**Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson
Yesterday, judicial history was made when the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council sat in The Bahamas, at the Court of Appeal in Nassau. It was the first time that the Privy Council, an institution in continuous existence since the 17th century, had sat outside the United Kingdom, where it normally sits at Chambers in Downing Street, London.
The Privy Council is the final Appellate Court for The Bahamas. Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson marked the occasion during the Opening Ceremony for the Council’s visit and work in The Bahamas. She acknowledged the impact of the Council: *”The role of the Privy Council in the strength of our political democracy, and in the acknowledgement and acceptance of the rule of law, is very significant. The resulting certainty and stability brought to our judicial system by the Privy Council are acknowledged with thanks and are deeply appreciated.”* She also pointed out that the fact litigants before the Bahamas Courts are able to have final appellate access to the Privy Council under girds the confidence that has been displayed nationally and internationally in the jurisdiction.
On behalf of the five judges, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Senior Law Lord, thanked The Bahamas for its warm welcome, indicating that they were privileged to take part in the historic event, and noting that Her Majesty the Queen had accepted the invitation of the Bahamas Government and Judiciary, with pride and pleasure. As an independent nation, The Bahamas has the right to utilise its Constitution to choose another body as final appellate court, but Lord Bingham noted that the Law Lords continue to cherish their roles and will not abandon their duties until and if such time as that were to happen.
The Judicial Committee began its first working session immediately after the Opening and Official Ceremonies and is expected to hear a number of Appeals while sitting in The Bahamas.
Excerpts from Lord Bingham’s remarks concerning the role of the Courts:
*”Our unprecedented sitting here today reminds us that while the courts are not the only – or even the most important department of government – they have a crucial role to play and crucial duties to perform. It is the duty of the court first of all to interpret and apply the Constitution of The Bahamas. The courts must contribute to the peace, tranquility and good governance by enforcing the law, punishing proven wrongdoers and seeking to ensure that public power is exercised reasonably, fairly, honestly and for proper purposes. They must try to ensure that rights are protected and duties performed.
“They must underwrite the wealth and prosperity by providing that legal certainty, clarity and predictability which are the essential pre-conditions of a successful investment, commerce and finance, ever more so in a shrinking world. And the courts are guardians of the rule of law.
The importance of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sitting currently in Nassau cannot be overstated. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for United Kingdom overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and for those independent Commonwealth countries, The Bahamas included, that have “retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council or, in the case of Republics, to the Judicial Committee.”*