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.
The specific functions are:-
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.
The Department also performs certain duties vital to the implementation of law reform proposals, such as:
Additionally, the Department’s representatives participate in the negotiation of treaties and other agreements/arrangements between Jamaica and other countries for the
The bulk of the work carried out by the Department is in response to requests for assistance, primarily from the Ministry of Justice, but also from other Ministries, Government Departments and Agencies. Historically, the implementation function has taken precedence to the recommendation of law reform, as the performance of these duties indicated above and staffing of the department afforded very little time for the pursuits of law reform matters outside of those with which the Government is concerned at any particular time.
The Legal Reform Department is headed by the Director of Legal Reform and currently has a staff complement of six lawyers out of an establishment of ten and four support staff.
The Department’s Budget is centrally managed by the Ministry of Justice which also administers much of the personnel matter due to our small size.