library, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados and UNICEF.

This is the website of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. The website provides access to judgments from the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

This website provides access to legislative materials from passed at the Jamaica House of Parliaments such as Bills, Acts, Regulations and Orders.

The Judiciary’s website provides access to recent decisions heard before the courts. Older decisions are available through the Library’s database. 

Bermuda Laws Online provides access to the legislation of Bermuda.

This website provides access to the searchable database of the laws of Dominica.

The laws of Jamaica are available through this site, the database is searchable and it can also be browsed alphabetically.

This website provides access to Hansards, Order Papers, Consolidated Index of Laws and other publications of the Legislative Assembly of Cayman Islands.

The website provides access to the Revised Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Organization of American States is a regional organization; member states of the body include many of the Caribbean countries. The website provides access to treaties and other publications of the organization.

The website of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States provides access to the organisation’s publication and news.

The Parliament of Barbados website provides access to the current bills that are before the Parliament.

This website provides access to the publications of the Parliament of Guyana.

The website of the St Lucia Government Printery provides a listing of annual statutes and statutory instruments.

This website provides links to full text legislation on financial services and banking in St Vincent & the Grenadines. 

The Bahamas Online is a database of the consolidated statutes and subsidiary legislation of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

This website provides access to Turks & Caicos Island financial services, banking, trusts, trademarks and patent legislation.

This is the website of the Turks and Caicos Labour Tribunal; it provides access to full text decisions of the tribunal.


8.     Journals

A lot of journals have been published over the years but there is still a dearth in this area. The following titles are available on Caribbean legal literature:



The Caribbean Law Review and Caribbean Law Bulletin are both current journals published by faculty members of the Faculty of Law, University of The West Indies, and Cave Hill Campus. It is being distributed by Caribbean Law Publishing Company.  The Faculty of Law Library, Cave Hill Barbados also has a collection of these journals. The West Indian Law Journal is published by the Norman Manley Law School, Mona, Jamaica.


9.     Textbooks

Lecturers at the University of West Indies as well as legal practitioners in the region have published extensively on virtually every area of law. Cavendish Publishers, the Caribbean Law Book publishing and other private publishers have been published some of these texts. The Faculty of Law Library Cave Hill, Barbados continues to be the leading repository of West Indian legal literature. The following are leading titles in the pursuit of legal education in the Caribbean:



Note that some of the sites require some registration and/or membership to gain access.


10. Research Guides


11.   Useful Citations


12.   Legal Education

The legal profession is one of the oldest in the Caribbean. Graduates of law, after completing a bachelor’s in law are expected to attend the Bar School for training as legal practitioners. The University of the West Indies, with campuses in Mona - Jamaica, Cave Hill – Barbados, St. Augustine – Trinidad & Tobago and most recently Nassau – The Bahamas offers training for the LL.B Program in these campuses. There is also training to proceed to higher degree for the LL.M available at the Cave Hill campus.


Professional legal training as legal practitioners is being coordinated by a regional institution, the Council of Legal Education. The Council was established by an agreement which came into force on March 17, 1971. It has the following institutions located in 3 countries within the region:


They facilitate a six month and two year program for their students. On successful completion of the program, they are awarded a Certificate of Legal Education.


13.   References

Secretariat, 2003.