Trinidad and Tobago Law and Legal Research
By Catherine A. Deane and Vincent Moyer
Catherine A. Deane received her primary and secondary education in Trinidad. She has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology with a Certificate in Latin American Studies from Princeton University, an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology and a J.D. with a Certificate in International and Comparative Law from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. She will receive her M.L.I.S. degree from San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science in May 2010. She is the assistant to the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
Vincent Moyer (J.D., M.S.) is the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, California.
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Table of Contents
4.1. About the
4.1.1. Legislative Process: Making Laws
4.2. About Parliament
4.2.1. Parliament: Legal information
4.3. About the House of Representatives
4.3.1. House of Representatives: Legal Information
4.4. About the Senate
4.4.1. The Senate: Legal Information
6. Judicial Branch
6.1. About the Judicial Branch
6.2. Judicial Branch: Legal Information
6.2.1. About the Court Library Services Unit
6.3. The Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago
6.3.1. About the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago
6.3.2. The Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago: Legal Information
of General Information
10.1. Statistics and Government Information
10.2. The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS)
10.3. The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago (NATT)
10.4. The Government Information Service Limited (GISL)
10.6. Government News Sources
10.7. Other News Sources
10.7.1. Trinidad and Tobago Online TV and Radio
10.7.2. News Sources on Twitter
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, formerly a British colony, is now an independent member of the British Commonwealth. This Caribbean twin island Nation, was originally discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498 and occupied briefly by the Spanish until it was captured in 1797 by the British, who brought African slaves to Trinidad and later invited Indian indentured laborers to the island.
The British ruled Trinidad and Tobago under the Crown Colony System from 1831-1925. Under this system, a Governor advised by a resident legislative council ruled the island for the British government. By 1956, Trinidad and Tobago had established a form of self-government under colonial rule, but it was not until 1976, that Trinidad and Tobago became a self-governing republic.
· History of the Capital City - Port-of-Spain
· Country Profile: Trinidad and Tobago - BBC News
· Country Study: Commonwealth of Caribbean Islands: Chapter 3 Trinidad and Tobago Library of Congress - Federal Research Division (2006)
· World Factbook: The Caribbean (Trinidad & Tobago) - Prepared by the CIA (U.S.)
· UN data Trinidad and Tobago - Country profile statistics
· Country Statistics from Reuters
The current government structure of Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy consisting of the executive branch, made up of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and the legislative branch, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The members of the House of Representatives and the Senate elect the President of Trinidad and Tobago.
Tobago has a separate elected House of Assembly that is responsible for the administration of the island.
National elections occur every five years.
The Judicial branch is a separate branch, led by the Chief Justice. The Trinidad and Tobago Judiciary is made up of the Lower Judiciary (the Magistracy) and the Higher Judiciary (The Supreme Court). The Supreme Court is made up of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The highest court is the Privy Council in England.
· Basic Information on the System of Government in Trinidad and Tobago provided by the government of Trinidad and Tobago
· Diagram of Government Organization Structure produced by the National Library and Information System Authority
The executive branch includes the Cabinet, Ministries and Departments of government, statutory authorities and governmental institutions. The Prime Minister is a member of the Cabinet.
After an election, the President appoints as Prime Minister the member of the House of Representatives who commands the support of the majority of members of that House. On the advice of the Prime Minister, the President appoints members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to the Cabinet.
The Cabinet controls the government of Trinidad and Tobago and is responsible to Parliament. They implement the laws passed by Parliament.
· Office of the Prime Minister - official website
· The Role of the Cabinet according to the official website of the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago is the legislative branch of the Government. The President, the House of Representatives and the Senate make up Parliament. The President is the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
A Bill may be initiated in either the House or the Senate. The Bill must pass through both the House and the Senate and must be presented to the President for approval. The President’s assent converts the bill into an Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Process of Lawmaking - Detailed description prepared by the Parliament Secretariat.
Although technically the Parliament consists of three parts, the President, the House of Representatives and the Senate, Parliament is still referred to as bicameral because it is divided into the Lower House, known as the House of Representatives, and the Upper House, known as the Senate. The House of Representatives is made up of 41 elected representatives; the members of the Senate are appointed by the President.
The Parliament has the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Trinidad and Tobago in accordance with the Constitution.
· The Parliament Channel - Streaming video
· Bills - Full-text database of bills browsable by session or alphabetically by name. Also includes information on the members of parliament involved in debating the bills.
· Acts of Parliament - Full-text database containing Acts of Parliament from 1998 to present hosted by the official website for the Parliament of the government of Trinidad & Tobago.
· Laws of Trinidad (Revised edition, 2004)
· Hansard Reports (Official Reports)
· Full-text database covering 1987 to present, containing transcribed reports of what is said in the House and Senate.
The Office of Parliament also provides digital access to other legal publications such as:
· Standing Orders - Standing Orders are the rules that govern the proceedings in the House of Representatives
The House of Representatives, the elected Lower House, has 41 members, elected every five years. The Speaker of the House may or may not be an elected member of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives may be dissolved prior to the five year election date by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
For the current session of Parliament, the full-text of multiple versions of Bills and Committee Reports are available online from the House of Representatives:
· Progress of Bills Introduced in the House of Representatives in the Current Session of Parliament - Includes various versions of each bill and committee report.
· Motions Introduced in the House of Representatives - Database contains full-text of House Debate and related Bills. Browsable by Title and Session.
The members of the Senate are appointed by the President. Of the 31 members, 16 are Government Senators and are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister. Six (6) are Opposition Senators appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and nine (9) are Independent Senators. The President is charged with selecting and appointing senators who will be representative of Trinidad and Tobago civil society. The presiding officer is known as the President of the Senate.
For the current session of Parliament, the full-text of multiple versions of Bills and Committee Reports are available online from the Senate:
· Progress of Bills Introduced in the Senate in the Current Session of Parliament - Includes various versions of each bill and committee report.
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) first met in 1768, but it was not until 1980 that the first Tobago House of Assembly Act was passed. This Act grants the citizens of Tobago the right of internal self-governance. The new Tobago House of Assembly Act, passed on 1996, granted the THA greater autonomy in political, financial and social issues, but no lawmaking powers. The THA is led by the Chief Secretary and Secretary of Public Administration Planning, Energy, State Lands and Information, currently The Honorable Orville Delano London, and reports directly to the Minister of Tobago Affairs. Local elections for the THA take place every 4 years.
The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) provides further details about the THA
· The Tobago House of Assembly -Official Website
· About the Tobago House of Assembly - describes the origins and nature of the THA in greater detail.
· Tobago House of Assembly Divisions - Provides links to and information about the divisions of the Tobago House of Assembly, including, Office of the Chief Secretary, Finance, Enterprise Development and Cooperatives
· The Tobago House of Assembly Act, 1996 provided by NALIS.
The Judicial branch is one of the three separate arms of the State. The head of the judicial branch is the Chief Justice, who has overall responsibility for the administration of justice in Trinidad and Tobago.
The highest court is the Privy Council in England. The Caribbean Court of Justice is not part of the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago. Appeals from the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal go to the Privy Council in England.
The Judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court of Judicature and the Lower Judiciary (the Magistracy).
The Supreme Court of Judicature for Trinidad and Tobago consists of a High Court of Justice and a Court of Appeal. Appeals from the Magistracy and the High Court go to the Court of Appeal. The Magistracy and the High Court are courts of original jurisdiction.
The High Court is made up of three divisions: the Matrimonial Division (hears family matters where the partners are married), the Criminal Division (hears indictable criminal matters), and the Civil Division (hears matters involving sums $15,000 and over).
The Magistracy is divided geographically into thirteen districts. The Criminal Division exercises summary jurisdiction in criminal matters and hears preliminary inquiries in indictable matters. The Civil Division hears matters under $15,000.
· The Court Library Services unit website also provides access to: Practice Directions and Guides and Rules of Court
The Court Library Services Unit has six branches. The main branch, The Supreme Court Library, Port-of-Spain, is housed on the third floor of the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The Supreme Court Library has the most comprehensive collection of unreported decisions of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago.
One copy of every judgment received is placed in the Special Judgment Collection Alphabetical File , in the Port-of-Spain Supreme Court Library. In print, the library carries cases from the 1950’s to the present. All judgments received by the Unit since 1990 have been recorded in the online catalog. Links to some electronic copies of the decisions are available.
Research assistance requests are considered by the Court Law Library on a case by case basis, and some information can be provided via fax. Information that is already in electronic format may be sent via email. Judgments can be requested from the courts via email or fax.
The Court Library Services Unit - This official website provides access to:
· The Court Library Services Unit’s Online Catalog contains records of books, articles, and judgments. More specifically, the online catalog contains:
o Books acquired from 2001 to the present. The catalogue will eventually reflect all the Unit's collections because retrospective cataloging is ongoing.
o Index/abstracts of written Judgments of the Supreme Court from 1990 to the present.
o Retrospective index/abstracts of some pre- 1990 Judgments.
o Articles relating to Commonwealth Caribbean jurisdictions.
o Selected indexing of Trinidad and Tobago Legislation.
· The Court Library Services Unit Official Website also provides access to:
o The Trinidad and Tobago Judiciary - a digital collection of photos and information on judges, past and present.
o List of legal links - Links to law related official government pages
o List of government links - links to select government websites
The Industrial Court is a superior court similar in status to the High Court. It was established in 1965 by the Industrial Stabilisation Act. This act was then repealed and replaced by the 1972 Industrial Relations Act.
The purpose of the court is to settle unresolved disputes between employers and trade unions representing the workers.
See the official court website for further information about the court such as:
The Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago - The official website also provides access to:
Between 1945 and 1962, the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago underwent six reforms. The 1962 Constitution, drafted by Sir Ellis Clarke is referred to as the Independence Constitution and is considered by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to be the first written Constitution. It was reformed in 1976 and became the Republican Constitution which is still in force.
Concerned that the Constitution does not meet the political needs of the multicultural society of Trinidad and Tobago, the government has once again initiated a Constitutional reform that is expected to facilitate a more effective democratic system of government.
· Annotated Constitution - This is a product of NALIS, and it is intended to explain to the constituents of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the meaning of the constitution. It briefly describes the content and purpose of the constitution.
· The Constitution- Prepared by the Parliament Department (2003).
· The Constitution - Contained in the Report of the Trinidad and Tobago Independence Conference, June 1962.
· Trinidad and Tobago Constitutional Law – available through the International Labour Organization’s NATLEX website.
· Constitutional Resources - The official website of the Office of the Parliament provides increasing digital access to the constitutional resources deposited at the Parliament Library.
Carilaw - Online subscription database containing the full text of about 20,000 cases with head notes. For other cases, only head notes are available, but the full-text can be requested. Also contains West Indian unreported judgments and a selection of legislation, initially in areas of commercial law, and treaties.
Trinidad and Tobago has an e-government portal called ttconnect.
The most recent data available through Internet World Stats indicates that, 17.3% of the 1.2 million people in Trinidad and Tobago have access to the internet. Trinidad and Tobago's e-government portal allows citizens to access a wide range of government services via a single government portal. Although none of the services are available online, the website carries detailed information on how to access government services via mail or in person.
Although there is an e-government portal, and all laws can be found online through the Ministry of Legal Affairs official website , select individual government ministries, agencies and divisions have their own websites . Some of these websites provide separate access to individual Acts or other relevant information.
· Special Collection: Family Law: Domestic Violence - a digital collection of newspaper clippings on domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago, maintained by the Court Library Services Unit.
· Links to the following informational pages are provided by the Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry of Legal Affairs:
o Draft Policy Paper - Consumer Protection in the 21st Century [pdf] (On the Ministry of Legal Affairs website)
There are several databases that contain laws on a certain topic for many countries. These include WIPO’s CLEA database and the International Labour Organization’s database of labor laws. The websites listed below contain laws for Trinidad and Tobago about intellectual property, labor relations, trade relations, and environmental issues.
· World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)'s Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA) is a searchable database that allows the user to search for different types of Intellectual property laws in Trinidad and Tobago. Many of the more recent intellectual property oriented laws are available with full text.
o The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Intellectual Property Office
o Copyright Music Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) - This is a non-profit organization that administers copyright licenses to performance artists. The website provides guidance as to whether or not a license is needed, explains what music piracy is, and provides information on license fees/tariffs.
o Protecting Intellectual Property - information produced by the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs and provided by NALIS.
· NATLEX - The International Labour Organization (ILO) maintains a database of labor laws for various countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. This is not a full-text database, but some of the listings include links to the full-text of the act or treaty. For example, NATLEX links to available full-text acts from the Trinidad & Tobago Parliament website .
· ECOLEX is an Environmental law database that allows the user to search for treaties, legislation, and other documents related to Environmental law. It contains significant entries for Trinidad and Tobago .
· West Indian Reports - First published in 1958, this authoritative set of law reports includes cases decided in the High Courts and Courts of Appeal of the West Indian States, including Trinidad and Tobago, and Privy Council appeals. These reports contain Caribbean case law.
· The Caribbean Law Review - The Caribbean Law Review is published by the University of the West Indies, Faculty of Law, Cave Hill, Barbados.
· West Indian Law Journal - The West Indian Law Journal is published by the Council of Legal Education at the Norman Manley Law School.
The main publishers of legal books with relevance to Trinidad and Tobago law are The Caribbean Law Publishing Co. Ltd. and Cavendish Publishing Limited. The Commonwealth Caribbean Law Series covers English speaking Caribbean nations including Trinidad and Tobago.
The official Ian Randall Publishers website has a section with books on Caribbean Law topics.
· List of Statistical publications available through the CSO
· Trade, Travel & Economic Indicators Statistics - Full-text statistics and analysis
· Energy Statistics for Trinidad and Tobago - The Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries collects and compiles a wide range of statistics and reports on the quantities and value of natural gas, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and petrochemicals produced, sold and exported in Trinidad and Tobago.
· Continuous Sample Survey of Population (CSSP) and Household details - Information on employment, unemployment and other labor force characteristics.
· CARICOM statistics - Under the Publications tab, regional statistics for the Caribbean on trade, the environment, population, economic indicators, gender, power and decision-making.
The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), provides library services including providing access to information on Trinidad and Tobago. NALIS has an online catalog and a series of subject guides on local topics related to the history, culture and government of Trinidad and Tobago.
The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) of Trinidad and Tobago maintains a web site with digital access to collections of cultural information and artifacts and digital access to an index of Caribbean journal articles.
NALIS also provides access to the full-text of select Acts and other government publications including:
The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago (NATT) maintains the following collections that may be of interest to legal scholars. Online, NATT provides access to the records showing the available years and the location of the item. Some preliminary research assistance may be provided for foreign researchers, but full access to the collection requires a visit to the local reading room.
NATT Collection- NATT maintains online a searchable catalog of their collections.
One such collection is: Laws of Trinidad and Tobago (and the West Indies) - This is a historical collection of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago. The earliest laws in this collection are for Trinidad in 1884. This collection also includes laws that were intended to govern the West Indian Federation of ten (10) islands of the region. This grouping was conceived in 1958 but never came to pass.
Established in 2006 as a state owned limited liability company, the Government Information Service Limited (GISL) is intended to facilitate distance learning, to educate the public, and to produce and provide government information. It is also meant to facilitate communication within and between government agencies and to disseminate information to the public.
The Official GISL website provides online access to information such as:
· Full-text of speeches made by government officials - Organized by date (June 2008 - present).
It is known in Trinidad and Tobago, that the accuracy of the information in these newspapers is not guaranteed.
· C News
· Trinidad and Tobago News - Clearinghouse for articles from all the above newspapers
· Trinidad and Tobago News Special Files - Archive of news articles on important issues in Trinidad and Tobago recent history (1970's -present)
· Latest News about the Office of the Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago
· News from the Office of the Financial Services Ombudsman
Several Trinidad and Tobago television stations are viewable online including:
· Trinidad and Tobago Online Radio Stations- List of links maintained by Trinidad and Tobago news.
· C News
o The Lawyer Journal - Newsletter
· List of law Firms in Trinidad - Maintained by HeirosGamos, browsable by type of law and by city.
· Trinidad and Tobago law resource page - maintained by Washburn University School of Law
· UPDATE: Guide to Caribbean Law Research - Globalex Guide by Yemisi Dina
· Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Resources- Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CLII)
o Caribbean Court of Justice: A Research Guide - LLRX Guide by Yasmin Morais
o The American and Caribbean Law Initiative Annotated Bibliography - valuable for its identification and description of print legal resources for the English Speaking Caribbean, it contains resources up to 2007.
Antoine, R. M. B. (1999). Commonwealth Caribbean Law and Legal Systems. Commonwealth Caribbean Law Series. London: Cavendish Pub.
Durrant, F. (2006). The World Wide Web Enhancing E-government in the Caribbean: An Assessment of Government Portals or Gateway Websites. IFLA Journal. 32(3), 240.
Fiadjoe, A. K. (1999). Commonwealth Caribbean Public Law. Commonwealth Caribbean Law Series. London: Cavendish Pub.
Haraksingh, Kush. (1999). “Context and Dominion: The Law in Independent Trinidad and Tobago” in Misplaced Traditions: British Lawyers, Colonial Peoples. Annandale, NSW, Aus, Federation Press
McQueen, R., & Pue, W. W. (1999). Misplaced Traditions: British Lawyers, Colonial Peoples. Annandale, NSW, Aus, Federation Press
Meighoo, K. P. (2003). Politics in a Half-Made Society: Trinidad and Tobago, 1925-2001. Kingston: Ian Randle Pub.
Meighoo, K. P., & Jamadar, P. A. (2008). Democracy and Constitution Reform in Trinidad and Tobago. Kingston: Ian Randle Pub.
Phillips, F. (2002). Commonwealth Caribbean Constitutional Law. Commonwealth Caribbean Law Series. London: Cavendish Pub.
Robinson, T. (2007). A Caribbean Common Law. Race & Class. 49(2), 118-124.
Ryan, S. (1972). Race and Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago: A Study of Decolonization in a Multiracial Society. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
Seetahal, D. S. (2001). Commonwealth Caribbean Criminal Practice and Procedure. Commonwealth Caribbean Law Series. London: Cavendish Pub.
Official Website of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Official Website of the National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago