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Bermuda Laws and legal matters

No United Kingdom or European Union legislation apply in these islands

Bermuda laws

line drawing

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer by e-mail to this file use "bermuda-online.org/legal" as your Subject

Bermuda Dollar coinBermuda is marketed as being British but all visitors should know it is not part of Britain but a self-governing  nominally British island. No British laws of any kind from the United Kingdom or Europe apply in Bermuda. Not even when there are no equivalent laws in Bermuda. 

On July 12, 1612, when Bermuda's representative body first sat, laws were then based on English common law, principles of equity and all English acts of general application then in force. But Bermuda Acts of Parliament since that date have altered, modified or amended these. The local government - not the UK Government - makes and controls all Bermuda's internal affairs and Bermuda laws.  

Bermuda laws are protectionist to Bermudians-only in many ways, for example in home ownership, immigration, work permit, Human Rights and other laws.  Non-Bermudians are not allowed to do things here that they can, without any restrictions, in other countries. 

Admission to the Bermuda Bar

For persons who are not Bermudian seeking to become a qualified barrister/lawyer/attorney in Bermuda. 

Advertisements, billboards, signs

Under the 1911 Advertisement Regulations Act, billboards and advertisements are illegal with very few exceptions. Stores are allowed to advertise sales, and items available for sale, inside shop windows. Outside signs may only state the name of the company and the general character of the business in letters not exceeding 15in. Illuminated signs and advertisements “supported on or attached to any pole, standard framework or other support of which is visible against the sky from some point in any street or public way” are also prohibited. The act also bans the use of the national flag or a portrait of a member of the Royal family living or dead in advertising. In municipal areas, advertisements or announcements are only allowed on land licensed for the exhibition of advertisements by the appropriate corporation. Such advertisements cannot contain “letters, effigies, figures or other advertising emblems exceeding 12in in height”.

In October 2011 The Department of Planning confirmed that the 100-year-old legislation is still in effect, but does not give specific authority to regulate advertisements. However, members of the public can themselves take the matter to court. “A magistrate may, on the complaint of any person, issue a summons requiring the owner or occupier of the land to make an appearance and show cause why the advertisement should not be taken down,” a spokeswoman said. “Any person contravening the provisions of the Act commits an offence against the Act that is punishable on summary conviction by a fine.” Those found guilty of an infraction under the Act can be fined up to $720, with a further fine of up to $144 for every day the offence continues.

Barristers' Code of Professional Conduct

For more information, ask the Bermuda Car Council.

Bermuda Bar Act 1974

Practicing Certificates published the name of every Bermuda-registered attorney and barrister in the Bermuda Bar in the long list of those admitted to practice, and their associates.

Bermuda Bar Council

Under the Bermuda Bar Act 1974. The governing body for the legal profession in Bermuda. See Bermuda Government Boards.

Bermuda Employment Laws

See under "Newcomers."

Bermuda Government Boards, Commissions and their legislation

Bermuda Business laws

Bermuda Laws  

Summarized in this Bermuda Government website. 

Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956

The task of administering Bermuda's myriad immigration laws is highly challenging. The uncertainty, subjectivity and ambiguity created by the law in this area must be addressed. In the November 2010 Throne Speech written by Premier the Hon. Paula Cox, she noted the Government will embark on a wholesale overhaul of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, guided by a need for continuity, protection and fairness. The Act, which is more than 35 pages long, is wide-ranging and deals with a variety of issues. It covers who can and cannot acquire Bermudian status as well as rules on work permits and term limits. The Act also covers who can and cannot qualify for Permanent Residence Certificates and what type of land non-Bermudians and spouses of Bermudians can acquire. The Act also stipulates reasons for deportation.

Bermuda Law Firms

See http://www.bermudabar.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16&Itemid=14 

From the airThey vary appreciably in size and degree of specialization. Some are also Notaries Public and have substantial corporate law departments engaged in specialty advisory services to tailor Bermuda's legal system to the needs of international clients. Some Barristers incorporate companies. In Bermuda, ONLY lawyers may undertake this process. Potential clients who are handicapped in a wheelchair, or otherwise disabled with balance or other mobility problems, should contact the law firm directly by telephone or e-mail to establish in advance whether they can go to their offices. (Some are more accessible than others). Some barristers, by virtue, merit, seniority or sustained talent, or all these, get to be partners in law firms. This is common for Bermudians but uncommon for those who are not. Only a Bermudian barrister may be the owner of a local law firm. They include several Queen's Counsels. Unlike in Britain, Canada, the USA and elsewhere, you cannot go directly to a state or national agency handling incorporation. There is a two part fee for the incorporation process in Bermuda. The first is for the legal services, the second for the Bermuda Government incorporation fees. Both depend on the type of corporate entity desired. Typically, lawyers will draft and prepare the constitutive documents of companies and partnerships, the appropriate applications to the Bermuda Government authorities; and take all necessary action in connection with their registration. 

Positions in their firms often include the following:

Associate  Attorneys

After having qualified as members of the Bermuda Bar.

Conveyancing clerks

 Legal secretaries with special skills at transferring real estate.

Corporate Administrators  

They undertake compliance of client bodies corporate or partnerships and other duties. Some are members of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries & Administrators (corporate secretaries, not office secretaries) and have specialized and qualified corporate management skills.

Employment Law Alliance

An international body of lawyers interested in labor law, represented in Bermuda by lawyer Juliana Snelling.

Executive Legal Secretary

A senior legal secretary.

Human Resources Administrators  

With a business related degree and a specialized knowledge of Bermuda Immigration laws and hiring policies.

Law librarians  

Qualified librarians with legal research skills and usually now, competence in Information Technology.

Legal executives 

They have passed the qualifications required by the Institute of Legal Executives to manage practice files.

Legal secretaries 

Experienced office secretaries with a thorough working knowledge of Microsoft Office, dictation, legal filing and general office procedures.

Paralegals 

They have a law degree or other legal qualification, or business degree with legal studies, or must be a member of the Institute of Legal Executives. The more experienced and competent they are, the better their chances of employment.

Trust Administrators 

Certified to manage offshore trusts and agencies.

Bermuda Lawyers

Has an alphabetical list of members.

Chief Justice

The most senior of all in the Judicial Department. His salary is paid by the Bermuda Government.

Citizenship

Commercial Court

A Division of the Supreme Court of Bermuda, it was born on January 1, 2006 when the Rules of the Supreme Court Amendment Rules 1985 enacted by Chief Justice Richard Ground came into force. Under section 62 of the Supreme Court Act 1905 the Chief Justice is empowered to make Rules regulating the practice of the Court, and Chief Justice Ground took the necessary steps to ensure that the Commercial Court became a reality. Members of Bermuda’s Commercial Bar had for many years called for a specialist commercial court. Official support for such an innovation came in March 2004 from the Justice Review Committee set up by then Attorney-General Larry Mussenden and chaired by Justice Norma Wade-Miller. Many leading financial centres have specialist commercial courts designed to deliver speedy and commercially sensible decisions in a way which encourages international businesses to do business with the domicile in question. Bermuda was possibly the first offshore financial centre to establish such a court, although it has now been emulated by BVI and Cayman. What types of matter are eligible for being commenced or transferred into the Commercial List created by Order 72 of the Rules of the Supreme Court are very broadly defined. Typical cases include contractual disputes between companies, winding-up proceedings, shareholder disputes and arbitration-related applications. Although applications in relation to trusts are not technically considered to be ‘commercial’ matters, in practice such matters are ordinarily dealt with by a commercial judge.

Court staff and premises. Throughout the five-year period in question (and thereafter), there have been at least two designated Commercial Judges. In May 2008, an informal Commercial Court Consultative Committee was formed comprising representatives of ABIC, BIBA (Business Bermuda’s predecessor organisation) and four members of the Commercial Bar. The object of this Committee was to provide a vehicle through which the Commercial Court could be kept apprised of any concerns about the quality of its service provision by Court users. The lack of appropriate accommodation was identified as the main problem at this time. It was resolved to tackle the absence of suitable Court premises by way of representations to Government. In July 2010, dedicated premises were opened for the Commercial Court.

Output of the Court. One measure of the output of the Commercial Court is to analyse quantitatively the speed of decision-making and the extent to which the Court’s decisions have been upheld on appeal. Statistics compiled by the Court and based solely on those significant cases in which considered judgments have been prepared and published indicate that for the five-year period 2006 to 2010: (1) the average time for delivering judgments was 14.43 days, and (2) an average of 86.66 % of the Court’s appealed decisions were subsequently upheld on appeal. The volume of the work processed by the Court is difficult to assess as a significant number of cases are disposed of without a contested hearing resulting in a considered judgment. However, the number of cases commenced in the Commercial List has ranged from 73 in 2006, down to a low of 45 in 2008 and up to a high of 108 in 2010. (There were 75 Commercial List filings in 2011, the second-highest number of filings since the Court was established in 2006).These figures do not include trust cases or de facto commercial cases which were commenced either before or after 2006 but were not formally filed in or transferred into the Commercial List.

Also noteworthy are the various Practice Directions issued by the Chief Justice to regulate the conduct of commercial cases. On May 25, 2006, a Practice Direction on Civil Procedure was issued setting new case management powers designed to streamline the progress of heavy commercial cases through the courts. On October 1, 2007, Guidelines for Court-to-Court Communications in Cross-border (Insolvency) Cases were published, followed by Guidelines Applicable to Schemes of Arrangement under Section 99 of the Companies Act 1981 on October 8, 2007. Finally, on June 13, 2008, the need for advocates to wear wigs and gowns in open court matters in the Commercial Court was abolished to better reflect a modern business-like approach to commercial dispute resolution.

A more qualitative measure of the Commercial Court’s output may be found in the views of those who use the Court. Two examples should suffice. Alex Potts then of Conyers Dill & Pearman in an April 2009 article entitled ‘Commercial and Trust Litigation and the Commercial Court in Bermuda’ contended that as a result of a number of developments over the past three years in particular, Bermuda has a serious claim to be one of the leading offshore jurisdictions for the resolution of commercial and trust disputes, consistent with its status as a leading centre for international business , and a jurisdiction celebrating its 400th birthday. Kiernan Bell of Appleby, writing the Bermuda Chapter in ‘The Dispute Resolution Review’ 3rd edition (2011) stated in more matter of fact terms: “Bermuda now has a Commercial Division of the Supreme Court. Commercial cases are allocated to specialist commercial judges, thus ensuring that commercial matters are dealt with by judges with the appropriate expertise and are dealt with expeditiously.”

The Commercial Court is now an integral part of Bermuda’s legal infrastructure and it is hoped and expected that its performance will be consolidated in the years to come.

Criminal Code Amendment Act 2001

Enacted in July 2001, it re-writes radically how Bermuda deals with criminals. It requires Bermuda courts to consider prison as an option of last resort as the Bermuda Government seeks to reduce recidivism now at 70-90 percent.

Criminal and civil laws

Bermuda - despite being classed as "British" - does not have an "80-Day Rule" or "110-Day Rule" which stipulates in Scotland certainly and rest of the United Kingdom as well, and is a source of pride to those involved in criminal justice system, to politicians, and the public that solemn criminal proceedings are conducted expeditiously, and with due regard to the interests of justice, within time limits. 

In Bermuda, the process can take years. In contrast, in the United Kingdom,  the "80-day rule" requires the service of an indictment, listing the charges, witnesses and productions for the case, upon an accused person in custody within 80 days of his or her committal for trial. Should an indictment not be served within that time limit, the accused is entitled to be released from custody. It is only because the Crown have managed to investigate and prepare the case against the accused in custody and indict him for trial within 80 days that the "110-Day Rule" - shown below - comes into play. The rule that ensures the expeditious preparation of the case and bringing of the case to trial is the "80-Day Rule." That time limit is seldom extended in practice. It is to the great credit of the Crown that, in spite of the increased pressure upon their staff, they manage to indict custody cases within this time limit. It is a tight limit, but one which the Crown consistently meet and have undertaken to continue to meet.

In the United Kingdom, the "110-day rule" requires the trial of a person remanded in custody to start within 110 days of his full committal in custody for trial. It has existed in fairly similar form for more than three centuries. In 1887, it was extended from 100 to 110 days. In 1980, the requirement that the trial should be completed within that period was altered to require the trial to be commenced within that period

However, in the UK, there are sometimes good reasons for extending the "110-Day Rule" when both it and the "80-Day Rule" have been complied with if appropriate. In general, it applies when the service of the indictment and the trial, usually about the same as that between the 80th and 110th days, is inadequate for defence preparation for trial.

For information about any aspect of Bermuda Law involving a person prosecuted the Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of the Bermuda Government, e-mail dpp@gov.bm at Global House, 43 Church Street, Hamilton. Phone 296-1277.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

See Bermuda Government Boards

Criminal Jurisdiction Session Days

Under the Supreme Court Act 1905.

Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public Act 1972

It specifies the methodology for appointment.

Consumer Protection

See the Bermuda Government's Consumer Protection Act 1999 

Bermuda laws are lax in so many ways compared to those in the USA, Canada and United Kingdom. As one example, in packaging. Bermuda laws say a product is a "product of Bermuda" and may use "Bermuda" as part of its descriptive label when imported rum is bottled and/or blended in Bermuda from spirits distilled abroad (Bermuda has no distillery), also using imported bottles. But in USA, Canada and United Kingdom, a product must state on its label that it is imported and from where, even when it is bottled and labeled in the country where it is sold or elsewhere.

Copyright and Designs

See the Bermuda Government's Copyright and Designs Act 2004.

Council for Allied Health Professionals

Established in 2006, it promote patient interests and exercise discipline over practitioners. It has a Preliminary Proceedings Committee, set up to investigate complaints – with serious complaints referred to a Professional Conduct Committee which can hand out fines of up to $2,000, suspend a person’s registration for a year or even bar them from practising. 

Court of Appeal Amendment Act 2000

It took effect on May 23, 2001.

Court Commissioners

See Bermuda Government Boards.

Court Fees & Expenses Act 1971

Under the Act, Court Fees and Expenses Amendment Rules 2002 went into effect on October 1, 2002.  They rescinded and replaced the Third Schedule to SR&O # 46 of 1972.

Disability laws

Unlike in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe, Bermuda has 

Driving Licenses

There are no reciprocal arrangements with the United Kingdom or Canada or USA or any Caribbean island for mutual recognition of driving licences. Even with such overseas driving licences, newcomers must take and pass the same full written and driving tests as those who have never used them before, in order to drive a car or motor cycle or scooter or auxiliary cycle in Bermuda. Many countries - but not Bermuda - have such reciprocal arrangements. It means that when Bermudians or non-Bermudian newcomers go to the UK to work or study, they are not allowed to have the same arrangements there as do those holding driving licences from Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and Switzerland. 

It is up to Bermuda to make similar reciprocal arrangements and so far this has not been done.

And even though Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory and Britain is part of the European Community, Bermudians in Britain cannot claim EC/EAA driving rights. However, they may drive on their Bermuda licences for up to one year. But the same gesture is not extended by the Bermuda Government to newcomers retiring or working or visiting Bermuda. There is a double irony in that some persons still or formerly Bermudian who no longer live in Bermuda but visit from time to time and have current Bermuda driving licences, do drive cars in Bermuda.

Electronic Communications

Electronic Communications Act 2011.

Executors

Freedom of Information Act

None yet, unlike in United Kingdom, USA, etc. But see "Public Access to Information."  

Government Licensing and Re-Licensing Fees for businesses

In 2011-2012 all restaurants are required to pay a Food Establishment Licence Fee of more than $1,400. It was a significant increase compared to the $615 cost the previous year. Plus, under the Government Fees Amendment Act, all smaller businesses, including those supplying restaurants with home cooking and home-baked pies, etc, have had their fees go up from $15 to $100 and from $70 to $240, making the cost of restaurant eating more expensive. The fee changes were approved by Members of Parliament and Senators in March 2010, but attracted little attention at the time. They apply to bakeries, catering establishments, food manufacturers, food stores and delis, refreshment shops and restaurants. A sliding scale is in place meaning businesses with larger numbers of customers have to pay more. The licensing fees charged by the Department of Health are set by legislation, the Government Fees Regulations. The Fees Regulations were amended with effect on April 1, 2010, and these increases came into effect on that date. Businesses are licensed and re-licensed at the end of the financial year, so when they were last done (February, March, 2010) before the current financial year they were licensed under the old fees which were still in effect at that time. Now the fees have been in effect for a year, but this is the first time that business owners are seeing the new fees. The Department of Health states: "We are obliged to charge the fee which is required by the legislation, and the only way to roll the fee back would be for the Government Fees Regulations to be amended. The previous fees were very low and did not reflect the work that had to be done to inspect the premises and provide the licences to ensure that the proper level of quality is maintained. The licensing and inspection of food service facilities is a key public health function carried out by the Department of Health. The process helps to ensure the quality and safety of the food served to the public, and the current fees reflect the cost of providing the service to the public.”

Human Rights

See Bermuda Human Rights Act 1981.

Bermuda laws apply, not UK laws, even though Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory. Unlike in the UK, Canada, USA, etc. the local Human Rights Act and Amendment Act relate only to Bermudians, not non-Bermudian retirees or guest workers. For example, where the Constitution says no discrimination by way of race or country of origin, etc, in practice this does not apply as non-Bermudians are regulated heavily in Work Permits regulations, exclusions, number of jobs they can have; property they may and may not buy. 

Judgments (reciprocal enforcement) Act 1978

Your Bermuda lawyer will explain this.

Jurors Act 1971

In exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 6 (4) and (5) of this Act, Chief Justice Austin Ward determines by Government Notice the dates and places where the selection takes place of persons liable for Jury Service. They have been posted for 2003.

Justices of the Peace

All Bermuda Government Cabinet Ministers and Opposition Shadow Ministers are also Justices of the Peace. All in this category are appointed under the Magistrates Act 1948. Appointments are by the Governor by the powers conferred upon him by section 8 (1) of the Magistrates Act to be Justices of the Peace in and for Bermuda. They are entitled to have "JP" after their name. Unlike in the USA, they do not perform weddings but may be called on to sign search warrants, etc. Also, during General and Bye Elections, they serve as Returning Officers.

In Bermuda's tiny size of only 21 square miles in total, there are over 400 JPs, equivalent to 20 per square mile, far more than anywhere else in the world per square mile.

Law Reform Committee

Ministry of Legislative Affairs. For its members, see Bermuda Government Boards.

Legal Aid Committee

A Bermuda Government appointed body, under the Legal Aid Act 1980, Amendment Act 2003. See Bermuda Government Boards. Lawyers doubled their fees in 2003 for Legal Aid, from $100 an hour to $200 an hour. In democratic countries, legal aid is without charge for those who cannot afford it but qualify. The Bermuda Bar Association asked the Bermuda Government for the increase, which was approved.

Legal Briefs of interest

A locally-based British lawyer married to a Bermudian has started a blog to help demystify the law for ordinary people in Bermuda. Peter Sanderson regularly updates www.onionlaw.blogspot.com with reports of interesting court judgments together with a commentary on their implications. Mr Sanderson, who works in the litigation department at Hamilton law firm Wakefield Quin, launched the blog at the end of June 2012. He told The Royal Gazette: “I started it to talk about legal issues in the news headlines and to promote a better understanding of the effect of the law. It is a confusing subject for non-lawyers, and often even for lawyers too. Pinpointing the legal issues can be crucial to understanding a story that’s making the headlines. In the UK, law students and Queen’s Counsel alike blog about legal issues, and it’s valued as a way to share views and ideas. I thought ‘why not start something similar in Bermuda?” Mr Sanderson also blogs short law reports of Bermuda court judgments to the Onion Law blog. “The Bermuda courts website has full texts of judgments for anybody to read, but they often run to 20 pages or more, and need to be read carefully. The law reports on my blog give the bare essentials and the key points made in the judgments, and people can then click through to read the full judgment if they are interested. I also include commentary on the implications of some judgments. One of the responsibilities of being a lawyer is that we are obliged to be courteous when speaking about other lawyers and judges, so my blog isn’t the place to go to if you’re looking for scandalous gossip about members of the legal fraternity. It’s a challenge to write about the law in a way that engages, gives enough detail to explain an issue but without giving so much that the eyes glaze over. Ultimately I enjoy talking about the law and sharing my views, and I hope that people enjoy reading my blog.” Mr Sanderson’s posts also contain comment on recent articles in Bermuda's Royal Gazette newspaper relating to legal issues. Before moving to the Island, he practised immigration law in the UK for five years, travelling around England to appear before immigration tribunals for hundreds of clients. Since he has been here he has appeared for clients in the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, Magistrates’ Court and tribunals and written columns for The Royal Gazette newspaper.

Liquidations

It is customary but not mandatory for the law firm handling an incorporation or amendment to also do a liquidation. The fee will depend on the work to be done and include the applicable Official Gazette notice of appointment of a liquidator.

Liquor Licensing Act 1974

All bars, public houses, hotels, other places offering accommodation, restaurants etc. need to obtain a yearly license. Failure to abide by the law can result in a six-month imprisonment or a fine of $1,000. A liquor licence for a hotel with 100 to 300 beds costs $2,000 and it can be applied for up to about two months in advance. By law, all licensed premises have to display their liquor licence in “a conspicuous place.” The licence clearly states the date it starts and ends.

Magistrates

Appointed under the Magistrates Act 1948, they are in the Judicial Department. Their salaries are paid by the Bermuda Government.

Marriage laws - generally

Merchant Shipping

Bermuda has a significant Shipping Register and provisions include the Merchant Shipping (ILO) Amendment Act, 2012.

Military conscripts

Unlike in Britain where all Armed Forces are volunteer, the Bermuda Regiment is 75% males-only conscripted, with those refusing to serve when ordered to do so hunted down and imprisoned. Summons issued publicly via the newspapers include individual names and last-known addresses of young men born in Bermuda but not Bermudian under Bermuda law unless a parent is - and who may no longer live in Bermuda. Under Bermuda's Defence Act, it is up to a parent or conscript to let the Regiment know of its error - not the Regiment to correct the error before a public summons is issued.

Non-Bermudians marrying a Bermudian

A non-Bermudian who marries a Bermudian and wishes to apply for local citizenship (Bermuda Status) must (a) have been married to the same Bermudian for ten (10) continuous years; (b) during that marriage, been ordinarily resident in Bermuda for at least seven (7) years, the last two (2) years of which must be continuous to the date of application; (c) have been living together with the Bermudian spouse as husband and wife continuously for the two (2) years immediately before the application; and (d) be of good character and conduct. When the application is made, the Bermuda Government issues a public notice in a local newspaper of record giving notice of the application, the name and address of the applicant and a note saying that any person who knows if any of the provisions have not been fulfilled, or why Bermuda Status should not be granted to the applicant, should send a written statement to the Chief Immigration Officer, Department of Immigration.

If a marriage breaks down, a non-Bermudian will lose the spousal letter but still have the right to ask for permission to seek employment in Bermuda and apply for a work permit. A non-Bermudian should know in advance that working without a work permit is illegal after persons are no longer living together in marriage. For more information, contact Immigration.

Immigration has reported that some Bermudians apparently think it is their right - which it isn't - to demand loss of work permits, jobs, security and deportation of their non-Bermudian spouses, on the basis the Bermudians concerned were "used" or - belatedly - that theirs was a "marriage of convenience."

Notaries Public in Bermuda

See Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public Act 1972. Almost every law-abiding adult citizen in the USA can be a Notary Public and no legal qualifications are required. But in Bermuda, persons must possess certain qualifying standards and be deemed fit to be enrolled by the Supreme Court or a judge. With a few exceptions by virtue of the office they hold, he or she must possess Bermudian status, must be a barrister or attorney admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Bermuda for a period of not less than five years and be entitled to practice as a notary public in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The exceptions are the ex-officio notaries public who are the Deputy Governor, Attorney General, Mayor of the City of Hamilton and Mayor of the Town of St. George. They can perform or notarize anything on behalf of the Bermuda Government or their municipality as applicable but may not receive a fee. All other notaries public may charge fees.

A notary public's duties are to:

Unlike in USA, they cannot officiate at marriages.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 2005 (PACE) 

Enacted in December 2005 and in effect in 2006, it governs the Bermuda Police Service’s stop and search powers, arrest and detention of suspects, treatment in custody, questioning, evidence collection, sample taking, the admissibility of confessions and other evidence.

Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2000 

It commenced on June 1, 2001 when the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2001 came into operation.

Public Access To Information

The Government published in mid-2005 a discussion paper on its proposed freedom of information legislation. Its purpose is to consult the public on the Government’s proposals for public access to information (PATI) legislation. Also referred to as a green paper or consultation paper, this document presents information that represents the policy direction the Government would like to take following this consultation process. The public is encouraged to review the document and provide its views on these proposals. The consultation period for this discussion paper was open for three months and responses were sent via letter mail, e-mail, telephone, or fax to the PATI Team, The Central Policy Unit, Cabinet Office, 105 Front Street, Hamilton, Bermuda HM 12, Tel: 298-7168 or 298-1092, Fax: 296-0555, Email: pati@gov.bm

Puisne Judges

Higher in seniority judges than magistrates. They are in the Judicial Department. Their salaries are paid by the Bermuda Government.

Rebecca Middleton legal case

For latest (December 2011) news see http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20111228/NEWS03/712289969/-1. 

Rebecca MiddletonFrom Belleville, Ontario, Rebecca (Becky) was a white Canadian tourist visitor to Bermuda, only 17 years old. She was staying with her friend Jasmine, daughter of local resident Canadian Rick Meens and his Bermudian wife.

On the night of July 3, 1996, after going to the Town of St. George  to attend the Wednesday evening Harbour Night (7 to 10 pm), she and Jasmine visited the White Horse Tavern bar and restaurant. Then she and Jasmine went to the home of another friend in the town for about 45 minutes or so.  At 1:16 am, more than an hour after the last bus from St. George's had left, Jasmine Meens made her first call from there to Radio Cabs. The dispatcher said a cab was on its way. Jasmine called again shortly afterward.  The dispatcher said the same thing. They went outside again to await its arrival. After the third call, Jasmine became very upset, and the woman again promised.  This was a little after 2:15 a.m.

Finally, in desperation, the two girls, Becky and Jasmine, believing they had no other choices, accepted an offer of a ride home from young men on motor cycles. Jasmine arrived home safely but Becky was abducted - kidnapped - by two young men, taken to a desolate place at Ferry Reach in Bermuda, brutally stabbed and cut 35 times, beaten, tortured, gang raped repeatedly and viciously, sodomized, brutalized and murdered. Dr. Keith Cunningham and Dr. James Johnston completed an autopsy on the mutilated body of Becky. Both discovered anal and vaginal trauma, along with some 35 cuts, five of which were fatal. Also, the Police and prison physician Dr. Henry Pearse said her body was so covered in blood that it was hard to determine her exact injuries (at the site). He also confirmed in writing that she had been raped again and again and reported the torture wounds at the top of her head, forehead, neck and throat.

It was the worst, most brutal, most animal sexually-depraved, most violent and inhuman racial murder of any woman anywhere in the world.  

News of the horrific, depraved murder of Rebecca (Becky) was flashed around the world when it happened. To date, it has been a notoriously botched murder case. The British and Bermudian authorities have done nothing so far to investigate it thoroughly and bring the perpetrators to full justice at long last. Scotland Yard was not called in, the perpetrators were never charged with murder. 

Famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden said hasty prosecutors and a poor decision by the trial judge were to blame for the failure to convict anyone for the murder of Rebecca Middleton. Dr. Baden and fellow US expert Henry Lee had been tracked down by Det. Sgt. Terry Maxwell after the legal case began to unravel and testified in the collapsed murder trial of Justis Smith. Dr. Baden, the Chief Forensic Pathologist for the New York State Police, recalled looking at the crime scene at Ferry Reach where Rebecca met her violent end. He saw the photos of the body in the roadway. He said: “The crime scene had been tampered with. When we came down and reviewed everything – the murder would have occurred on the beach and the body was moved up and put on the roadway with the idea, it appeared to Dr. Lee and myself, that someone coming along on that dark road would hit the body on the road and make it appear like it was a road accident. They were thinking about how to get out of it.” He said they determined from blood spatters that the body had to be brought to the scene by two people carrying it. “A very serious mistake was made when the prosecutor provided immunity while having no idea who the perpetrator was. He gave it to the one who was more serious, who left DNA. It seemed to me they were acting in concert.” He said the jury should have decided the matter. “Every time there is a sexual assault and a murder the defendant always says there was consensual sex. You have to rely on credibility. Is it possible that it happened that way? Anything is possible. Is it reasonable? No. Sure it’s possible but it’s bizarre and I don’t believe it. It’s lousy for the prosecutor to make a decision like that before you get all the evidence in."

Bermuda's Attorney General,  who had conducted every other murder trial during his tenure, declined to handle the case. Two men were arrested over Rebecca's killing. Kirk Mundy, then 21, claimed to have had consensual sex with her and blamed co-accused Justis Smith, then 17, for the killing. Before Police had completed forensic tests, prosecutors accepted Mundy's guilty plea to a charge of accessory after the fact. He was sentenced to five years behind bars. Smith was tried in November 1998 for premeditated murder, but halfway through the trial, Supreme Court Judge Vincent Meerabux ordered jurors to acquit him, saying there was no forensic evidence such as blood or semen tying Smith to the scene. The initial investigation was handled by police officers with only limited experience in relation to murder investigations. The entire police investigation was criticized as inadequate and prosecution decisions were condemned as inept when one man was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and the other was acquitted on a questionable ruling by the trial judge. 

Bermuda has not regarded it as a crime so inhumane that the killers deserved the maximum penalty. The men who raped, sodomized and racially murdered Becky have not been banned from entering Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom or Europe. Although the World Bank has rated Bermuda as the richest in the world in per capita income, it was only after a 10-year wait that Becky's mother was awarded a nominal $2,840.63 in 2006. (The local Criminal Injuries Compensation provision is very low compared to other countries. Unlike an assassinated British Governor and assassinated Police Commissioner in Bermuda years earlier when Scotland Yard was called in (and very substantial compensation was paid by the Bermuda Government), The British Government has not offered to assist in a similar or any way despite for what occured in Bermuda as a British Overseas Territory. Nor has the Canadian Government offered to assist in such a prosecution for what happened to one of its citizens.

On April 1, 2006, The Royal Gazette reported that Bermuda's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Vinette Graham-Allen ruled that Justis Smith and Kirk Mundy could not be retried on sexual assault charges "as it broke the well-established law that a man should not be twice punished for an offence arising out of the same facts." To run sequential trials for offences on an ascending scale of gravity could be deemed an abuse of the process of the court, she argued. She said the constitution guaranteed an individual cannot be re-tried for the same offence or any other offence for which he could have been convicted at the earlier trial. It is understood permission is needed from the DPP in order for a private prosecution to take place. The DPP said the same evidence which formed the basis for charging Mundy in 1996 would be the same evidence for launching a trial on sexual assault. “No new evidence has surfaced since his conviction, to justify the preferment of fresh charges.” New charges would amount to a breach of Mundy's constitutional rights and an abuse of the courts and powers of the DPP, said Ms Graham-Allen. She argued the same protection of the Constitution applied to Smith who had been acquitted by the Supreme Court. That decision was upheld after being reviewed by higher courts. In the review, which looked at the record of all the evidence provided plus the legal judgments on the case, Ms Graham-Allen said Rebecca had been sexually assaulted and there was evidence that which cast doubt on Mundy's claim of consensual sex. But that should have been put before a jury as it had been available to the Crown prior to Mundy's committal to trial in November 1996.

Although there was no direct evidence to suggest Smith had sexually assaulted the teen, it had still been open for the Crown to prosecute under that offence as he could have been deemed to have taken part by aiding the perpetrator. She added: “Further forensic reports subsequently received post-committal confirms and supports the contention that the issue of consent raised by Mr. Mundy in his admission to the Police could have been refuted.” If the DPP did launch a new prosecution the pair had ripe grounds to claim an abuse of the process on grounds of delay and pre-trial publicity, said Ms Graham-Allen.

In distinct contrast to what has not happened in Bermuda:

In mid-April 2006, the case re Rebecca was thrust into the US national television spotlight. Prime-time Fox News crime show On The Record – hosted by leading presenter Greta Van Susteren – examined the heavily criticised investigation into Rebecca’s death and why no one has been convicted of her murder. The TV program examined the way prosecutors handled the case against two men who were arrested over the killing, Justis Smith and Kirk Mundy and why, in 1996, before Police had completed forensic tests, prosecutors accepted Mundy’s guilty plea to a charge of accessory after the fact. He was sentenced to five years behind bars. Smith was acquitted of a murder charge in November 1998 after Supreme Court judge Vincent Meerabux ruled there was no case to answer. That decision was branded “astonishing” by London’s Privy Council. The Fox News website states that the crime-investigation programme is the highest-rated cable news programme in the 10 p.m. timeslot. Greta Van Susteren is a former trial lawyer who was recently named one of the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes Magazine.

In 2005, the UK abolished the law against double jeopardy, as a result of which murderers have at last been brought to full justice. allows suspects involved in serious crimes, including murder and rape, to face a second trial if there is fresh and compelling new evidence. But there has been no such improvement in Bermuda laws. As a result, the appeal in April 2007 re the murder, rape, sodomy and torture of  17-year Canadian visitor to Bermuda Rebecca Middleton with no serious charges laid against the known perpetrators because of gross inadequacies in Bermuda law was a complete farce, despite the best efforts of Cherie Booth, QC.

In January 2007, it was confirmed that Cherie Booth, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was being asked to represent the family of the 1996 vicious murder, rape and sodomy victim 17-year old Canadian visitor Rebecca Middleton at a judicial review to take place in Bermuda at the Supreme Court on April 16 and 17, 2007. Ms Booth is one of the UK’s top QCs and a top human rights barrister. Legal steps were taken in late 2006 to seek a judicial review of DPP director Vinette Graham Allen’s decision in March 2006 not to reinvestigate the matter or consider fresh charges. Chief Justice Richard Ground of Bermuda has allowed a judicial review.  Bermuda's Work Permit restrictions applied to Ms Booth before she could appear as legal counsel for the Middletons at the judicial review, with the Bermuda Bar Council and Department of Immigration consulted. The DPP has also gotten an overseas QC to state the Bermuda Government's case.

April 25, 2007. The Royal Gazette group reported. A Canadian national newspaper ran a damning editorial on the botched handling of the Rebecca Middleton rape and murder case. The Globe and Mail, which sells an average of 330,000 a day, said an ongoing judicial review represents “a final chance for the British territory to remove this stain on its reputation and to send a clear message that the days when sex assaults were treated lightly are over. Last week, top British human rights lawyer Cherie Booth QC represented Rebecca’s family in pressing the Supreme Court for the case to be re-opened. She argued that suspects Kirk Mundy, 31, and Justis Smith, 28, should be charged with sexual assault, abduction and torture since earlier attempts to try them for murder were bungled. “We say the issue at the heart of this case is whether the court can put right a grave wrong in this case and ensure that finally justice is done, not just for Rebecca and her family but also for the integrity of the judicial process here in Bermuda,” she said. Ms Booth claimed it was wrong the suspects did not face sexual assault charges from the outset and the history of the case showed “what we say is a culture of impunity regarding sexual offences against women in Bermuda”. Ms Booth asked Chief Justice Richard Ground to overturn a previous ruling of Director of Public Prosecutions Vinette Graham-Allen that the case should not be re-opened. Mrs. Graham-Allen maintained that her decision was correct, but during the judicial review her lawyer James Guthrie QC said she regretted that the Middleton family had “suffered great injustice” due to a catalogue of errors before she was in her post. He listed these as starting with the Police investigation, and continuing with an error by the Crown in allowing Mundy to plead guilty to a lesser charge of accessory to the crime instead of facing a murder charge. In addition, said Mr. Guthrie, a Supreme Court judge should never have halted the murder trial of Smith, and “with the benefit of hindsight” it was wrong that neither man was charged with sexual assault. Chief Justice Richard Ground is set to deliver his ruling later this month. The Middleton case has been followed closely in Canada, and the Globe and Mail said in yesterday’s editorial that a contributing factor in the botched prosecution “was a culture in which sex crimes have not been typically regarded as the heinous acts they are.” The newspaper told its readers that the Supreme Court review offers the Middleton family “a glimmer of hope” amid “this travesty of justice”. It’s time to correct past wrongs and finally bring some justice to the victim and her family,” said the Globe and Mail. Responding to news of the editorial, Kelvin Hastings-Smith, a Bermuda attorney also representing the Middleton family, said despite the international interest in the Middleton case, the paper’s strong stance was unexpected. “If this was an editorial leader I’m surprised, and it goes to show how seriously Canadians consider this matter and how Bermuda’s got a bit of a blot on its reputation,” he said. He pointed to sex offence statistics in relation to Ms Booth’s claims about a culture of impunity regarding such crimes against women in Bermuda. “Between 2000 and 2004 we have 16 convictions for sexual assault out of 204 cases reported to the Police, which I think says it all,” he said. Asked, however, whether the outcry is likely to have a bearing on the outcome of the judicial review, he replied: “No. I think the Chief Justice will divorce himself from all the media attention that there has been on this matter. I can’t speak for him, but he will concern himself with the evidence that was filed and the evidence before him in respect of what is obviously a very difficult case.”

Earlier in May 2007, the judicial review was formally disallowed, to the outrage of the Canadian media. The repercussions of this will be felt in forthcoming months.

May 7, 2007. The 330,000-plus readers of the Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada were told of a "dark day for Bermudian justice" by the newspaper's editorial pages. The daily publication closely followed the Rebecca Middleton case and the recent judicial review in which new charges could have been filed against the Canadian girl's alleged killers. However, in a decision revealed last week, Chief Justice Richard Ground decided he could not violate the letter of the law, even though the law gave him the discretion to do so if the case was exceptional. In the end, Mr. Justice Ground rejected the claim made by the Middleton legal team which included British Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife Cherie Booth, QC. There will be no new investigation, no new criminal case. The editorial writer said of the Chief Justice: "The door was open. Chief Justice Ground chose not to walk through it. And so a family is left at a dead end on a long, agonizing road to find justice for their murdered child. And a judicial system is left so tied in knots by legal technicalities that it can't reverse what it clearly recognizes as its own grave errors, even in the face of public outcry both within and without its borders. It's a dark day for Bermudian justice."

The Royal Gazette group reported that some of the British Commonwealth's most distinguished judges and magistrates arrived in Bermuda for a conference from August 19 to 23. The regional meeting of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) was entitled 'Equality and the Courts — Exploring the Commonwealth Experience.' Among the topics to be discussed will be family and gender-based violence, human rights and economic development, and perspectives on equality and the courts. Although the event has traditionally been addressed only to magistrates and judges, the latest conference was extended to include all lawyers in Bermuda at the instigation of the Regional Vice-President of the CMJA, Puisne Judge Norma Wade-Miller. Members of the Bermuda Bar Association who attended the conference were able to meet and network with CMJA members from the UK, Channel Islands, Cayman Islands, the Caribbean and Africa. The event was hosted by Chief Justice Richard Ground at the Fairmont Southampton resort.

Timeline summary 

1996

1997

1998

2000

2003

2006

2007

2008

Referendum Act 2012

Enacted June 2012 by Bermuda's House of Assembly. Established procedures for national referendums, including the promised one on gaming. Two previous referenda held in Bermuda required separate legislation to be passed for them. The first was on capital punishment in 1990, when 78.4 percent favored retention of the death penalty. The second was on Independence in 1995, and saw a 73 percent vote against breaking ties with Britain. The new law means legislators will no longer have to pass a separate law each time a referendum is decided upon. It sets out the general parameters for them to be held in each case and is based on tried and true electoral processes. Only registered voters can participate in a referendum. A ‘yes’ vote will have happened if 50 percent or more of Bermuda’s registered voters vote in the referendum, and more than 50 percent of them mark their ballot ‘yes.’ A ‘no’ vote will have happened if 50 percent or more of Bermuda’s registered voters take part and more than 50 percent of them mark their ballot ‘no.’ A referendum question will be taken to be unanswered if less than 50 percent of registered voters vote, or if the voting patterns are such that the requirements for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ result are not met. The principle behind the new legislation is “informed choice” and Government is committed to fairness, transparency and propriety in the conduct of referendums. The bill allows the Premier to set up an “ad hoc committee” if she wishes to advise on any matter relating to a particular referendum. Premier Ms Cox indicated that the national debate on gaming may be the first issue put to a referendum under the new act. Attorney General Kim Wilson said in a speech to a United Nations seminar on decolonisation in May 2012 that the legislation will also help pave the way for a fresh referendum on Independence. Leader of the Opposition Craig Cannonier welcomed the legislation. However, he said his party wishes to go one step further, and have “citizen’s initiative” referendums. Those are brought forward by the people rather than by the Government. Mr Cannonier said this would increase faith and participation in the political process. His party colleague Grant Gibbons noted that under the new bill, power to decide the referendum question and the timing of the vote remains in the hands of government, not the people. He also expressed concern that just one-quarter of the electorate could decide an issue as weighty as Independence. “It certainly is not adequate when it comes to an issue such as Independence. The British Government says it has to be a clearly expressed majority of the people. Most of us believe we need some sort of super majority in order to carry an issue like that.” Charles Swan of the United Bermuda Party welcomed the bill. However, he also sounded a note of caution that a referendum could be decided if just 26 percent of the electorate voted for or against something. “That’s maybe something we want to reconsider or look at,” he suggested. Later in the debate, Ms Cox indicated that the rules can be customized for individual referendums, “including even with the percentage of the participation.” The bill was passed as amended.

Regulatory Acts

Regulatory Authority Act 2011

Psychologists

The Psychological Practitioners Act 1998. For psychologists practicing in Bermuda.

Specified Business Legislation Amendment Act 2011

Tightens access and exchange of information. Seeks to amend various pieces of specified business legislation to ensure consistency, transparency, and compliance with international tax information exchange standards, recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Time share units

There are some, mostly at The St. George's Club. Owners should compare the relevant Bermuda legislation with those in Canada and USA, UK, etc before investing.

Treatment of Offenders

See Bermuda Government Boards.

Veterinary Practitioners

Bermuda's Veterinary Practitioners Act 2008 states that all who practice locally must either be a member of the UK's Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, or hold a 'valid licence' in the US, Canada, European Union or Caribbean Economic Community to qualify.

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