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Attorney-General’s 2019/20 Sectoral Presentation

Attorney-General’s 2019/20 Sectoral Presentation

Mr. Speaker, with the office of Attorney-General now in such sharp focus, not only here in Jamaica but also in other common law jurisdictions including those of our closest neighbours to the North, I should like to begin by highlighting that our current arrangements for the office need to be revisited. The recommendations of the 2011 Commission of Enquiry that were acted upon by the Government resulted in the Attorney-General’s Department and the Ministry of Justice being headed by different people, and the Attorney- General no longer being a Minister, nor necessarily a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives (in accordance with section 79 of the Constitution). Now, the Attorney-General attends meetings of the Cabinet at the invitation of the Prime Minister.

As well-intentioned as those recommendations of that 2011 Commission of Enquiry were no guidance was given nor sought as to how to effectively implement them.

Mr. Speaker, the pages of our constitutional history provide us with necessary guidance and important context, not only in relation to the reason for the manner of appointment of the Attorney-General but also in relation to the status of the office.

In “The Constitutional Law of Jamaica” 1 we are told that ‘historically, the Attorney-General has been an important officer of Government. Under the Crown Colony system in addition to being the principal Law Officer of the Crown, he was an ex-officio Member of the Legislative Council and an important Executive Officer. He retained his position when the constitutional system was reformed in 1944 and continued as a member of the policy-making Executive Council until 1957 when the Council of Ministers was established, a position which he occupied until the method of constituting the Legislative Council was drastically altered in the Constitution granting internal self government in 1959’.

We are further told that ‘when the Independence Constitution was being drafted the question of the manner of the appointment of the AttorneyGeneral and what functions should be entrusted to him was extensively discussed. One view was that the administration of justice was a fundamental part of the business of government and the Government should therefore have full control and responsibility for such a matter. It was further urged that it would be undesirable for a Civil Servant to have control of a subject

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