Jamaica is an English-speaking constitutional democracy, and gained its independence from Great Britain in 1962. The official language of the country is English. Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and regionally, the country is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), The country is also a member of the Organization of American States (OAS) and is a signatory to the American Convention of Human Rights.
Jamaica’s legal system is based on common law with three distinct arms of government, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The 1962 Constitution established a parliamentary system based on the United Kingdom model. As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II appoints a governor general, on the advice of the prime minister, as her representative in Jamaica. The governor general's role is largely ceremonial. Executive power is vested in the Queen, but exercised mostly by the Cabinet of Jamaica and led by the Prime Minister.
Parliament is composed of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Representatives. Thirteen Senators are nominated on the advice of the prime minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition; a two-thirds super-majority of both chambers is needed for major constitutional amendments. The Senate may submit bills, and it also reviews legislation submitted by the House. It may not delay budget bills for more than one month or other bills for more than seven months. The prime minister and the Cabinet are selected from the Parliament. No fewer than two nor more than four members of the Cabinet must be selected from the Senate.
The Administration of Justice in Jamaica
The administration of the justice system in Jamaica is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and the Court Management Services (CMS). The Ministry is assisted in this task by several agencies and departments, the Attorney-General, the Solicitor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Court Management Services mandate is the organisation of the administrative services of the courts. Courts in Jamaica are organized from the lowest level – Petty Courts, through the Resident Magistrates’ Courts (which have jurisdiction of the specialised which are the Family Court, the Coroners’ Court, the Juvenile Court, the Traffic Court, the Night Court, the Tax Court, the Small Claims Court and the Drug Court.
The Supreme Court occupies the third level of the court structure and is a superior court of record with jurisdiction in Admiralty, Family, Civil, Commercial, Criminal, Family and Succession matters. It has unlimited jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters.
The Court of Appeal is the fourth level on the court structure and was established in 1962 by s 103 of the Constitution. Criminal and civil appeals from the Resident Magistrates Courts and the Supreme Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal also hears appeals from the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council as well as applications for leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is at the highest level of the court structure of Jamaica. The Privy Council is the court of final appeal for Jamaica as a commonwealth country, which retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council in the United Kingdom.
The Privy Council hears the appeals from the Court of Appeal of matters, which are considered of exceptional public importance.