Comparative law and justice/The Bahamas

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Mbarrows 17:02, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Map of The Bahamas

Basic Information[edit | edit source]

Population: 307,552

Geographical Information

The Bahamas are located in the Caribbean. They are a chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba. It has a total landmass of 13,880 square kilometers. It is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. It has a tropical marine climate. [1]


The population is overwhelmingly Christian, with Baptists comprising about 32%. About 20% of the population are Anglicans and about 24% belong to other Protestants groups such as the Methodists (6%), the Church of God (6%), the Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, and members of the Salvation Army. About 19% of the population are Roman Catholics. There is also a strong Greek Orthodox community. Smaller groups include Jews, Baha'is, Muslims, Hindus, and Rastafarians. More traditional practices related to witchcraft and known to scholars as voodoo or obeah continue to be observed in some areas. [2]

The People

Eighty-five percent of the Bahamian population is of African heritage. About two-thirds of the population resides on New Providence Island (the location of Nassau). Many ancestors arrived in The Bahamas when the islands served as a staging area for the slave trade in the early 1800s. Others accompanied thousands of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.

Haitians form the largest immigrant community in The Bahamas. 30,000-50,000 are estimated to be resident legally or illegally, concentrated on New Providence, Abaco, and Eleuthera islands. The official language of the Island is English in which the majority of the people speak with Creole being its second language. [3]

Brief History[edit | edit source]

Lucayan Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. The British began settling in the islands in 1647. The islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US and Europe, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US. [4]

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit | edit source]

Flag of The Bahamas.

GDP (2009 est., official exchange rate): $7.376 billion (current); $6.717 billion (constant).

Growth rate (2009 est.): 0.93% (current); -4.29% (constant).

Per capita GDP (2008 est.): $19,619 (constant).

Government spending (current expenditure only, 2009): 16.8% of GDP.

Natural resources: Salt, aragonite, timber, arable land.

Tourism (2004, including tourism-driven construction and manufacturing): 48% of GDP.

Financial services: 7.8% of GDP.

Business services and real estate: 28.8% of GDP.

Construction (2009; 5.6% of GDP): Products--largely tourism-related.

Manufacturing (2008; 3.0% of GDP): Products--plastics, pharmaceuticals, rum.

Agriculture and fisheries (2009; 1.5% of GDP): Products--fruits, vegetables, lobster, fish. Trade (2008):

Exports ($410 million)--mineral products and salt, rum, animal products, chemicals, fruits, and vegetables. Export partners (2007)--U.S. (71%), Canada (5.7%), Netherlands (5.6%), France (4.9%), Germany (2.4%), U.K. (1.5%), South Africa (1.5%), China (1.5%).

Imports ($3.2 billion)--foodstuffs and animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, mineral fuels. Import partners (2007)--U.S. (87.0%), Curacao (2.8%), Venezuela (2.1%), Puerto Rico (1.4%), Japan (1.1%). [5]

Age and Gender Breakdown:

0-14 years: 25.3% (male 39,493/female 38,355) 15-64 years: 68.7% (male 103,889/female 107,528) 65 years and over: 5.9% (male 6,998/female 11,289) (2010 est.)

Median Age: total: 29.9 years male: 28.8 years female: 31 years (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 14.84 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 128 male: 14.82 deaths/1,000 live births female: 14.86 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life Expectancy

total population: 69.92 years country comparison to the world: 146 male: 67.48 years female: 72.43 years (2010 est.)

Literacy Rate

definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 95.6% male: 94.7% female: 96.5% (2003 est.)[6]

Governance[edit | edit source]

The type of Government that The Bahamas has is a Constitutional parliamentary democracy. They are like us and have 3 branches of Government which are Executive, Legislative and Judicial. They also use common law for their courts which is what is used in the United States and would lead towards and adversarial system. The head of the Executive branch is Queen Elizabeth II who is the head of state. The governor general who is a representative of Queen Elizabeth II is General Sir Arthur A. Foulkes , a prime minister who heads the government who is Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham and the cabinet. The Legislative Branch is a bicameral Parliament which consists of a 41-member elected House of Assembly and a 16-member appointed Senate. The Judicial Branch Consists of a Privy Council in the U.K., a Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, and magistrates' courts. The Bahamas attained internal self-government in 1964 and full independence within the Commonwealth on July 10, 1973. [7]

The Parliament is mandated by Article 52(l) of the Constitution to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Bahamas. The Constitution authorizes Parliament to make laws by passing Bills. [8]

Elections[edit | edit source]

The monarchy is hereditary and the governor general is appointed by the monarch. Once the legislative elections are complete, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general.[9]

Legislative Branch

The bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate which consists of 16 seats. The members are appointed by the governor general upon the advice of the prime minister and the opposition leader to serve five-year terms. The House of Assembly which consists of 41 seats are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms. The government may dissolve the parliament and call elections at any time. [10]


The Bahamas has had a voting system in place since 1729. The requirements used to be that you had to own land and you had to be a male. It was not until the year of 1962 when women had the right to vote. The electoral system is based on "first past the post". The requirements to vote now are that you must be 18, meet a residency requirement of at least Three months in a Constituency and are not subject to any legal incapacity. [11]

Judicial Review[edit | edit source]

The Bahamas' legal system is similar to the one of that in the United States, therefore, they use Judicial review under the same idea as the United States. Judicial review is an example of the separation of powers that the branches of government have. Judicial review is "the power of courts of law to review the actions of the executive and legislative branches" [12]

Courts and Criminal Law[edit | edit source]

Punishment[edit | edit source]

The sanctions for punishment are as follows: Anyone that commits a felony and punishment is not specified the accused can be held liable to server 7 years in jail. When the crime committed is a misdemeanor and there is no punishment specified, the accused is liable to serve up to 2 years in jail. When a person is accused of a summary offense and prison is recommended the sentence may be lowered and they may be liable for a fine not to exceed $500. The penalty for murder is death or life in prison. The crime of treason is also punishable by death or life in jail. The crime of assault is a misdemeanor and the crime of aggravated assault is punishable by up to 3 years in jail. The punishment for theft is a $500 fine and/or up to 3 months in jail. [13]

The Bahamas does use Corporal punishment in certain settings. It is allowed in the home by the parents and in schools by the teachers. It is however not lawful as a punishment in the penal system. It was at one time lawful. The punishment was only allowed on men. If a woman was to commit a crime that would have been punished by corporal punishment they would be sentenced to serve time in solitary confinement. Corporal punishment was banned in 1984 and reintroduced in 1991. The government tried to reinstate it in 2002 and 2005 but to no avail. The way corporal punishment was administered was as follows: They used the cat-o-nine tails and that was applied to the bare back; The tamarind rod was applied to the bare buttocks. It would depend on the crime on which one of those would be used and if it was going to be used in installments. That information was unavailable. [14]

The death penalty information was also scarce. The death penalty used to be legal and it used to be mandatory for anyone convicted of murder. The death penalty was in the form of hanging. [15]

The rate of imprisonment in The Bahamas is 478 to every 100,000 people. It is the 8th highest in the world. There is one prison on the island and the conditions are less than perfect. There were at least 78 people that had been detained for 2 years while awaiting trial. There are high rates of TB, AIDS and HIV with little to no access of medical care and drugs. The prison is severely over crowded with up to 3 people in a 1 meter by 3 meter cell. There is inadequate drainage and plumbing and prisoners are using buckets to wash in a go to the bathroom in. [16]

Legal Personnel[edit | edit source]

The basis of the judicial system in The Bahamas is British Common Law. Since it is a Common law country each side of a court case has a lawyer and there is a judge that presides. The judiciary is independent and judges are appointed by the executive branch with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. There are at least 600 lawyers that are eligible to practice law in The Bahamas. The way in which a person becomes a lawyer in The Bahamas is as follows; They must have a call to the Bar of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Eire, or of such other country as may be specified, be admitted to practice as a solicitor in any of the above countries; or obtain receipt of a Legal Education Certificate from the Council of Legal Education of the West Indies. Once they meet any of the above requirements they must then serve 12 months under a lawyer already in practice before they can practice alone. Another requirement is that they must be Bahamian and must not have been disqualified or suspended from the courts in any place outside The Bahamas. [17]

Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney, but government appointed counsel is provided only in capital cases. There is also a right to be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours, a right to bail, a presumption of innocence, and a right to appeal. It is unknown whether the accused has to speak at trial. A jury trial is rare as they are only available for Supreme Court Cases. [18]

The Bahamas does not award punitive damages easily, in fact, there are no known cases of them being recovered. The courts may award them, but, only in extreme circumstances. [19]

There are several courts in The Bahamian legal system and they are ranked from where a case is started to where they could end up. It starts with the Magistrates' Court. This court has jurisdiction to try all summary offenses, investigate all charges of indictable offenses and to hear and determine any civil matter where the amount to be recovered or the value of the property in dispute does not exceed $5,000.00. This court will also deal with some juvenile and domestic matters. The next level is The Industrial Tribunal. This court has the ability to hear cases that deal with trade disputes, register industrial agreements, hear and determine matters relating to the registration of such agreements, make orders or awards and award compensation on complaints brought and proved before the Tribunal. The next court in the hierarchy is the Supreme Court. This is the second highest court in the country. The Supreme Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases and matters and an appellate jurisdiction conferred on it by the Supreme Court Act, 1996 or any other law, which includes appeals from the Magistrates’s Court. The next level of courts is the appeals court. The Court of Appeal also has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from matters in the lower courts. The reasons a case can be appealed are as follows: the court had no jurisdiction or exceeded its jurisdiction in the matter; the decision was unreasonable, could not be supported by the evidence or was erroneous in point of law; the decision of the magistrate or the sentence passed was based on a wrong principle; some material illegality occurred affecting the merits of the case; or the sentence was too severe or lenient. The last and final court in the hierarchy is the Privy Council. It is considered the ultimate court of appeals in all cases where an appeal is allowed. [20]

Law Enforcement[edit | edit source]

The Law enforcement system in The Bahamas can be classified as a multiple coordinated centralized force. The force in The Bahamas is known as The Royal Bahamas Police Force.

"The Royal Bahamas Police Force is comprised of a variety of divisions and special branches throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands. These branches are commonly referred to as uniform divisions and special branches. The island of New Providence is served by 10 policing divisions and Grand Bahama is divided into 4 Divisions: Western, Eastern, Eight Mile Rock and Central.The Family Island District covers over 14 major islands most of which have several stations and sub-stations. Special Divisions include Prosecutions, Traffic, Mobile, Harbour Patrol, Internal Security, K-9, Air Wing and Force Garage. In addition to these divisions are the Crime and Intelligence Sections that includes departments such as the Drug Enforcement Unit, Criminal Records Office, Interpol, Serious Crimes Unit and a cadre of others". [21]

The hierarchy is as follows; There is a Commissioner of police at the top of the chain. He has a Deputy Inspector directly underneath him and also a Senior Assistant Commissioner. Those are the two that work most closely with him. He also supervises four Assistant Commissioners that are in charge of various sections and departments.

The training and selection process is very similar to what is used in the United States. The Basic requirements are as follows; be a Bahamian citizen, have good moral character with no criminal record, be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, have good academic qualifications, meet their medical standards and be a successful candidate on the extended interview exercise. The firs two steps of the process are very similar to ours. There is an application that needs to be filled out followed by the entrance exam. If a candidate passes that exam they move onto the extended interview. The extended interview happens over the course of a few days and consists of a physical fitness test, a psychological test, a written test, an oral interview and a short speech and verbal discussion group. If all that is successfully completed a medical exam and background investigation will be completed. Once those are successfully completed the candidate will be contacted by a member of the force for appointment and confirmation to begin training. The training program is a 24 week live in program where cadets will be instructed on how to become a successful police officer with hands on and classroom training. [22]

The military in the Bahamas is known as The Royal Bahamas Defence Force. They are not a law enforcement agency, but, under the Defence act, the Defence force is allowed to assist local law enforcement in their duties if deemed necessary. This force is the only force charged with the responsibility of protecting The Bahamas. [23]

The orientation of the police force is nothing new. It has been around since 1840 and works with the public and visitors to keep the peace and ensure public safety.

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit | edit source]

The Bahamas is a highly populated tourist site. There is no surprise that tourists make easy targets for crime. It is unfortunate that such a popular tourist destination has a high crime rate especially on New Providence Island. The crimes reported are what would be expected from a tourist destination such as pickpocketing and theft.

The Homicide rate is unknown but the most recent information from "2007 says that there were 79 homicides that year". [24]

The rates of crimes like theft and sexual assault are unknown but the 2007 United Nations report on Crime stated there was a spike in these particular crimes. They were in a wide variety of places like casinos, resorts and even on cruise ships. The victims were usually drugged in those cases. New Providence Island is where most of the crime occurs but crime does also occur on the other islands. The most common crimes are burglaries and theft. Those incidents usually occur on boats and include the boat engine itself. The public opinion on crime is unknown however there justice system is somewhat different from ours. It is possible that if a U.S. citizen is arrested in the Bahamas they can go through their legal system. "Persons violating Bahamian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned." [25]

The legal system is based on English Common Law. [26]

Rights[edit | edit source]

Family Law[edit | edit source]


Marriage in The Bahamas is similar to marriage in the United States. The law was not specific as to whether gay marriage was legal or not but in the case of a marriage between a man and a woman they need to be 18 or older. If they are under 18 they need to consent of a parent to get married. The two parties involved must apply for a marriage license in order to get married. The license is valid for three months and if it expires they have to go through the application process over again. [27]


There are several grounds for divorce in The Bahamas. The grounds can be brought by either the man or the woman and they are: they have committed adultery; treated the petitioner with cruelty; deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; lived separate and apart from the petitioner for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petitioner; or has, since the start of the marriage been guilty of a homosexual act, sodomy or has had sexual relations with an animal. A wife has grounds to petition for divorce if her husband has committed rape upon her. Once a petition has been filed, it is up to the court to hear the facts of the case and determine the outcome. If the court believes there is an opportunity for reconciliation then they will suspend the hearings for a period of time to allow the couple time to try and fix their marriage. [28]


The Bahamas does have adoptions. There are age and marriage requirements that must be met in order to adopt. There are no residency requirements. The person adopting must be 25 years of age and at least 21 years older than the child they are adopting unless it is a relative. If it is a relative that is adopting, they must be at least 18 years of age. The marriage requirement is very lax. They do allow singles to adopt as well as married couples. There are also requirements that the child must meet in order to get adopted. They must be orphaned and/or abandoned. There is a process in the court that will determine if the child meets this requirement by doing everything in their power to satisfy that the parents cannot be found or that one or both of them are deceased. The child itself must be at least 6 weeks of age in order to be eligible for adoption. [29]


The process to obtain an inheritance in The Bahamas is a process that is handled in the courts. The people eligible to apply for the estate are the husband/wife of the deceased, a child of the deceased, any person who is not a child that through marriage where the deceased was at any time involved was treated as a child of the family. They may apply for reasonable financial provision which means they may apply for money that would help them maintain and support themselves. [30]


"Any woman who on 9th July 1973 is or has been married to a person who subsequently becomes a citizen of The Bahamas by registration under paragraph (2) of this Article shall be entitled, upon making application and upon taking the oath of allegiance or such declaration as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas" [31]

Social Inequality[edit | edit source]

The Bahamas does have a problem with discrimination. The 2008 and 2009 Reports from Amnesty International report that there is a problem discrimination against Haitian Immigrants living there. There have also been some issues with Cuban Immigrants as well. In 2008 authorities continued to deport migrants, the vast majority of them being Haitians. There were some of them that were reportedly ill-treated. During 2008, 6,996 migrants were reported to have been deported. A large number of them, 6,004, were Haitian nationals. There are also reports of them being treated poorly while being housed at the Carmichael Detention Center, which is where foreign nationals that have been accused of violation immigration laws reside. [32]

Human Rights[edit | edit source]

The Bahamas does have an extensive protection of fundamental human rights. These rights are as listed:

1. Protection of right to life 2. Protection of inhumane treatment 3. Protection from slavery and forced labor 4. Protection from arbitrary arrest and detention 5. Protection for privacy of home and other property 6. Protection of freedom of conscience 7. Protection of freedom of expression 8. Protection of freedom of assembly and association 9. Protection of freedom of movement 10. Protection of discrimination on the grounds of race, etc... 11. Protection from deprivation of property

The majority of these are a reality, however, a couple of them are not. The Bahamas has illegally detained immigrants, this violates number 4. The jails in the country have been known to have less than perfect conditions so therefore that violates number 2. These are only two issues but they are very important issues that need to be addressed. [33]

All information listed in the list has also been obtained from the cited website in this section.

Works Cited[edit | edit source]

  1., CIA World Factbook, September 26, 2010.
  2., Encyclopedia of the Nations, September 26, 2010.
  3. | , The U.S. Department Of State, September 26, 2010.
  4. |, CIA World Factbook, September 26, 2010.
  5. |, The U.S. Department Of State, September 26, 2010.
  6. | , CIA World Factbook, September 26, 2010.
  7. |, U.S. Department Of State, September 23, 2010.
  8. |,The Common Wealth Of The Bahamas , October 17, 2010.
  9. |, CIA World Factbook, October 17, 2010.
  10., CIA World Factbook, October 17, 2010.
  11. |!Opendocument, The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, October 17, 2010.
  12. |, The Free Dictionary, 2010, accessed December 9, 2010.
  13. |, The Government of The Bahamas Penal Code Chapter 84, accessed November 9, 2010.
  14. |, World Corporal Punishment Research, accessed November 7, 2010.
  15. |, The Bahama Journal, February 18, 2008, accessed November 7, 2010.
  16. |, Bahamas: Forgotten Detainees? Prison Conditions: Appeal for Action, August 2002, accessed November 9, 2010.
  17. | , Overview of The Bahamian Legal System, October 31, 2010.
  18. |, Encyclopedia Of The Nations, October 31, 2010.
  19. |, The Bahamas Financial Services Review, 2009, accessed November 17, 2010.
  20. |, Overview of the Bahamian Legal System, October 31, 2010.
  21. |, The Royal Bahamas Police Force, October 24, 2010.
  22. |, The Royal Bahamas Police Force, October 24, 2010.
  23. |, The Royal Bahamas Defence Force, October 24, 2010.
  24. |, The Bahamas Crime and Safety Report 2008,October 3, 2010.
  25. |, U.S. Department of State,October 3, 2010.
  26. |, CIA World Factbook, October 3, 2010.
  27. |, The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, January 17, 2007, accessed November 17, 2010.
  28. |, International Family Law, accessed November 17, 2010.
  29. |,, accessed November 17, 2010.
  30. |, The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, January 17, 2007, accessed November 17, 2010.
  31. |$file/citizenship.pdf, The Constitution of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, accessed November 17, 2010.
  32. |, Amnesty International 2009 Report, accessed November 26, 2010.
  33. |, The Constitution of The Bahamas, January 28, 2009, accessed December 9, 2010.