Structure of the Courts
The Magistrate’s Court is a court of summary jurisdiction and has the jurisdiction assigned to it by the Magistrate’s Court Ordinance. Magistrates in the Turks and Caicos Islands currently sit in Providenciales, Grand Turk, North Caicos and South Caicos. The Chief Magistrate sits in Providenciales.
The Magistrate’s Court considers claims of debt or damage due up to the value of US$10,000, disputes relating to title of land, the annual value of which does not exceed $5,000, boundary disputes and other matters contained in section 108 of the Magistrate’s Court Ordinance. It also considers a broad spectrum of criminal matters, the most serious matters being reserved to the Supreme Court.
The Magistrate’s Court will also consider appeals from disappointed applicants for a certificate of fitness to own a firearms (s 10 Firearms Ordinance).
The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters; appellate jurisdiction over appeals from the Magistrate’s Court and other statutory bodies such as the National Insurance Board and the Liquor Licensing Board; and supervisory jurisdiction over lower adjudicatory bodies and the actions of government.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal currently sits in sessions on Providenciales and the Court is made up of at least 3 Judges of Appeal.
It has the jurisdiction assigned to it by the Court of Appeal Ordinance. It considers appeals from the Supreme Court and the Labour Tribunal. It also sits as a Constitutional Court, considering questions that may be referred to it by the Attorney General under the Attorney General’s Reference of Questions Ordinance.
In its civil jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal may hear and determine appeals from any judgment or order of the Supreme Court given or made in civil proceedings, or to order a new trial if the Court thinks fit (s 4 Court of Appeal Ordinance).
In its criminal jurisdiction, a person convicted on information in the Supreme Court may appeal to the Court of Appeal against his conviction on a question of law alone, with leave from the Supreme Court, on any ground of appeal which involves a question of fact alone or of mixed law or fact, and with the leave of the Court of Appeal, against the sentence passed on his conviction unless the sentence is one fixed by law (s 6 4 Court of Appeal Ordinance).
The Labour Tribunal is established under section 93 of the Employment Ordinance and it has jurisdiction to hear and determine any labour dispute or complaint or other matter referred to it under the Employment Ordinance or any other provision of law.
The orders, decisions and awards of the Labour Tribunal shall be enforceable in the Supreme Court as though they were orders or judgments of that court.
The Labour Tribunal is composed of the President of the Labour Tribunal and at least two other members who are all appointed by the Governor. The appointments are made under section 94 of the Ordinance.
The Tribunal may, if it thinks fit, refer any question of law for decision to the Supreme Court (s 98 EO). Any question of law arising from the decision of the Labour Tribunal goes to the Court of Appeal.
The Coroner’s Ordinance makes the Magistrate ex officio the Coroner for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Generally, this role is filled by the Chief Magistrate.
The Coroner’s role is to direct a qualified medical practitioner to a make a post mortem examination of a dead body of a person suspected to have died either a violent or an unnatural death (s 5 CO). After the medical practitioner’s report is submitted to the coroner, the Coroner may hold an inquest into the death of the deceased person either with or without a jury.
The full name of this body is the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. This is the final court of appeal for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
To take an appeal to the Privy Council, the appellant must have been granted leave by the Court of Appeal whose decision is being appealed. In the absence of leave, permission to appeal must be granted by the Privy Council. In some cases, there is an appeal as of right and a slightly different procedure applies.
The Privy Council also has the jurisdiction, under section 85(6) of the Constitution to consider a request of the Governor under s 85(7) of the Constitution to remove a judge or Magistrate from office.