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The Second Meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee comprising Hon. Ministers responsible for Legal Affairs and Attorneys-General of the Caribbean Community was convened in Nassau, The Bahamas from 7-10 September 1998. The Welcome Address was delivered by the Honourable Tennyson Wells, Attorney-General of The Bahamas and incoming Chairman of the Committee. The Hon. David Simmons, Q.C., M.P., Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs of Barbados replied on behalf of the Regional Attorneys-General and Ministers of Legal Affairs. On the invitation of the outgoing Chairman of the Committee, the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, Q.C., Attorney-General of Jamaica, H.E. Sir Orville Turnquest, G.C.M., Q.C., J.P., LLB, Governor General of the Bahamas delivered the Feature Address and declared the Meeting open.

The Meeting which was chaired by the Hon. Tennyson R.G. Wells, M.P., Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Bahamas was attended by the Hon. Radford Hill, M.P., Attorney-General and Minster of Justice and Legal Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda; the Hon. David A.C. Simmons, Q.C., M.P., Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs, Barbados; the Hon. Anthony Peter La Ronde, M.P., Attorney-General, Dominica the Hon. Charles Ramson, S.C., M.P., Attorney-General and Minster of Legal Affairs, Guyana; Sen. The Hon Arnold J. Nicholson, Q.C., Attorney-General of Jamaica; the Hon. Delano Bart, M.P., Attorney-General of St. Kitts and Nevis; the Hon. Velon John, Minister of Legal affairs, Home Affairs and Labour, Saint Lucia; the Hon. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, S.C., M.P., Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago and the Hon. Dancia Penn, Q.C., Attorney-General of the British Virgin Islands and their advisers.

The Committee had before it an Agenda which comprised several issues of critical importance for the efficient functioning of the Caribbean Community, including the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice, the consideration of the draft Agreement to establish a Regional Justice Protection Programme, the harmonisation of approaches to the death penalty in the Community, the development of legal education and the practice of law in the Community, a Code of Judicial Conduct and the harmonisation of laws in the Community, particularly as these relate to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

The Attorneys-General recalled that there had been regional consensus for the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Appeal to replace the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council long before its decision in Pratt and Morgan. The Attorneys-General decided that a Working Group of Attorneys-General be established to present a report in November 1998 for the capital and recurrent budgets for the Caribbean Court of Justice. This Working Group will be meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in November 1998 and is expected to submit it report in time for the Third Special Meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee in January 1999.

The Attorneys-General also considered a Draft Agreement to establish a Regional Justice Protection Programme. This Agreement is expected to be refined and vetted in time for consideration by the Legal Affairs Committee in January 1999, so that the Conference of heads of Government can consider it at its Tenth Inter-Sessional Meeting in February 1999. The Committee also refined and adopted a Judicial Code of Conduct. Refinements were also made to the Agreement relating to the Seat of the Court and the Protocol of the privileges and Immunities of the Court and the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission.

In its deliberations, the Committee addressed the policy implications of investing the Caribbean Court of Justice with original jurisdiction in respect of the interpretation and application of the Treaty Establishing the Caribbean Community, as amended, and in particular, the issues relating to exclusive jurisdiction of the Court, parties to be accorded locus standi in proceedings before the Court, the doctrine of Precedent in respect of decisions of the Court and the privileges and immunities of the Court, the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission, and judges and counsel enjoying a right of audience before the Court.

The third Special Meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee is scheduled to be convened in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in the second week of January 1999, to examine and refine various legal instruments for submission to the Tenth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government.

9th September 1998
Nassau, The Bahamas

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