Historical perspective of the SKN Law Commission
In 1983 the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis attained independence from Great Britain. This was a monumental step for the smallest country in the Western hemisphere. Prior to the achievement of this monumental step all laws that were passed in the twin Island State were of equal application to both islands. However, with the advent of independence, the 1983 Constitutional Order bestowed upon the Island of Nevis the power to make Ordinances in relation to certain non-federal matters. These Ordinances were not captured in the first phase of the 2002 Revision of the Laws of the Federation which focused on preparation of the Federal laws. Upon embarking on the next phase of the revision process, the Project sought to capture the body of Ordinances passed by the Nevis Island Assembly from 1983 until the end of 2009. The effect of this would then be to fully reflect the state of the law within the Federation including the Nevis Ordinances up to 2009.
Against that backdrop, the Government in 2002, through the initiative of the then Attorney-General, who at the time was Delano F. Bart, Q.C, felt the need to establish a laws database, revise the laws and publish a Laws Revised Edition, and also provide for the future regular publication of law supplements. Thus, a Law Revision Project was launched towards the end of October, 2002, by the then Attorney-General Delano F. Bart, Q.C.
Prior to the publication of the 2002 and 2009 Edition, it was extremely difficult, in many cases, to ascertain the current law on any given legal issue. The laws applicable to Saint Christopher and Nevis were last revised in 1961 and are comprised in the 1961 Laws Revised Edition. The 1961 Revised Edition reflects the law as it stood on the 24th day of October, 1961. Since the publication of the 1961 Revised Edition, apart from the annual volumes which were published with authority in respect of the years 1961 to 1976, respectively, there has been no proper mechanism of updating the laws of Saint Christopher and Nevis, a state of affair that has caused frustration among practising lawyers and the public.
The Law Revision Act No 9/1986, which came into operation on the 1st November, 1995, some nine (9) years after its enactment. This Act was subsequently laid to rest on the 2nd October 2012, having been repealed by the Law Commission Act, No 27/2012.
Genesis of the Law Commission
The Law Commission first opened its doors on Port Zante in 2013; the Commission was staffed with just two persons, namely, Mr. Israel S. Mukasa, who previously served as Chief Parliamentary Counsel and principal draftsperson to the State for well over 15 years.
Mr. Mukasa served as Law Commissioner, the Law Reform and Law Revision Commissioner and Mrs. Geeta Sinanan in the capacity as the Personal Assistant to the Law Commissioner.
At its offices on Port Zante, the ground work was laid, as laws, statutes, gazettes and subsidiary legislations were collated and organised in manuscripts in preparation for the third supplemental revision of the 2002 Revised Edition of the Laws.
In March 2014, The Law Commission Offices began operations at the top floor of the Electoral Building on Central Street, Basseterre.
In April 2014, Rohan Walters joined the Commission as the Legal Researcher and was directly trained and mentored by the Law Commissioner, Mr. Mukasa. It was during this time that the robust work of consolidating and preparing manuscripts in preparation for the revised edition of the laws 2010-2015 as it was carded then for that time. This move to publishing the 2010-2014 revised edition was stymied, by lack of administrative will and never took root.
The Law Revision Act No 9/1986, was enacted to deal specifically with the subject of Law Revision.
However, the Law Commission Act, No 27/2012, which came into operation on the 2nd October 2012 and simultaneously repealed the Law Revision Act No 9/1986, encapsulates law revision as well, but includes the subject of law reform. In that regard section 8, sub-section (1), paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Law Commission Act states that: the Commission shall be responsible for the carrying out of two distinct functions that is to say: to keep the Revised Edition (2002) of the written laws of Saint Christopher and Nevis up to date; and to initiate and carry out law reform projects.
The Commission to date has had much progress in the area of law revision, the second supplement to the Revised Edition 2002, of the laws of Saint Christopher and Nevis would soon be released. This supplement would contain all the laws passed and inforced from the 1st January 2010 to 31st December 2017, consisting of principal and subsidiary legislations, including Ordinances for Nevis for the same period.
Law Revision Project Initiation 2010-2017
The Commission undertook to revise and update the Laws of Saint Christopher and Nevis, including Ordinances for Nevis for the period January 1st 2010 to 31st December 2017.
However, it was not until July 2018, with the foresight and initiative by the present Attorney General Hon. Vincent F. Byron JR. that a formal contract was signed between The Regional Law Revision Centre Inc (“the Centre”) based in Anguilla and the Government of Saint Kitts-and Nevis for the printing and publishing of the 2010-2017 revised edition or supplement of the Laws of St. Kitts-Nevis including Ordinances for Nevis.
Discussions around the initiation of the project to revise and publish the laws started in March 2018, when Ms.Yolande Dash, Manager and Legislative Publisher of the Centre, in addition to the Resident Director of the Centre, John D. McKendrick QC, visited the Attorney-General Hon. Vincent F. Byron and members of his team to discuss the need to move the direction of revising the laws of St. Kitts-Nevis.
The formal signing of the agreement to revise the laws took effect on the 11th July 2018.
The 2017 Revised Edition of the Laws of St. Kitts and Nevis and Ordinances for Nevis will be produced in print and CD ROM publication. The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis will also receive the electronic publication on iPads and a legislative website will be developed by the Centre to host the laws online.
The Regional Law Revision Centre’s (Anguilla) update
The Centre has received material from the Attorney General’s Chambers since the start of the project July 2018. The first shipment was received on Wednesday 18th July, 2018 containing four boxes of hard copy files representing consolidation compiled from 2010 to 2017.
In addition, the consolidated files, amendments, commencement notice and other related documents were scanned and inserted in relevant electronic folders.
As at 3 October, 2018, we have converted the hard copies to over 500 electronic PDF files and have organised same in 135 folders on Box.com (a cloud content management provider). While organizing the files, we were able to identify missing Gazettes. Mr. Walters provided some of the missing Gazettes during our visit to St. Kitts in mid-September, 2018 and has sent another batch via DHL today (3 October 2018).
On 12 September, 2018 while in St. Kitts, the Centre provided Mr. Walters with a one-day on-site training on viewing and navigating and correcting, commenting and making recommendations as it relates to the above mentioned files and folders stored on Box.com. Subsequently, Ms. Josephine Mallalieu, Law Commissioner, who joined the Commission on the 1st March 2019, travelled to Anguilla and received training in 2019 in the area of Law Revision, Consolidation and how Law Revision impacts on the Attorney General’s Chambers.