Former PM Patterson: Privy Council Never Meant to be Jamaica’s Final Court of Appeal

PJ Patterson, Jamaica’s former Prime Minister, made a bold assertion at a forum at the University of the West Indies. He stated that the framers of Jamaica’s constitution did not intend for the British Privy Council to serve as Jamaica’s highest Court of Appeal. Patterson emphasized that this was not meant to be a permanent fixture in Jamaica’s legal system.

Patterson, the country’s sixth and longest-serving Prime Minister, drew on his personal experience during the creation of the Jamaican constitution to support his claim. He highlighted that the vision of the founding fathers was to establish a Caribbean Court at the apex, which would eventually replace the Privy Council.

The proposal to establish a Caribbean Court of Appeal was initially recommended in 1970 by the Officers of the Caribbean Commonwealth Bar Association and later approved during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer. In 1987, during a meeting of Caribbean Heads of Government in Antigua, steps were taken to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final Appellate Court for English-speaking Caribbean countries.

Patterson underscored the significance of establishing the CCJ and ensuring its autonomy. He emphasized the need to remove the colonial vestiges of the Privy Council and establish a court system that is rooted in Caribbean jurisprudence. Patterson called for Jamaica to take the necessary steps to embrace its independence fully and develop a legal system that reflects the region’s values and principles.

In conclusion, Patterson’s remarks shed light on the historical context of Jamaica’s legal framework and the imperative of transitioning away from colonial-era institutions towards a more indigenous and representative system of justice. His insights serve as a catalyst for deeper discussions on the future of Jamaica’s legal landscape and the role of the Caribbean Court of Justice in shaping the nation’s legal identity.