UPDATE: The Jamaican Legal System and Legal Research

By Jeanne Slowe and Claudette Solomon

Jeanne Slowe , MSLIS (Pratt), LL.B (Lond), B.A. (UWI) is presently Law Librarian at the University of the Bahamas, Nassau, The Bahamas. She has worked as Assistant Librarian at the Norman Manley Law School, Mona Campus, Kingston Jamaica; Law Librarian at the Faculty of Law, Mona Campus, Jamaica; Law Librarian at the Eugene Dupuch Law School, Nassau, the Bahamas. Her areas of interest include information literacy, legal research methods and law librarianship. She is a member of the Library and information Association of Jamaica (LIAJA); The Caribbean Association of Law Libraries (CARALL) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

Claudette Solomon is a law librarian who has a law degree and graduate training in librarianship with emphasis on law librarianship. She went to live in the United Kingdom in 1979 and came home in 2010 to Jamaica where she now resides. She has worked as a law librarian with law firms in Jamaica and the United Kingdom. She has also independently taught students, practitioners and academics how to use law libraries and how to do effective legal research using print and ICT media here and in the United Kingdom. She has worked in public, academic and special libraries (legal and accounting ones) in Jamaica and the United Kingdom. She was formerly employed as a consultant law librarian in the Mona Faculty of Law Library, University of the West Indies, Mona. Claudette currently teaches a Legal Research Course to graduate students in the Department of Library Studies on the University of the West Indies Mona, Jamaica Campus and she is a Senior Adjunct Tutor in the Mona Law Faculty.is a Member of the Caribbean Association of Law Librarians: CARALL, of The Jamaican Association of Law Librarians: LINAJ an offshoot of CARALL, of The Jamaica Library Association: LIAJA.

Published May/June 2020

(Previously updated in May/June 2014)

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1. Introduction

Jamaica is an English-speaking constitutional democracy, which is located in the Greater Antilles island group in the Caribbean. Geographically, it is the third largest island in the region[1] and the largest in the Anglophone Caribbean. The island’s closest neighbor is Cuba, which is 90 miles away, and it is less than two hours by air travel to Miami, U.S.A.

The country has a population of approximately 2.9 million and its official language is English. For administrative purposes. The island is divided into 14 parishes and the seat of governance is located in the parish of Kingston. The capital city of Kingston is located in this parish.

The modern, written history of the island can be traced back to 1494 when Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the West Indies, landed on the island’s north coast. However, it was not until 1509 that the Spanish actually settled on the island and, for the next 145 years, the island remained under Spanish hegemony until its conquest by the English in 1655. In 1944 the country was granted home rule when the first elections were held under Universal Adult Suffrage. Between 1958-1961, Jamaica was a part of the West Indies Federation, a short-lived political union with nine other British territories. In 1962, the island gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

As an independent country, Jamaica holds membership in several regional and international organizations and bodies. Regionally, the country is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), an organisation of 15 Caribbean nations which have come together to foster economic integration amongst its members. The country is also a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and is a signatory to the American Convention of Human Rights; human rights abuse in Jamaica may be petitioned in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Act was enacted in 2011 and replaces S3 of the Jamaican Constitution which was enacted in 1962, Jamaica’s year of independence. Internationally, the country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of 53 member states that were former territories of the British Empire. Upon gaining independence in 1962, Jamaica joined the United Nations and, ipso facto, is subject to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. In addition, Jamaica has its own rich and ongoing common law heritage.

2. Legal System

Jamaica’s legal system[2] is based on common law with three distinct arms of government: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The system of government is based on the British Westminster model.

2.1. The Executive

As a constitutional monarchy the head of state and the head of the executive is the British monarch (the Queen) who is represented locally by the Governor-General, His Excellency, Sir Patrick Allen.[3] The Governor-General’s role is largely ceremonial, including appointing and swearing in the Head of Government, the Prime Minister, as well as the cabinet. Constitutionally the Governor-General’s assent is required before any law passed by the Legislature comes into force. Although executive power is vested in the Queen, in reality it is exercised by the cabinet. The cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister who, as the leader of the majority party, must come from the lower house, the House of Representatives. Members of the cabinet are appointed by the Prime Minster and sworn in by the Governor-General and must come from either of the houses in the legislature. The current Prime Minister is the Right Honorable Andrew Holness, President of the incumbent Jamaica Labour Party. The executive function is set out in Chapter VI of the Jamaica (Constitution) Order in Council 1962. [4]

2.2. The Legislative

The legislature is headed by the Queen, hence the term, the Queen-in-Parliament.[5] Notwithstanding this constitutional technicality, real executive function is carried out by the elected representatives (Parliament) of the Jamaican people, not by the Queen or the Governor General.

The legislative branch of Jamaican government consists of Parliament, which has a bicameral chamber comprising The House of Representatives (lower house) and The Senate (upper house). The 63 members of the House of Representatives are directly elected while the 21 members of the Senate are appointed. Constitutionally, only 13 senators can be appointed by the Prime Minister with the remaining eight being appointed by the Leader of the Opposition. The effect of this constitutional provision is that no government can make any changes to the Constitution unless it has a two-thirds majority in the Senate; a two-thirds majority can only be possible with the support of at least one Opposition senator.

While the Jamaican constitution has legal supremacy over Parliament, it is Parliament and Parliament alone which can bring about changes within the Jamaican Constitution in the manner prescribed by the Constitution. The legislative powers of Jamaica are dealt with in the Jamaica Independence Act, particularly Section 3 of the First Schedule of the Act.

2.3. The Judiciary

The Jamaican judicial system is based on that of the English Common Law.[6] The common law system originated in England in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. In its earliest form, it was based on societal customs and norms recognised and enforced by the judgments and decrees of the courts, which travelled throughout the realm in England. These judges, on their return to London, would discuss and record their judgments, which were delivered in the land while traveling. Over time, used in a broad sense, the term “common law” came to include these early customs as well as legislative enactments and the judicial decisions interpreting their application. The common law system became therefore the law (custom, statutes and judicial decisions) common to all of England.

The bedrock of the common law system is the doctrine of stare decisis (“let the decision stand”). The doctrine has two limbs. First, the courts are obliged to follow the decisions and rulings in previously decided cases, or precedents, where the facts and issues are substantially the same. The second limb of the doctrine – and this is really an extension of the first – dictates that a lower court cannot depart from the precedents set by a higher court where the issue is essentially the same. Thus, in Jamaica (and the rest of the common law world), a superior court’s decision is binding authority for similar cases to be decided by the same court or by lower courts within the court structure. The decision is not binding on courts of higher rank, but it may be considered as persuasive authority. With the exception of the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is the country’s final appellate court,[7] decisions from courts outside of Jamaica are not binding but may be referred to as persuasive authority if there are no local cases which have settled the point in issue.[8]

Thus, court decisions are heavily reliant on prior judicial pronouncements. One other aspect of the common law system is that, where a statute governs the dispute, judicial interpretation of that statute determines how the law applies. A good example of this principle is the case of Smith v The Queen (Jamaica) [2005] UKPC 43 (14 November 2005), which illustrates the point of the interpretation of a piece of legislation and it is still a very controversial decision.

On April 3, 2013, judges of the Supreme Court of Jamaica dispensed with the colonial tradition of the wearing of wigs, opting instead for new attire consisting of full black robes with vertical stripes in the national colors of black, green and gold. The dispensing of wigs was initiated by the Court of Appeal in December 2011.

3. The Administration of Justice in Jamaica

The administration of the justice system in Jamaica is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and the Court Management Services (CMS). The Ministry is assisted in this task by several agencies and departments, notably:

3.1. The Attorney General

The Attorney General or his appointee is the officer who represents the government in civil cases of which the government is a party as provided by the Crown Proceedings Act. He can institute civil proceedings on behalf of the government and his role generally is that of protector of the public interest.

The position is authorized by s.79 (1) of the Constitution, which provides that “there shall be an Attorney General who shall be the principal adviser to the Government of Jamaica.” The Attorney General must certify any proposed law to be sent to the Governor General for assent before coming into law. The Attorney General is usually a political appointee. The current Attorney General is Marlene Malahoo Forte, QC. MP. JP who took up office in March 2016.

3.2. Solicitor General

The Solicitor General is responsible for the administration of the Attorney General’s Chambers and his position is authorized by The Solicitor General’s Act, 1939. The position is that of a civil servant appointed by the Governor General. Additionally, the Solicitor General represents the government in complex matters before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and in certain negotiations, including those with international lending agencies. The present Solicitor General is Mrs Nicole Foster Pusey, Q.C., who was appointed in July 2012.

3.3. The Director of Public Prosecutions

Prior to Jamaica’s independence in 1962, the Attorney General was responsible for both civil and criminal matters on behalf of the government. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was created by Section 94 of the Jamaican Constitution, which empowers the DPP as follows:

Section 94(2) of the Constitution provides that the holder of the office should be the equivalent to a judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature.

In an attempt to provide greater transparency and accountability for its operations, the Office of the DPP launched, in April 2012, TheDecision to prosecute: a Jamaican Protocol. The Office of the DPP noted that “The Protocol seeks to break down and explain legal terminologies, how the prosecutorial system actually works and what influences decisions to prosecute a case. It outlines how prosecutors in Jamaica have consistently strived to approach the decision-making process and reflects current local and international prosecutorial practices”.[9] The incumbent DPP is Miss Paula Llewellyn, Q.C.

4. Court Management Services (CMS)

In an effort to improve the administration of justice and ensure a greater input by the judiciary in the administrative services of the court, the Court Management Services was set up in August 2001 by the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and in collaboration with the Public Sector Modernization Division (PSMD), Cabinet Office. The establishment of the Court Management Services (CMS) serves to restructure the institutional framework through which administrative services are provided to the Courts and further strengthen judicial independence. The agency’s establishment is designed to enable the Judiciary and the Courts to have greater input in budgetary decisions and execution of activities surrounding the operations of the Courts. The organization is responsible for performing a range of court-related administrative services. specifically:

4.1. The Hierarchy of the Courts

4.1.1. Petty Session Courts

At the lowest level of the five-level hierarchy of the Jamaican court system are courts of PettySessions, originating from early English tradition. Petty Sessions are presided over bythree Justices of the Peace (JPs) – sometimes referred to as “lay magistrates” - who sit to hear cases, which involve offences such as common assault, disorderly behavior, and the use of indecent language. Sessions are held regularly in each of the fourteen parishes. These Justices of the Peace (JPs) also assist with administrative duties such as the issuing of warrants and summonses, execution of documents, and the signing of application forms for passports.

JPs are usually advised on points of law and procedure by the Clerk of Court or the Deputy Clerk of Court, usually an Attorney-at-Law. The authority of the JPs rests in the Justice of the Peace Jurisdiction Act (1850). An appeal from Petty Sessions is to the Circuit Court of the parish where the Petty Session was heard or by way of a case stated to the Court of Appeal.

4.1.2. The Judicature Parish Courts (Formerly Known as the Judicature Resident Magistrate’s Courts)

The Parish Court is the second level of the court structure and their position is authorized by the Judicature (Resident Magistrates) Act, 1928, in which Section 1 was amended to change the name of the Court to that of Parish Court. The Act establishes a court for each of the fourteen parishes of the island, with the exception of the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, which have one combined Parish Court. Parish Court judges can preside over civil as well as criminal matters. Currently, in civil matters, jurisdiction is limited to claims below a maximum of J$1,000,000 for common law claims or torts. The Magistrates are now called Parish Court Judges.

Criminal jurisdiction in the Parish Courts is restricted to offences where express provision by statute allows the matter to be tried by a Parish Court Judge, formerly the Resident Magistrate. The jurisdiction of the Parish Court Judges extends to presiding over specialized courts, which are:

Appeals from the Parish Courts can go straight to the Court of Appeal. In other words, appeals can leapfrog the Supreme Court, if given leave to do so.

4.1.3. The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court occupies the third level of the court structure and is a superior court of record with jurisdiction in admiralty, family, civil, commercial, criminal, family and succession matters. It has unlimited jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters.

In 1962, section 13 of the Jamaican (Constitution) Order in Council adopted the existing Supreme Court as the Supreme Court for the newly independent Jamaica. The Supreme Court was then constitutionally established under section 97 of the Constitution of Jamaica. The Supreme Court is regulated by the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act. It has unlimited original jurisdiction in criminal, civil and constitutional cases. It also exercises an appellate and supervisory jurisdiction. This includes hearing appeals from decisions of the Registrar of the Supreme Court and from the petty sessional courts as well as reviewing the conduct of Coroners’ Inquests and decisions of administrative bodies such as the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.

The work of the Court is conducted in a number of different divisions, based on the nature and subject matter of cases to be heard. These divisions are Criminal (Circuit Court), Civil, Commercial, and Review/Constitutional. The civil jurisdiction sits only in the capital, Kingston, while the criminal jurisdiction sits as necessary in all parishes as the Circuit Court. Under section 97 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is a court of original jurisdiction. The Gun Court and Revenue Court are special courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction with the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court appeals are heard in the Court of Appeal. The head of the Supreme Court is the Chief Justice, who is also the Head of the Judiciary in Jamaica. The current Chief Justice is the Honorable Mr. Justice Bryan Sykes OJ. CD.

4.1.4. The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the fourth level on the court structure and was established in 1962 by s. 103 of the Constitution. Criminal and civil appeals from the Parish Court and the Supreme Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. Earlier decisions may be confirmed, varied or overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal also hears appeals from the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council as well as applications for leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (although the Court of Appeal is the highest court in Jamaica, its judgments may themselves be appealed to the Privy Council). The court is composed of a President and nine other Judges, with plans to increase the numbers. The Chief Justice is also a judge ex officio of the Court of Appeal but participates only when invited to do so by the President. The current President is the Honourable Justice Mr. C Dennis Morrison OJ. CD.

In December 2013 history was created when Division One of the Court of Appeal sat in the western section of the island at the Resident Magistrate's Court Building in Lucea, Hanover, from December 9-13. This special sitting of the Court of Appeal is notable as adjudications of the Court of Appeal have never been held outside of the capital (Kingston) since its inception in 1962.

4.1.5. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC)

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is at the highest level of the court structure of Jamaica. The Privy Council is the court of final appeal for Jamaica as a commonwealth country, which retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council in the United Kingdom. Section 110 of the Constitution chapter VII provides for a right of appeal from the Court of Appeal to the Privy Council. The Privy Council hears the appeals from the Court of Appeal on matters which are considered of exceptional importance in criminal and civil legal matters and constitutional issues.

4.1.6. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

For many years, there have been calls for Commonwealth countries of the Caribbean who have retained appeals to the Privy Council to be replaced by a Caribbean Court of Appeal as the final appellate court for the Commonwealth Caribbean. To that end, the Caribbean Court of Justice was established in 2001 with headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago. The CCJ has two jurisdictions:

On July 25, 2012, the Jamaican government tabled three bills in Parliament to have the CCJ replace the JCPC as the country’s court of last resort. However, the Opposition has indicated that it will not support replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ unless a referendum is held. Constitutionally, altering this constitutional provision (i.e., replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ) requires a two thirds majority in both houses of Parliament. While the bills are expected to pass in the lower house, where the government has a two thirds majority, their success in the Senate is in doubt. This is because it would require a Senator from the Opposition to cross over and give government the requisite two-thirds majority to pass the bill.

While the country has not yet acceded to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, it has begun to utilize the original jurisdiction of the court. Recently Jamaica brought its first case to the CCJ in the court’s original jurisdiction, Shanique Myrie v The State of Barbados, [2013] CCJ 3 (OJ). The court held that Barbados had breached Ms. Myrie’s right to enter Barbados and ordered the Barbados government to pay Ms. Myrie damages of approximately US$38,000.00.

In July 2013 a Jamaican gay rights activist, Maurice Tomlinson, filed suits in the jurisdictions of Jamaica, Belize, and Trinidad and Tobago wherein he challenged provisions in The Charter of Rights and sections of the Jamaican Constitution. In Maurice Arnold Tomlinson & Television Jamaica Ltd & CVM Television Ltd & The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica, he argued that his rights were being infringed by certain provisions within the Jamaican legislation. He also challenged the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. In Maurice Tomlinson & The State of Belize, Maurice Tomilinson & The State of Trinidad & Tobabgo (consolidated) [2016] CCJ 1 (OJ), Mr. Tomlinson argued that the laws, which bar homosexuals from entering either country, restrict his free movement as a CARICOM national under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. In November 2013 the CCJ heard arguments from Mr. Tomlinson to determine whether he had standing for leave for the case since the Jamaican government opted not to go to court on the matter. In 2016 the CCJ issued a ruling on this matter.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, there has been a concerted effort by some governments to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ. A number of eminent jurists and the St. Lucia government had sought the advice of the Court to determine whether there was an error in the Constitution that would allow for certain amendments before joining the CCJ.[10] The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled that St. Lucia does not require a referendum before becoming a full member of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

In January 2014, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica disclosed that he received a letter from British Foreign Secretary William Hague indicating that the British Government agrees and has no objection to Dominica recognizing the CCJ as its final appellate Court. However, the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has hinted that it may not support moves by the Roosevelt Skerrit government to have the island join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court.[11] Mr. Skerrit has said his administration would be bringing the necessary legislation to Parliament as soon as possible to have the CCJ as Dominica’s final appellate court and in 2015 Dominica acceded to the CCJ as its final appellate court.

5. Legal Education

5.1. Training

In 1970, The Faculty of Law was established at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to provide qualifications for training towards enabling persons to practice in the Caribbean, offering a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) degree. The faculty was originally situated in Barbados at the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI, and the first year of the three-year undergraduate programme was offered on three campuses: Cave Hill in Barbados, Mona in Jamaica and St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago. The second and third year programme was offered only in Barbados. The University of Guyana offered all three years of the programme.

In September 2009 both the Mona and St. Augustine campuses joined Cave Hill in offering the entire three-year undergraduate programme. In Jamaica, the degree is also offered through the UWI’s Western Jamaica campus. Outside of the UWI, the LL.B is offered by other tertiary institutions. The University of Technology (Utech), Jamaica, started their LL.B programme in 2009. In addition, several persons enroll in the University of London’s Distance Learning Programme. Persons with an LL.B must then pursue an additional two years of post-graduate study, culminating in enrollment to the Bar.

The Council of Legal Education (CLE) was established to provide training for persons wishing to practice in the Caribbean. This was achieved through the establishment of three law schools – Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas. The award of the Certificate of Legal Education after two years of study enables graduates to practice anywhere in the Caribbean after the procedure of enrollment to the Bar of each respective country.

Students enrolled in the UWI LLB programme have automatic entry into the law schools. Persons who obtain their undergraduate law degree other than from the University of the West Indies are required to sit an entrance examination. The Council of Legal Education is also responsible for the six-month course offered to persons who are professionally qualified in common law jurisdictions who wish to practice in the Caribbean.

5.2. Law Libraries

The past decade has seen dramatic changes in the way legal services are delivered; print is no longer supreme and the use of technology makes delivery of information quick and efficient. Law libraries in Jamaica continue to play a significant role in the introduction of technology into the institutions they serve, whether courts, law firms or universities. There is great deal of networking amongst the law libraries, locally and regionally and the libraries listed below form part of the local network, Legal Information Association of Jamaica (LINAJ) and the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries (CARALL).

Court Library: The library of the Supreme Court of Jamaica has been identified as the largest and oldest law library in Jamaica. Its exact date of establishment is uncertain, but it is assumed that it was established around the same time as the Supreme Court of Jamaica in 1681, during the reign of King Charles II. Historical facts reveal that the first set of library rules were compiled in 1897 and came into effect in 1898. The Supreme Court library is responsible for providing service to the Judiciary of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal as well as Parish Court Judges, legal officers of Government, attorneys and law students who need permission to use the facilities.

Law Firm Libraries: Some law firms have libraries. They are not open to the public. These include Livingston, Alexander & Levy; Nunes, Scholefield DeLeon & Company; DunnCox; and Myers Fletcher & Gordon. Livingston, Alexander & Levy was formed in 1911 and is the oldest law firm in Jamaica. Areas of practice include company and commercial law and they provide counseling services to large and small institutions including banks, trust corporations, building societies and credit unions.

Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Companyis the current firm of a number of mergers of law firms dating back to 1929. The firm serves a diverse number of clients with practice areas in commercial/corporate finance, intellectual property, litigation, real estate/administration of estates/trusts, telecommunications and technology.

DunnCox, considered one of the leading law firms in Jamaica and the Caribbean, was founded in 1942. It is a general service law firm divided into three departments covering corporate and commercial; conveyancing, probate, administration and trusts; and litigation. Its practice covers the full range of civil law matters.

Myers Fletcher & Gordonwas established in 1944 and is one of the largest law firms in Jamaica and the Caribbean. It has offices in England. The firm provides service to a wide range of government agencies, corporations and foreign diplomatic missions in Jamaica. Its interest in litigation is concentrated on the civil aspect, with particular strength in complex litigation, intellectual property and competition matters and contract and financial disputes.

Academic Law Libraries: The Norman Manley Law School is one of three law schools providing professional training for the practice of law in the Caribbean. Situated on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, the law school was named in honor of one of Jamaica’s prominent and illustrious advocates, the Right Honorable Norman Washington Manley, also a National Hero. The school accepts students from Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Norman Manley Law School library serves students and tutors of the Law School, the University community, the legal community including members of the Judiciary and attorneys-at-law. Members of the public have limited access with permission.

The newest law library is that of the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. Formerly, students wishing to pursue the undergraduate qualification leading to the LLB completed the first year on campuses in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica and then proceeded to Barbados for the final two years of study. With the establishment of a Faculty in Jamaica, students have the option of completing the entire three years of study in Jamaica or completing the two years in Barbados. The collection supports the three-year programme.

6. Sources of Legal Information

6.1. Primary Sources

Primary sources consist of legislation and case law. The collections of all the libraries consist of primary and secondary material and Jamaica’s English heritage is still evident as most of its material is still purchased from the United Kingdom. The Public General Acts of England (part of the collection of the Supreme Court library), Halsbury’s Statutes of England, andHalsbury’s Statutory Instruments are important resources as they are sometimes the only source for finding material on most of the Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, before they attained independence. Where there is a lack of local authorities, or provisions from other Caribbean countries, English authorities continue to be cited and approved by the courts.

6.1.1. Legislation

The Revised Laws of Jamaica (29 vols.) preceded by several earlier complete revisions in 1927, 1938 and 1953, has been published in loose-leaf format since 1973. Volume 1 contains the alphabetical list of Acts while Volume 29 contains the Jamaica Constitution Order in Council, 1962, the Jamaica Independence Act and the West Indies Act.

The Revised Subsidiary Legislation(16 volumes) has been published in loose-leaf format since1975and contains proclamations, rules, regulations (PR&R) and orders under the principal acts. The laws and subsidiary legislation are updated annually by replacement pages, authorized under the Law Revision Act and issued by the Jamaica Printing Services. The principal Acts are available on the website of the Ministry of Justice[12] but they are not up to date. The Acts have been published on CD-ROM by the Caribbean Law Publishing Company.

Attempts to organize and index subsidiary legislation resulted in the publication of Guide to the Subsidiary Legislation Prescribed Under the Statutes of Jamaica, third edition, including Instruments issued from 1800 to the 31st day of August 1977. Since that time, no other index has been published and law librarians have had to devise ways of recording and retrieving subsidiary legislation by producing in-houses indexes. This can prove challenging because of inconsistent numbering sequence used by the printers.

The Faculty of Law in Barbados produces a very helpful resource in the form of the Consolidated Index of Statutes and Subsidiary Legislation for each of the English-speaking Caribbean countries. These indexes are published as part of the West Indian Legal Indexing Project (WILIP). In addition to listing the current acts passed and subsidiary legislation, it includes subsequent treatment, such as amendments and repeals. The latest available WILIP publication for Jamaica is 2004 so it is best to go directly to the Ministry of Justice Jamaica website to see up to date laws including subsidiary legislation for Jamaica.

For a list of recent Acts of Jamaica passed during the year, consult the website of the Houses of Parliament.

6.1.2. Case Law

All the law libraries have the basic collection of The Law Reports published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR). Collectively, other standard report series such as All England Law Reports, early report series such as The English Reports, and specialist report series such as The Road Traffic Reports are well represented in the libraries’ collections. While English decisions continue to predominate in most substantive areas of the law, local and West Indian precedents are increasingly being used by the judiciary, magistrates and counsel in the trial process.

The earliest volumes of reported decisions available in Jamaica are the Supreme Court of Jamaica decisions & Privy Council decisions from 1774 – 1923 by J.E.R. Stephens, Of the Middle Temple Barrister-at-Law and Resident Magistrate of the Parish of Portland published in 1924 in two volumes. They are popularly known as “Stephens Reports,” and though unofficial, are still cited.

Also, of note is “Clark’s Report,” Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica, Judgments 1917-1932 with a digest of the same name by Adrian John Clark, L.L.B. of the Inner Temple, who was at sometime a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica. In 1963, The Gleaner Co. Ltd (Newspaper Company) published The Gleaner Law Reports 1963: Cases determined in the Court of Appeal during 1963. Reported and edited by Boyd Carey, LL.B (London) of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister-at-Law. An additional five volumes were subsequently published with a combined index and spanned the period 1963 – 1968.

Decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are reported in The Jamaica Law Reports (JLR), beginning in 1933 with Volume 1 and continuing to Volume 7, 1956-60. These were published by authority of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica.

Publication of The Jamaica Law Reports, Vols. 8-15, 1963-1976 was subsequently undertaken by Butterworth’s. The Caribbean Law Publishing Company continued publication from Volume 16 (1977) to the current Volume 35, published in 2008 and bringing the series of decisions to 1998. The later volumes included decisions on appeal from Jamaica to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The latest publisher to offer Jamaican case law resource is JUSTIS Publishing (UK) who, in 2010, announced Justis Jamaican Cases, a searchable database of approximately 2,000 cases from Jamaica’s Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the Revenue Court, from 1999 to the present. The service is available through subscription. JustisOne acquired Carilaw so now all the material hither to be found on that platform is now on the JusticeOne platform.

Jamaican judgments can also be accessed through law report series such as The West Indian Reports (hard copy and online available through LexisNexis and containing cases from most of the English-speaking Caribbean) and Law Reports of the Commonwealth (Commercial law, criminal law, constitutional and administrative law).

Unreported judgments of the Court of Appeal can be accessed from its website. Civil judgments as well as criminal judgments are listed. Unreported judgments of the Supreme Court are listed on its website.

A form of neutral citation for unreported judgments of the Supreme Court was introduced in 2012. (Practice Direction No. 1 of 2012 of the Supreme Court). Neutral citation for unreported judgments of the Court of Appeal was introduced on February 1, 2010. (Practice Direction No. 1 of 2010 of The Court of Appeal). Additionally, unreported judgments formerly accessed through CARILAW are now accessed through the JusticeOne (now part of vLex).

6.2. Secondary sources

There are many secondary sources of legal information pertaining to Jamaica. Some of these source titles listed below specifically relate to Jamaica and others are about the Commonwealth Caribbean with sections on Jamaica. These sources are listed below under the separate headings:

Court Rules

Textbooks and Treatises: There is a series called the Commonwealth Caribbean Law Series, which over time has been publishing books relevant to Commonwealth Caribbean legal matters. Some useful treatises include:



Both Westlaw and Lexis Nexis have Caribbean and Jamaican content, to the extent that decisions of the Privy Council are available in their databases. The West Indian Reports (WIR) of reported cases can also be found in the Lexis Nexis database ‘Sources’. CariLaw is now accessed through JUSTIS ONE which contains the full text of over 34,000 cases from the Caribbean with headnote

The following are open access resources:

Seminar Papers: Various organisations hold legal seminars but the papers produced at these seminars are not readily available. A useful resource through which to access papers produced by the Bar Association in conjunction with the General Legal Council Continuing Education sector is the General Legal Council’s website.



Library Networks


7. References





[1] After Cuba and Hispaniola.

[2] For more information, see CountriesQuest.

[3] A Jamaican citizen appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Jamaican Prime Minister.

[4] Political Database of America – Jamaica, Georgetown University Center of Latin American Studies (last updated July 9, 2011).

[5] The Crown, in its legislative role, passes laws, which are then sent to the monarch for the Royal Assent. This is a curious feature of the Westminster style of government and reflects the idea that there is a fusion of power between the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government.

[6] Information from the Jamaican Supreme Court website.

[7] It should be noted that not all decisions of the Privy Council are binding on Jamaican courts. This is because the Privy Council remains the final appellate court for several Commonwealth countries and, unless it is on a similar issue, a decision affecting a particular jurisdiction is, strictly speaking, merely persuasive. An example of this is Attorney General for Jersey v Holley [2005] 3 WLR 29, where an enlarged Board held that individual characteristics should not be considered in determining if a defendant meets the reasonable person standard for provocation.

[8] A good example of this are the decisions of the Supreme Court of United Kingdom (formerly the House of Lords), which is that country’s final appellate court. In Bernard v The Attorney-General of Jamaica [2004] UKPC 47, the JCPC applied the decision of the then House of Lords in Lister v Hesley Hall Limited [2001] UKHL 22 to find the State vicariously responsible for the actions of a police officer who shot and injured a civilian.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Court Rules St. Lucia Can Join CCJ Without Referendum, The Gleaner (last visited April 2020).

[11] Dominica Opposition May not Support Move to CCJ, Jamaica Observer (February 7, 2014).

[12] Government of Jamaica – Ministry of Justice.

[13] Paid subscription with password.