Officers of the Magistrates' Courts

AuthorGeorge Belnavis
ProfessionAttorney-at-law of over 30 years practice at both the Public and Private Bar and is currently Senior Tutor II at the Norman Manley Law School, Kingston, where he has taught for nearly 20 years
36 / Criminal Practice and Procedure
Magistrates are creatures of statute and they derive their authority from
the particular statute relating to the Magistrates Courts in the various
jurisdictions. In most of the Commonwealth Caribbean, the Magistrates
are referred to as ‘Your Worship.’ In Jamaica and Belize they are referred to
as ‘Your Honour’. The Magistrates play a very important part in the
administration of Criminal Law. This is more so when it is taken into
account that all matters, whether indictable, summary or hybrid, must
first come before the Magistrates’ Court. Most, if not all Magistrates in the
Commonwealth Caribbean are qualified Attorneys at Law with at least five
years standing.
Antigua & Barbuda
Section 5 of the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure Act CAP. 255 states: There
shall be such number of Magistrates in the public service as may be required
for the purposes of this Act. Section 8(1) goes on to appoint every District
Magistrate as Justice of the Peace for Antigua & Barbuda.
The Bahamas
The Bahamas Magistrates Act Ch. 54, by section 12(1) provides that the
Governor-General on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services
Commission, may appoint stipendiary and circuit magistrates. The
Magistrate must be of at least five years standing and is ‘ex officio’ Magistrate
for New Providence and ‘ex officio’ Justice of the Peace for the whole of the
Officers of the Magistrates’ Courts
Officers of the Magistrates’ Courts / 37
Section 3(1) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1996 stipulates ‘There shall be
a Chief Magistrate and such number of other Magistrates as there shall be
offices established under the Civil Establishment Act.’
The appointment of Magistrates in Belize is governed by the Inferior Courts
. 94 which, by section 7(1), provides that the Public Service
Commission may appoint fit and proper persons as Magistrates to each
judicial district. Section 7(2) goes on to stipulate that a Magistrate shall be
a Barrister or a Solicitor of at least three years standing but also gives the
Public Service Commission power, ‘for good and sufficient reason, appoint
some fit and proper person not possessing either qualification as Magistrate.’
This means in effect that ‘unqualified’ individuals may be appointed.
However, the Belize Constitution (Fifth Amendment) Act 2005 states,
inter alia that ‘A magistrate shall be appointed by the Judicial and Legal
Services Commission and shall, subject to any law passed by the National
Assembly, be a qualified attorney at law.’
Section 4(1) of the Judicature (Resident Magistrates) Act stipulates that it
shall be lawful for the Governor General from time to time to appoint so
many Resident Magistrates…as he may think necessary to satisfactorily
discharge the business of such appointment, be capable of exercising and
administering the jurisdiction and duties of any Resident Magistrate’s Court
in the island.1
No person can be appointed as a Resident Magistrate unless he has at
least five years standing at the Bar. In addition, every Magistrate is ex
officio a Justice of the Peace for every parish in the Island.
The Magistrate’s Court Act provides by section 4 that the Governor in
consultation with the Chief Justice, may appoint Magistrates, upon such
terms and for such period as he thinks fit, to exercise the jurisdiction of the
Magistrate’s Court. The section goes on to stipulate that no person shall be
appointed unless he possesses qualifications such as are required under
section 69 of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Montserrat) Ordinance
1968, for admission as a Barrister or a Solicitor, and has been so qualified
for at least five years. In addition, by virtue of sections 6(1) and (2) of the

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