Literature in the Caribbean:Recent Developments in the 21st Century
Yemisi Dina, Law Librarian, College of the Bahamas Law Library
is made up of young jurisdictions with growing legal literature. The laws of
most of these countries are based on the laws of their former colonies. Antoine
(1999) also confirmed this, saying that:
" ---The countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean continue to exhibit perhaps excessive tendencies of reliance on the form, structure, substance and content of the law as expressed in England."
This presentation is an attempt to review the developments of Caribbean legal literature in the 21st century with emphasis on the following English-speaking countries:
Legal literatures considered for the purpose of this presentation are legislation, law reports, journals and textbooks.
All of the aforementioned countries have published their own legislation after independence and they come in series. This area has seen a significant development in the last 20 years. Subsidiary legislation is usually published in Official Gazettes but some territories compile and publish at the end of each year. These publications are usually handled by the Attorney General's office/ the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The law library of the Faculty of Law University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados publishes an index of statutes, which gives an update of changes in statutes in all English-speaking Caribbean countries.
Jamaica has the earliest history of law reporting from 1774. Newton (1978) observed that law reports in the Commonwealth Caribbean were short-lived and punctuated by long gaps. According to her,
"No law reports have ever been published for Belize, The Cayman Islands, the Leeward or the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Bahamas Law Reports never continued beyond Volume I, which contained a selection of Supreme and Magisterial Court cases for the period 1900-1906.The Barbados Reports reached volume 2. The first volume covering cases relating to Barbados which were determined in local courts and found in English Reports for 1694, 1831 and 1853-1893; the second containing cases decided in the island's Court of Error during the years 1860, 1863, 1878 and 1894-1903. -------"
Newton further identified the main reasons why most unit law reporting efforts have not been sustained:
Today the above mentioned
reasons have prevailed upon the publication of law reports in the Commonwealth
Caribbean as only these countries currently publish law reports:
Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago. And there still exists some gaps in some of these publications. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has also published a set of law reports covering that jurisdiction. Butterworths also publishes the West Indian law reports, which covers the entire territory of the West Indies.
A lot of journals have been published over the years but there is still a dearth in this area. There are a few journals being coordinated by the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies. Please visit the Law library web page for a listing of these titles.
Lecturers at the University of West Indies have published extensively on virtually every area of law. Cavendish Publishers, the Caribbean Law Book publishing and other private publishers have published some of these texts. The Faculty of Law Library Cave Hill, Barbados continues to be the leading repository of West Indian legal Literature.
IMPACT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
IT has had a lot of impact on the accessibility of Caribbean legal information. The following sites are very useful:
The legislation of the following countries are available on CD-ROM:
Unreported judgments of some Caribbean countries are available on Quicklaw.
I wish to thank members of the Foreign & Comparative & International Law for giving me the opportunity to share this experience. I am not originally from the Caribbean but I have for the past year been involved in the daunting task of setting up a law library to support the new LL.B Program at The College of The Bahamas. The Caribbean legal literature shares the same background as my original country. Thank you.
1. Antoine, Rosemary Belle-Antoine Commonwealth Caribbean Law and Legal Systems London: Cavendish Publishers 1999.
2. Newton, Velma “Historical
Perspective of law-reporting in the English-speaking Caribbean – a case
for regional reporting” West Indian Law Journal October 1978 pp. 37-44