Custos rotulorum (the plural of which is Custodes rotulorum) is the Latin phrase for "keeper of the rolls". It is a civic post which is recognised in England where it originated and in Jamaica .

The Office of the Custos traces back to fourteenth century England when in 1391 King Richard II issued the Grand Commission appointing Custodes and Justices of the Peace to assist in maintaining law and order in English Counties. In Jamaica, the first mention of the office appears in the Legislative Council Minutes of the 28th day of July, 1668 in an Ordinance dealing with the Orderly Proceedings of the Courts within the island

The Custos is appointed by the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and shall be a resident of the parish to which he/she is appointed, save in the case of the Corporate Area.

Functions and Duties

The functions and duties of the Custos are to:

  • Be the representative of the Governor-General within the parish. It is his duty, in the absence of the Governor-General, to receive the Sovereign, any member of the royal family, the Prime Minister on an official visit, or any important personage commended by the Governor-General who arrives within the precincts of the parish. It is his duty to receive the Governor-General when he pays official visits to the parish.
  • Be the Chief Magistrate of the parish, and to prepare a roster of the Justices of the Peace within the parish so that there are sufficient JPs at each meeting of the Petty Sessions Court and in the various districts to carry out the work.
  • Be the chairman of the committee in each parish which is responsible for making recommendations to the Minister of Justice in regard to suitable persons for appointment as Justices of the Peace.
  • On behalf of the Governor-General, to interest himself in the work of all voluntary organisations in the parish, and ensure that their activities receive suitable recognition on public occasions.
  • Meet the Judge of the Circuit Court at the Court House at the opening session.
  • Hold office during the Governor-General's pleasure and in any event vacate his office on transferring his residence from the parish (or the Corporate Area in the case of Kingston and St. Andrew) or on attaining the age of seventy-five years, unless specially requested to continue in office, provided that the age limit shall not apply to Custodes who were appointed prior to 1958.

In addition to the above, Custodes in recent times have served as the:

  • Chairman of the Governor-General's Achievement Awards Committee
  • Chairman of the Parish Advisory Committee on Local Government Reform
  • Chairman of the Community Consultative Committee for the parish;
  • Co-Chairman, along with the Mayor, of the Labour Day Committee
  • Chairman of the Prime Minister's Values and Attitudes Committee for the parish
  • Chairman of the parish Disaster Preparedness Committee
  • President of the Lay Magistrates Association