Courts of Appeal and Colonialism in the British Caribbean: A Case for the Caribbean Court of Justice

In recent years, a public debate on law and the colonial legacy has engaged people of all walks of life in the English Speaking Caribbean (ESC), from judges and politicians to young people in the streets. Throughout the ESC, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC)—based in London and composed of British jurists—has been the highest court of appeal since the colonial era. In the past decade, however, Caribbean governments have sought greater control over their legal systems. In 2005, they created the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to supplant the British Privy Council as the Supreme Court for Englishspeaking Caribbean nations. To date, three countries—Barbados, Belize, and Guyana—have replaced the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice. Although the Caribbean Court of Justice was originally proposed and funded by Jamaica and Trinidad, their governments have yet to accept it, and the JCPC still functions as their final court of appeal. Numerous governmental debates have recently brought the issue to the forefront of political discourse. The question of whether to jettison the JCPC—and adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice—in the ESC has raised questions about the imposition of capital punishment, issues of self-determination, national politics, and human rights obligations. In short, the court system has become a lightning rod for issues of national identity.