- Constitutional Reform
- Legal Education
- Legal Reform
- Protection of Human Rights
- Law Revision Secretariat
- Legal Reform Department
- Office of the Parliamentary Counsel
- Constitutional Reform
- Legal Reform
- Legal Education
- Protection of Human Rights
Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Role and Functions
The Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs (MLCA) has been established to take charge of, and give focused attention to, the Government’s legislative agenda and its legal and constitutional reform aspirations. The creation of the MLCA is the Government’s attempt to holistically revisit the legal and constitutional infrastructure of the State and accelerate the pace of reform.
The re-write of Chapter III of the Constitution of Jamaica, with the passage of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms over a decade ago, has been the closest we have come to any fundamental constitutional reform since Independence. This should have been followed by a comprehensive review of the Laws of Jamaica to make them compliant with the Charter, given its binding nature and the significant narrowing of the savings-clause. A major area of focus for the Ministry will be the reform of the Constitution to enable Jamaica to transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.
The MLCA’s Legal Education responsibility will transcend the provision of monthly subventions to the Norman Manley Law School to include implementation of a robust Public Education Programme on the Laws of Jamaica to augment technocrats’ knowledge and awareness of the laws which govern the operation of their entities, the legislative review process, and their role in the process. The MLCA recognises the need to improve knowledge and understanding of legislation under each Ministry’s portfolio to prevent/reduce the Government’s exposure to Court action and ultimately, liability, as well as to help improve confidence and integrity in government.
The purpose of the Public Education Programme on the Laws of Jamaica is to educate technocrats and all Jamaicans on the following:
- The legislative process and the role of all stakeholders in the process;
- The laws which govern the operations of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and the need to comply with them;
- Administrative/Public Law requirements for the exercise of statutory functions;
- The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and the role of the State in protecting people’s rights;
- The Government’s Legal and Constitutional Reform Agendas.
The MLCA will also seek to protect the rights of the people of Jamaica which are guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
Office of the Parliamentary Counsel
The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is the Law Office of the Government charged with the responsibility for the preparation of draft legislation. It consists of a cadre of attorneys-at-law headed by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and supported by administrative and secretarial staff. It is one of the four Legal Departments in the public sector – the others being: the Legal Reform Department (another Department under the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs), the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Role and Mission
The role and mission of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is to:
- Facilitate the Government in the task of governing by preparing draft legislation in fulfilment of its Legislative Programme and in pursuance of policy decisions at the Ministry level; and
- Give counsel to Parliament in the exercise of its law-making powers by advising on draft Bills which it seeks to enact.
In carrying out these functions, Parliamentary Counsel draft Bills and subsidiary legislation on instructions from client Ministries; advise Ministries on points of law relevant to proposed legislation; examine and comment on all Cabinet Submissions related to legislation; attend Legislation Committee (a Sub-Committee of Cabinet) and; when necessary; sittings of Parliament or Committees thereof when Bills are being taken.
Legal Reform Department
The Legal Reform Department is the principal Law Reform Agency in Jamaica and is one of the four Legal Departments in the public sector. The 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 to:
- Undertake in-depth research into various areas of law in Jamaica, in the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions;
- Prepare study papers on domestic and comparative laws;
- Recommend the introduction of new legislation or the amendment of existing legislation or changes to legal procedures;
- Provide advisory services at meetings of the:
- Legislative Committee;
- Select Committees of the Houses of Parliament; and
- Other Committees considering law reform Bills.
- Assist in and monitor the implementation of law reform proposals which have been approved by Cabinet;
- Liaise with the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, other interest groups and individuals on law reform issues;
- To promote and maintain communication with law reform agencies of other jurisdictions and with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the International Institutions on law reform issues.
Scope of Work
Its functions, in relation to making recommendations, include conducting in-depth research into and analysis of the existing Laws 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 Ministries, Departments and 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:
- Preparation of Cabinet Submissions;
- Examining and advising on draft Bills through participation in meetings or by written comments;
- Attendance at meetings of the Legislation Committee and Parliamentary Committees for the purpose of advising on law reform Bills; and
- Preparation of briefs for the presentation to Parliament of law reform Bills.
Additionally, the Department’s representatives participate in the negotiation of treaties and other agreements/arrangements between Jamaica and other countries for the provision of mutual legal assistance, and in regional and international meetings (particularly those involving CARICOM and Commonwealth countries considering law reform initiatives).
Law Revision Secretariat
The Law Revision Secretariat is governed by the Law Revision Act. The main functions of the Secretariat include:
a) Textual changes to the Laws of Jamaica (Statutes and Subsidiary Legislation)
b) Typesetting and proofreading the pages of:
(i) New statutes and subsidiary legislation
(ii) Amendments to existing statutes and subsidiary legislation
c) Data entry and proofreading of the pages of the loose-leaf Guide to Subsidiary Legislation
d) Preparation of the Laws of Jamaica (Statutes and Subsidiary Legislation) on Compact Discs (CDs) for updating the Ministry’s website. This preparation process involves scanning, cropping, and capturing the revised pages received from the Jamaica Printing Services, updating the Unit’s PDF version of the Laws of Jamaica as well as the creation of links to the various sections of the laws, thus facilitating ease of access. The prepared CDs are subsequently checked for accuracy and thereafter submitted to the MIS Unit for the updating of the website.
Office of the Public Defender
The Office of the Public Defender is a Commission of Parliament, and its operations are governed and guided by The Public Defender (Interim) Act. In accordance with the Constitution of Jamaica and the principles of Natural Justice, the Office of the Public Defender investigates complaints brought by any member of the public against the State; seeks redress for Constitutional and Administrative injustice and provides, where necessary and possible, the attorney’s fees needed to pursue Constitutional remedies in Court.
Address and Contact:
c/o Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
61 Constant Spring Road
(876) 927-9941-3, 929-8880-5 & 927-4101-3 (Minister & Permanent Secretary)
(876) 906-4923-31 (Legal Reform Department & Law Revision Secretariat)
(876) 906-1717 (Office of the Parliamentary Counsel)