Legal Reform

The Legal Reform Department is the principal Law Reform Agency in Jamaica and is one of the four legal Departments under the Ministry of Justice, the others being: the Attorney General’s Department, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.  The Legal Reform Department had its genesis in 1973 as a division under the Ministry of Justice and later gained departmental status.

The mandate of the Legal Reform Department is:

"To keep under review the laws applicable in Jamaica with a view to its systematic reform to meet the changing needs of the Jamaican Society, and to assist in the implementation of law reform proposals in accordance with Government policy."

The Department therefore performs the dual functions of recommending law reform and implementing law reform recommendations and in addition performs various ancillary or supplemental duties.

Function

The specific functions are:-

  • To undertake in-depth research into various areas of law in Jamaica, in the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions
  • To prepare study papers on domestic and comparative laws
  • To recommend the introduction of new legislation or the amendment of existing legislation or changes to legal procedures
  • To provide advisory services at meetings of the:
    • Legislative Committee,
    • Select Committees of the Houses of Parliament and
    • Other Committees considering law reform Bills
  • To assist in and monitor the implementation of law reform proposals which have been approved by Cabinet
  • To liaise with relevant Ministries, Government Department/ Agencies other interest groups and individuals on law reform issues
  • To promote and maintain communication with law reform agencies of other jurisdictions and with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the International Institutions on law reform issues

Scope of the work

The functions in relation to its making recommendations, include conducting in-depth research into and analysis of the existing law of Jamaica for the purpose of identifying deficiencies, anomalies, ambiguities or other problems arising thereunder, conducting comparative research and analysis of the law in other jurisdictions, and determining appropriate remedial approaches which may be taken.

This involves depending on the subject matter, the preparation of research papers or working papers for the purpose of consultative/eliciting views of the relevant stakeholders or the public at large.

 The Department also provides advice on law reform proposals emanating from other sources, such as Government Ministries, Agencies, members of the Judiciary, private legal practitioners or other interested persons or organizations.

Other duties

The Department also performs certain duties vital to the implementation of law reform proposals, such as:

  • Preparation of Cabinet Submissions;
  • Examining and advising on draft Bills through participation in meetings or by written comments;
  • Attendance at meetings of the Legislation Committee and Parliamentary Committees for the purpose of advising on law reform Bills;
  • Preparation of briefs for the presentation to Parliament of law reform Bills.

Additionally, the Department’s representatives participate in the negotiation of treaties and other agreements/arrangements between Jamaica and other countries for the

  • provision of mutual legal assistance, and
  • in regional and international meetings (particularly those of CARICOM and Commonwealth countries considering law reform initiatives).