Bermuda’s Governor, John Rankin, has appointed lawyer Delroy Duncan as Chairman of the Law Reform Commission with five commissioners.
Senator Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, told members of the Upper House today that the five commissioners include “former Attorneys-General Michael Scott and Mark Pettingill; and lawyers Rod Attride-Stirling; Kim Wilkerson; and Jacqueline Maclellan”
“All appointees bring a wealth of experience and commitment to advancing the much-needed reform of Bermuda’s laws,” she said.
“The functions of the Commission are to study and keep under review the laws of Bermuda with a view to their systematic development and reform.”
Senator Simmons noted that “since 1968, Bermuda has had an ad hoc Law Reform Committee appointed by the Attorney General which was initially a Cabinet sub-committee”.
But that changed in 2009 when “the Progressive Labour Party Government acknowledged the need to establish a statutory law reform commission to engage in continuing and systematic law reform”.
“In advancing the establishment of a law reform commission, Commonwealth best practice suggested that the process of law reform is most effectively led by a permanent body with a clearly defined role whose existence and independence have statutory support,” said Sen Simmons.
She also noted that the review carried out during the development of the Law Reform Commission legislation in 2009, “indicated that a wide range of Commonwealth countries, large and small, developed and developing had law reform agencies” with the following broad characteristics:
they were established by statute
they had promulgated mission statements asserting their independence of Government and commitment to secure input from the lay public
they had websites and/or web-pages to facilitate public outreach; and
they were members of the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies
“While the position in all British overseas territories was un-clear, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman and Jersey, which were less constitutionally developed than Bermuda, had all established law reform agencies on that basis,” said Sen Simmons.
“It was unarguably clear that Bermuda lagged behind international best practice previously in establishing an independent statutory law reform agency.”
Ultimately, she added: “Bermuda adopted legislation in the form of the Law Reform Commission Act 2009 which reflected the best provisions of both the BVI and Cayman Islands legislation and made provision for the establishment of an independent law reform commission”.
“The Law Reform Commission Act 2009, came into operation on February 4th , 2011.”
Under the Actj, “Commissioners are appointed by the Governor having been nominated for appointment by at least two of the following namely, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and the President of the Bar Council”.
“As provided for under the Act, the Commission consists of a Chairman and between four and seven Commissioners who, in the opinion of the Governor, are suitable for appointment by reason of their qualifications, training and experience.”
Particular functions of the Commission as prescribed under section 6 of the Act include:
the development of the law with the aim of making it more responsive to the changing needs of Bermudian society
the adoption of new or more effective methods for the administration of the law and the dispensation of justice ensuring that the law of Bermuda is in conformity with the Bermuda Constitution and with international treaty obligations; and · making recommendations to the Minister for the elimination of anomalies in the law, the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary Acts or provisions of an Act, and the simplification and modernization of the law
“The staff of the Commission will consist of a public officer who will be the Director of the Commission and such public officers as are necessary to carry out the work of the Commission.
“The Director is responsible for the administration of the Commission and performs functions as assigned by the Commission.
“In addition, a Parliamentary Counsel will be assigned to assist the Commission and Government departments with the studies and research necessary to make recommendations to the Minster for the improvement, modernization and reform of the law.
“The preparation of draft legislation on behalf of the Commission will also be the responsibility of the Parliamentary Counsel responsible for law reform.”
Additionally, Sen Simmons said: “The Act makes provision for the Minister to engage consultants and experts, who will be paid such remuneration as the Minister approves, to assist the Commission in the performance of its functions.
“The expenses of the Commission will be met out of funds to be appropriated annually by the Legislature. It is intended to use existing resources to support the Commission during this initial stage.
“During the remainder of this fiscal year, the expenses of the Commission will be monitored and assessed to determine the level of funding to be appropriated during the next budget,” she added.
“The Commission is required to submit a report to the Minister on the results of any study it undertakes or directs. The report must include its recommendations and may even include draft legislation.
“Further to this report, by April 1 of each year, the Act requires the Commission to prepare and submit to the Minister a report containing a summary of its activities for the preceding year.
“Any information the Commission considers to be appropriate, the report must include any proposals for the reform of the law that have either been made by the Commission or referred to it by any person or authority.
“The report must indicate which proposals are being worked on by the Commission; a timetable for completion, as well details of any proposals that have been rejected as being unsuitable for study and the reasons for rejection. Finally, the Minister must cause the report to be laid before both Houses of the Legislature.”
While acknowledging “the need for comprehensive and systemic reform of Bermuda’s laws is as urgent today as it was in 2009 when a formalized law reform body was conceived”, she said the Government is “advancing this initiative”.
Contact information for the Commission will be provided in the weeks ahead and how persons can make submissions will be provided.
The Attorney General also thanked “the Chairman and the Commissioners for their willingness to serve in these very important roles”.
In closing, the Minister said: “I have no doubt that their excellent qualifications, experience and commitment to law reform will advance our collective best interests.”