The Coroners Act

The Resident Magistrate for a parish is ex officio the Coroner for that parish.

The Coroners Act provides that where it appears to the Coroner that there is reason to suspect that:

(a) a deceased has come to his death by murder, manslaughter or
infanticide; or
(b) that the death occurred in circumstances which, if continued,
would be prejudicial to public health or safety,

the Coroner shall summon a jury to determine how, when and where the deceased came by his or her death, and whether anyone should be charged with murder or manslaughter. If the jury finds that someone is to be charged, the Coroner issues a warrant for the arrest of such person who is then brought before the next sitting of the Circuit Court for that parish.

However, where the Resident Magistrate is sitting as a Resident Magistrate and conducting a preliminary examination in a charge of murder or manslaughter, no jury is required at that stage, and the Resident Magistrate (sitting alone) commits straight to the Circuit Court, if satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out.

So, the question arises: why is a jury stipulated for a Coroner’s Court in these cases? Why can’t the Coroner sit alone at all times and do the same thing that he or she does when sitting as Resident Magistrate, that is, commit to the Circuit Court? After all, there is the constant complaint that inquests are not being held quickly enough due to problems with jurors.

Click here to view/read The Coroners Act

Jamaica’s Constitution as it relates to “allegiance to a foreign power”

1. Section 39 of the Constitution of Jamaica provides that a Commonwealth citizen aged 21 years or upwards who has been ordinarily resident in Jamaica for the immediately preceding twelve (12) months is qualified to be appointed a Senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives.

2. Section 40 provides that no person who by his own act is under acknowledgment of allegiance to a foreign power (meaning a non-Commonwealth country) shall be qualified to be appointed a Senator or elected to the House of Representatives.

Commentary: Theoretically, it does not matter where that Commonwealth citizen was born so long as he does not have allegiance to a non-Commonwealth country. It means, among other things, that:

(a) a non-Jamaican who is a citizen of Zimbabwe, Kenya, India or Pakistan can enter Parliament here after a mere twelve months residence; but

(b) a Jamaican-born person who has lived in Jamaica all his or her life, cannot enter Parliament if he or she happens to have allegiance to a non-Commonwealth country such as the United States, Panama, Mexico or Spain.

However, a Jamaican-born person may enter Parliament if he or she has allegiance to Nigeria, Zimbabwe or Australia.

The National Housing Trust Act

1. This piece of legislation was enacted on New Year’s Day, 1979. It establishes a body called the National Housing Trust. You can click here to view/read the NHT Act in detail.

2. The sole functions of the Trust are stated as follows:

  • (a) to add to and improve the existing supply of housing; and
  • (b) to enhance the usefulness of the funds of the Trust by promoting greater efficiency in the housing sector.

3. In executing its functions, the Trust is required to make loans to contributors to assist in purchasing, maintaining, repairing or improving houses.

4. In 2005, Parliament amended this Act so as to enable the Trust to provide financing up to a maximum of five billion dollars for projects for the development of education. It is to be noted that this provision has nothing to do with the housing sector. So, strictly speaking, it was outside the scope of the law. Parliament seems to have recognized this fact as it provided that this amendment was to be effective only until August 25, 2006. So, after this date, the law reverted to the position it was in prior to the passing of the amendment in 2005.

5. This is a neat way of taking money from a fund that was legally established to do one thing, and to use it lawfully for another purpose. Parliament is really supreme.

There was much furor about this in the local press in 2005. Here are some links to related articles and letters on the matter:
– May 10, 2005 – Letter to the Gleaner Editor – NHT move is wrong
– July 23, 2005 – Letter to the Gleaner Editor – Lend the money for education
– July 27, 2005 – Article – House passes amended NHT Act
– July 30, 2005 – Article – Betrayal of trust, says JLP – as Senate passes amended NHT Act

Status of Children Act Anniversary

Today, August 6, marks the 32nd anniversary of the passing of the Status of Children Act 1976. At the time, this Act abolished the distinction between children born in or out of wedlock. From that date onward, children born out of wedlock had the same status and priveleges as children born of married parents. The Act also made provision for blood tests to establish paternity.

The Maintenance Act, 2005

The Maintenance Act, 2005 has repealed the Affiliation Act which since 1926 had provided for the determination of fatherhood and the maintenance of children where the parents are not married to each other. The situation now is that whether a child is of a single woman or not, it does not matter so far as the determination of paternity is concerned. In respect of maintenance, every parent has an obligation to maintain his or her unmarried child who is under the age of eighteen years, OR is in need of such maintenance, by reason of physical, or mental infirmity or disability.

Every grandparent has a similar obligation in respect of the grandparent’s unmarried grandchild, in the event of the grandchild’s parents failing to maintain the child due to death, physical or mental infirmity or disability of the parents. This is so to the extent that the grandparent is capable of so doing.

This legislation is clearly aimed at ensuring that parents and grandparents take responsibility for their children and grandchildren who are under eighteen; and also for those who are over eighteen but are suffering from a disability.
So, grandparents must never believe that they are ever off the hook or out of the picture, in respect of maintenance.

Great grandparents, though, have been given a break as this law ignores them.

Click here to view/read The Maintenance Act, 2005

The Status of Children Act

This law, first enacted in 1976, made all children equal in status, irrespective of whether their parents are or have been married to each other. It gave rise to the popular 1970s song which said, “no bastards no deh again”.

The law provides that where in civil proceedings, it becomes necessary to determine the paternity of any person, the court may on the application of a party to the proceedings direct that blood tests be used to determine whether a party to the proceedings is or is not excluded from being the father of the subject.

If for the purpose of giving effect to the court’s direction, a person were to impersonate another, or puts forward a child knowing that the child is not the child that the court has given the direction about, that person may be charged and tried in a Resident Magistrate’s Court for the impersonation. If convicted, the individual may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve months. However, if the Resident Magistrate wishes to impose a fine, the maximum fine is five hundred dollars. Strange isn’t it…this question of the fine?

Click here to view/read The Status of Children Act

The Affiliation Act

The Affiliation Act was enacted on the 26th April, 1926, that is, 82 years ago. It deals with the determination of fatherhood, and provides for the maintenance, of children where the parents are not married to each other. It has some interesting provisions.

Section 3 of the Act states that a single woman, who is “with child” or who has been delivered of a child, may:

  • either before the birth of the child, or at any time within twelve months from the birth of the child

swear to a complaint in the Resident Magistrate’s Court or Family Court with a view to the Court formally naming the father of the child.

If the woman misses this specified deadline, she may still, at any time after the expiration of the twelve month period, swear to the complaint if she is able to prove that the alleged father has within twelve months of the birth of the child paid money for the maintenance of the child, or has contributed to the child’s support.

Note that the person filing the complaint has to be a single woman. Of course, the man is sometimes a married man.

The hearing for the determination of fatherhood takes place before a Resident Magistrate. The evidence of the woman is taken as also any witness whom she calls. The alleged father’s evidence is then taken. If the woman’s evidence is corroborated to the satisfaction of the Resident Magistrate, the latter may adjudge the man to be the putative father of the child.

Incidentally, it is presumed under our law that a married man is the father of any child that his wife gives birth to during the existence of the marriage. The presumption may be rebutted in certain limited circumstances.

Click here to view/read The Affiliation Act

Note: The Affiliation Act was repealed by the Maintenance Act, 2005