The Laws of Jamaica
Jamaica has a long legislative tradition that has stretched from colonial times through to the post-independence era. In fact, the laws that presently govern the state and citizenry of this island nation are an eclectic mix that have arisen out of legislation passed or promulgated both before and since 1962, when Jamaica joined the ranks of other independent nations that were previously colonies of the former British Empire.
The Laws of Jamaica (otherwise referred to as Acts or Statutes) were, in modern times, first revised in 1938 and again in 1953. Since 1953, during the pre and post-Independence periods, the volume of Legislation enacted by parliament made a further revision imperative. Accordingly, legislation was enacted – the Law Revision Act, 1969 – which, in addition to laying out the framework for how the revision of laws is to be carried out, as well as establishing the role of the Law Revision Commissioners in the carrying out of this task, paved the way for the first (and, to date, only) wholesale revision exercise involving the laws of independent Jamaica.
The ‘Revised Laws’
Law Revision is a process whereby the laws applicable to a region, area or specific subject matter are reviewed to determine the extent to which changes have been made over a particular period, and how best to incorporate or consolidate those changes into a comprehensive publication, i.e. a set of volumes that will reflect the law in terms of being accurate, current and timely.
Accordingly, the Revised Laws of Jamaica (Statutes) were published in 1974 and included all Acts, or Statutes, that were ‘in force’ on December 31, 1973. Out of this process, most of the existing primary legislation was organized into twenty-nine (29) Volumes; included therein are the various enactments (Acts) of the Jamaican Parliament (Volumes I to XXVII), as well as the Jamaica Constitution and the Jamaica Independence Act (Volume XXIX).
As a consequence of the revision of the Statutes, Subsidiary (or Secondary) Legislation spanning the years 1800 – 1975 was, for the first time, also revised and incorporated into nine Volumes. These Volumes were published in 1976 and are known as “The Revised Laws of Jamaica (Subsidiary Legislation)”. Currently, the number of Volumes stands at eighteen (18).
Since 1974 there has been a yearly revision exercise that keeps these Revised Laws – Statutes and Subsidiary Legislation – updated and current. The Law Revision Act currently prescribes the 31st day of December of each year as being the ‘cut-off’ date for a year’s revision, whereby all new legislation produced and ‘in force’ (i.e., operational) at that date is account for in the revision exercise for the year. As such, changes to the pages of the Revised Statutes and the Revised Subsidiary Legislation are identified and effected, and the updated pages for the specified year are prepared for publication.
Law Revision Team
The Law Revision Act (LRA) (1969) gave the charge of ensuring the ongoing effective and accurate revision of Jamaica’s laws to the Law Revision Committee (LRC), which is chaired by Minister of Justice and comprised of other Law Revision Commissioners (ex-officio and appointed, as per the 2016 amendment to the LRA). The Law Revision Secretariat (LRS) is the unit within the Ministry of Justice tasked with carrying out the practical work of Law Revision, under the technical guidance of the Law Revision Commissioners, and administrative supervision of the Permanent Secretary.
Additionally, to allow for greater accessibility to the critical information contained in the Laws of Jamaica by stakeholders – including legal practitioners, professionals from various fields, students/academia, businesspeople, and members of the public at large – the Revised Laws of Jamaica, as presented in the official volumes containing the Statutes and Subsidiary Legislation, have been converted to softcopy format by the Law Revision Secretariat, and made available online via the official website of the Ministry of Justice.