Introduction to the Jamaican Legal System

Topics: Law, Common law, Judge Pages: 10 (2923 words) Published: January 20, 2013
UNIT 1-INTRODUCTION TO THE JAMAICAN LEGAL SYSYTEM Introduction to studying law Definition of Law Law may be defined as a body of rules, created by the State, binding within its jurisdiction and enforced with the authority of the State through the use of sanctions. (Adams; Law for Business Students)

Breakdown of the definition: - Rules: are commands regulating behaviour; rules tell us what we can and cannot do.

Legal Sources -Rules of law are derived from various sources in English Law. These include, The Constitution of Jamaica, legislation, judicial precedents, certain ancient textbooks among others. The Constitution of Jamaica: The Jamaican Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land of Jamaica and all other laws must conform with the Constitution or they will be struck down.1 In 2011 a new Charter of rights was passed by Parliament, known as The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Act, 2010 This significantly changed Chapter III of the Constitution. “Traditional human rights protected by our old arrangements, such as the rights to life, liberty, property, freedom of conscience, expression and movement remain protected by the new Charter. Additionally, we now have constitutional rights to equitable and humane treatment by public authorities, not be discriminated against on the grounds of religion, social class or being male or female, to vote in free and fair elections and to be granted a passport. The latter goes hand in hand with the now constitutionally recognized right to leave the island, previously excluded. The Charter provides a number of more modern rights, including the right of every child to public primary education and the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage. These seemingly ambitious rights are nonetheless enforceable by the Charter's express provision for redress, not just against the state but also in citizen versus citizen litigation. Claims may be brought by the person aggrieved or by civic organizations with the permission of the court, where there is an allegation that any of the provisions of the Charter has been, is being or is likely to be contravened.” 2


(Jamaica Constitution. S.2.) 2 :

Patricia Roberts-Brown Attorney-at-Law, Lecturer , College of Business and Management


Legislation: Parliament is responsible for creating most laws and it may delegate its law making responsibility to other bodies (delegated legislation). The courts also in handing down judgments which are subsequently followed by other courts also create laws, this is what called the doctrine of binding precedents. Rules are also meant to regulate relationships.

Judicial Precedent: This doctrine of binding precedent ensures certainty in the law. Over a period of time in England , judges began to pay more attention to previous decisions and not just make a decision based on the individual case before them for determination. This system of law reporting where cases were published made it easier for judges to access these earlier decisions. It then became the established practice that judges were bound to follow the decisions of higher courts in similar cases. This general rule called the doctrine of binding precedent was established in the 19th century and has been consistently followed since then.

Textbooks: Early Textbooks- These books may have been written before law reporting became established and as such they are sometimes regarded as books of authority at that time.

Modern Textbooks- This is not considered a source of la and not aook of authority. They may be placed in the category of persuasive authority.

- Jurisdiction: The law of any country is binding only within its territory.

- Enforcement: Laws are enforced by a relevant party initiating...

References: to the various Judges. Petty Sessions Court- Your Worship Resident Magistrate’s Court-Your Honour Supreme Court and above –Your Lordship/Ladyship
Legal Officers (a) The Attorney-General Section 79(1) of the Constitution of Jamaica provides that “there shall be an Attorney General who shall be the principal legal adviser to the Government of Jamaica” This is a political appointment. She is the principal legal adviser to the Government. All civil proceedings by or against the Government are instituted in the name of Attorney-General. Patricia Roberts-Brown Attorney-at-Law, Lecturer , College of Business and Management 6
(b) The Director of Public Prosecutions Section 94 (1) of the Constitution of Jamaica states that “there shall be a Director of Public Prosecutions, whose office shall be a public office”. She is appointed by the Judicial Services Commission on the advice of the Prime Minister. She is responsible for the Crown Prosecution Services. The Director must be an Attorney-at-Law of at least ten(10) years standing.
(c)The Solicitor-General He and his staff represents the Crown in the Courts in civil matters where the public interest is concerned. He also advises the Government departments on important legal matters. He is appointed by the Governor General in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Services Commission.
Arbitration “Arbitration is the reference of a matter in dispute to one or more persons called arbitrators.”1 Arbitration is used as an alternative proceeding to litigation. In commercial matters, parties often include a clause for arbitration in the event of disagreement between the parties and a clause is often incorporated in partnership agreements should disputes occur among partners. The contract may include a clause for a sole arbitrator or two arbitrators. An arbitrator does not necessarily have to be a legally trained person, although this is recommended. The advantages of arbitration are: 1. Speedy settlement of the matter: Litigation in the Courts can result in lengthy delays before there is a trial. 2. Privacy: A Court room is a public place. Parties to a dispute may wish not to have their personal or private matters disclosed in that environment neither may they want confidential commercial matters heard in open court. 3. Expenses may be less as the time is shorter than if the matter went to Court. 4. Expert Knowledge : The arbitrator may be an expert in the field of the matter which is disputed. Generally, the disputes are disputes of fact and not of law so the need for a legal mind may be secondary in resolving same. 5. Convenience: The arbitration is held at a place and time convenient to the parties and the arbitrators.
The disadvantages are said to be: 1. Where there are difficult points of law to be determined, an arbitrator may not have the requisite expertise 2. Each case is decided on its merits so the doctrine of precedent does not apply.
Padfield, C. F. Law Made Simple
Patricia Roberts-Brown Attorney-at-Law, Lecturer , College of Business and Management
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