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Appeals To Privy Council Ruled Illegal

Thu, 10 Feb 2005

Abolition Of Jamaican Appeals To Privy Council Ruled Illegal

"The Privy Council ruled on 3 February 2005 that the purported enactment by the Parliament of Jamaica of three bills intended to abolish the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was unconstitutional", said a spokesperson for the Campaign for the Privy Council.

The passage of the bills did not follow the procedure required by the Constitution of Jamaica. A bill intended to alter an entrenched provision of the Constitution must wait for a period of at least six months after being introduced in the House of Representatives. Only then can it be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate with the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament.

Two of the three bills, which had the effect of altering entrenched provisions of the Constitution, were passed without the required two-thirds majorities. The Privy Council held that the first bill, abolishing the right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council, did not alter an entrenched provision, but could not be separated from the other two bills and hence should also have been passed by a two-thirds majority.

The other two bills related to the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice.

The spokesperson for the Campaign for the Privy Council pointed out that "The Privy Council's ruling in the Jamaican case is a reminder of the continuing need for a Commonwealth-wide appeal court. The Privy Council decision has strengthened the Constitution of Jamaica, and the rule of law. New Zealand does not have a written constitution.

It is therefore even more important for this country to have access to an independent arbiter of constitutional propriety and common sense. The Privy Council is internationally recognised for its experience, technical skill, and freedom to make decisions without fear or favour.

It is a matter of regret that the Supreme Court Act was passed by the Parliament of New Zealand by a narrow majority of 62 votes to 52, a long way short of a two-thirds majority of all of the members of the House of Representatives".


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