The Court Structure in Jamaica - An Outline
THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL
This body is comprised of Law Lords of the United Kingdom and hears appeals from the decisions of the Court of Appeal of Jamaica. The decisions are by way of advice to Her Majesty the Queen of England who is also Jamaica’s Head of State. A treaty has been signed by the Government of Jamaica, which establishes a newly created Caribbean Court of Justice. This new court is intended to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the Final Appellate Court. The constitutional amendment procedure is required for the new Caribbean Court to take the place of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
THE COURT OF APPEAL
This appellate court was created in 1962 with the passing of the Jamaica Independence Act and the Constitution of Jamaica. It hears and determines civil and criminal appeals from the Supreme Court, the Criminal Court, the Gun Court, the Revenue Court, the Family Court, the Traffic Court and the Resident Magistrate’s Court and also certain statutory quasi-judicial bodies such as the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council. The court also hears applications for leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
THE SUPREME COURT
This court has unlimited jurisdiction in the whole range of criminal cases, common law, equity, divorce and matrimonial cases, bankruptcy and admiralty matters and constitutional matters. The special branches of the Supreme Court are the Revenue Court, the Gun Court and Constitutional Court.
The Supreme Court has a Civil Division with unlimited jurisdiction and a Criminal Division, which sits on Circuit in each parish.
THE REVENUE COURT
This superior court of record was established in 1971 for the purpose of dealing specifically with appeals from administrative bodies on revenue and related matters. The Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals under The Customs Act, The Excise Act, The Income Tax Act, The Land Development Duty Act, The Land Valuation Act and The Transfer Tax Act.
This court is staffed by a Supreme Court Judge.
THE GUN COURT
This Court sits in Kingston, Jamaica. Persons arrested on charges of illegal possession of firearms and any offences involving the use of illegal firearms are tried by the Gun Court. Save in cases of murder, the trial is by judge alone in camera.
THE RESIDENT MAGISTRATE’S COURTS
There is a Resident Magistrate’s Court in each of the fourteen (14) parishes of Jamaica.
The Resident Magistrate exercises both criminal and civil jurisdiction.
The Civil Jurisdiction is limited to amounts not exceeding J$250,000.00. The Criminal jurisdiction is limited to those offences in which the statute expressly says it is triable by a Resident Magistrate.
Resident Magistrates also hold Preliminary Enquiries in order to determine whether matters are to be sent for trial in the Circuit Court Division of the Supreme Court.
THE CORONER'S COURT
The Coroner is usually a Resident Magistrate who may sit with a jury to hold an inquest into sudden or suspicious deaths in his parish.
THE FAMILY COURT
This Court offers Judicial and Social Services to persons in an effort to preserve the family as a unit and to foster the welfare of children.
THE PETTY SESSIONS COURT
These Courts are presided over by Justices of the Peace and sit regularly in all principal towns of each parish to deal with minor causes summarily.
THE JUVENILE COURT
This Court consists of a Resident Magistrate as chairman and two Justices one of whom shall be a woman. These Courts sit in every parish and hear Criminal matters involving children under 17 years of age.
In addition, there are a variety of special courts for special purposes, such as the Court Martial for the trial of members of the Defence Force and the Water Courts to hear water disputes.