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Bermuda Flag

Bermuda's legal system

No United Kingdom or European Union laws apply in this self-governed British Overseas Territory

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us)

Bermuda laws

line drawing

Bermuda Dollar coinAs Bermuda is an internally self-governing British Overseas Territory, the British Government in London is responsible for only Bermuda's external affairs including consular representation. A British, not Bermudian, resident Governor is appointed by the British Government and represents Her Majesty the Queen. Bermuda handles all its internal affairs via the Bermuda Government which enacts its own laws. 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 local parliament 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. 

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

Bermuda Bar Association

Reid House, 31 Church Street, Hamilton HM 12. P. O. Box HM 125, Hamilton HM AX. Telephone and Fax: (441) 295-4540. Trade association for lawyers (barristers) registered to practice law under the Bermuda Bar Act 1974. A member of the International Bar Association. Usually, the office is staffed from 2 to 5 pm weekdays. As at January 2020 it oversees 448 active members and 78 law firms, and its members' fees average over $600 an hour. Bermuda has more lawyers - attorneys - per square mile than anywhere else on earth, one reason being that it is an international offshore business centre, described by some as a tax haven. In Bermuda, only a registered lawyer who is a member of the BBA, and also whose legal practice is, if not practicing alone, may form a Bermuda-registered company.

Bermuda law firms 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. 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 associate  attorneys after having qualified as members of the Bermuda Bar; conveyancing clerks who are legal secretaries with special skills at transferring real estate; corporate administrators who undertake compliance of client bodies corporate or partnerships and other duties. Some have specialized and qualified corporate management skills; and trust administrators who manage offshore trusts and agencies.

Bermuda Bar Council

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

Bermuda Business laws

Bermuda Commodities Exchange Act 1996

Bermuda Employment Laws

See under "Newcomers."

Bermuda Government Boards, Commissions and their legislation

Bermuda Laws  

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 then Premier the Hon. Paula Cox, she noted the Government was to embark on a wholesale overhaul of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, guided by a need for continuity, protection and fairness. The resulting Act, more than 35 pages long, was wide-ranging and dealt 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. The Act has since been multi-amended.

Bribery Act 2016

Became operational September 1, 2017. Applies to all Bermudians, Bermuda residents and entities incorporated or registered in Bermuda. On conviction, individuals can face imprisonment for a term of up to 15 years, or an unlimited fine, or both. Commercial organisations can receive an unlimited fine. Largely based on the United Kingdom’s Bribery Act 2010 and consolidates various existing anti-corruption laws into one clear international standard for combating bribery. Bribery involves “intending to influence the actions of a person by way of a bribe”. The main offences under the Act are:

The territorial reach of the Act is broad and goes beyond just Bermudians, Bermuda residents and Bermuda entities. The Act applies to bribery that takes place in Bermuda and bribery that takes place outside of Bermuda (which would form an offence if the bribery was carried out in Bermuda) where the person has a close connection with Bermuda. A person who commits bribery has a close connection with Bermuda if they:

The failure of a relevant commercial organisation to prevent bribery is an offence committed irrespective of whether the offence takes place in Bermuda or elsewhere. For the purposes of the Act, a “relevant commercial organisation”, is: (i) a body corporate or partnership incorporated or formed under the laws of Bermuda that carries on business in Bermuda or elsewhere, and (ii) any other body corporate or partnership wherever incorporated or formed that carries on a business or part of a business in Bermuda (Relevant Organisation). For there to be an offence, an associated person must have intended to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business for the Relevant Organisation. An “associated person” is defined widely under the Act as a person who performs services for or on behalf of a Relevant Organisation. The concept of “associated person” covers employees, contractors, agents, joint ventures and subsidiaries of Relevant Organisations. There is no requirement for the “associated person” to have any connection with Bermuda. Relevant Organisations will have a defence to liability if they can show that they have put in place “adequate procedures” to prevent associated persons from bribing. Pursuant to its obligations under the Act, the Ministry of Legal Affairs published guidance in June on the procedures that Relevant Organisations can put in place to ensure their practices do not fall afoul of the Act. The Act also creates a new National Anti-Corruption and Bribery Committee for the purposes of advising the Minister on the detection and prevention of corruption and bribery, reviewing the operation of the Act, and evaluating the existing legislative and administrative measures in place in Bermuda to combat corruption and bribery. The Act is an important step in modernizing Bermuda’s corruption and bribery legislation as it signifies that Bermuda is committed to the global fight against corruption and bribery. The significant extension of the Act’s territorial reach and severe penalties means that individuals connected to Bermuda or associated with a Relevant Organisation should be aware of the provisions of the Act. Additionally, Relevant Organisations must take appropriate steps to ensure adequate procedures are in place to prevent bribery in order to rely on the corporate defence."

Casino Gaming

Bermuda Casino Gaming Act 2014. Under it the commission can approve up to three provisional casino licences, in addition to the provisional licence granted to the developer of the St Regis hotel project in St George’s. According to the application process, a $600,000 application fee must accompany all applications, while a $1.4 million provisional licence issue fee is payable by applicants awarded a provisional licence. Those making it through to the final stage will then be subjected to a further $1 million casino licence issue fee. The Hamilton Princess last year became one of the first resort properties to be named a “designated site”, making it eligible to apply for a casino licence. It was revealed earlier that this year both the Fairmont Southampton and the Morgan’s Point hotel had applied for site designation.

2017. July 24. The Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club has made a play to become Bermuda’s first integrated casino resort. And the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission has announced that the hotel will make it’s presentation to the commission in a public meeting in September. Alan Dunch, chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, confirmed yesterday that the hotel had submitted a “substantially completed” application for a casino facility. “The application provides the detailed plans to develop a casino within the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club,” a release issued from the BCGC said. Mr Dunch called the application a “landmark event. We feel that this is an important step towards realizing the public policy goals of the Casino Act, by increasing employment and investment in Bermuda, as well as enhancing the tourism product. I also want to thank the staff of the BCGC and the Princess for working the many long hours necessary to get us to this point.” The statement described the application as “fully funded”, noting that the project will be presented to the BCGC for approval at 2pm on September 22 at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, with the public able to attend. Further details about the casino presentation are expected to be released at a later date. The casino licencing application process was approved by legislators earlier this year, despite concerns that the price tag for a licence was too high, with the first “window” for applications opening in April. Under the Bermuda Casino Gaming Act 2014, the commission can approve up to three provisional casino licences, in addition to the provisional licence granted to the developer of the St Regis hotel project in St George’s. According to the application process, a $600,000 application fee must accompany all applications, while a $1.4 million provisional licence issue fee is payable by applicants awarded a provisional licence. Those making it through to the final stage will then be subjected to a further $1 million casino licence issue fee. The Hamilton Princess last year became one of the first resort properties to be named a “designated site”, making it eligible to apply for a casino licence. It was revealed earlier that this year both the Fairmont Southampton and the Morgan’s Point hotel had applied for site designation.

2016. February 4. Independent MP Shawn Crockwell and OBA backbencher Mark Pettingill launched a scathing attack on new regulations tabled by Government last night designed to set taxes and fees for casino gaming in Bermuda. However, The Casino Gaming (General Reserve and Casino Taxes) Regulations 2017 and Casino Gaming (Casino Fees) Regulations 2017 were passed, with Speaker of the House Randy Horton casting the deciding vote on the second set of rules relating to fees. Mr Crockwell condemned the “sluggish” progress that had been made establishing the island’s first casino and told the House of Assembly the fee structure would deter operators coming to Bermuda. Taking particular exception to the fee structure proposed by Government, Mr Crockwell said: “The advice I received was $1 million should be the highest we charge for a casino licence. Parties have told me that our fees are too high and prohibitive and it would deter operators. They will go somewhere else.” Mr Crockwell went to on claim that the original vision to bring amenity casinos to Bermuda had been “hijacked” by the Gaming Commission. “That is wrong,” he said. “We went from amenity casinos we can regulate and control without any problem to what appears to be some grand casino jurisdiction. That is not how we started out and that is not what we can achieve. We are going down the wrong path and we are going to be here next year having the same debate, which would be a disservice to this community. We are mucking about with this issue.” Grant Gibbons, the Minister for Economic Development, brought the new regulations before the House. He said that the fee structure and 10 per cent tax rate established in the regulations were “clearly in accord with the stated policy goals of the 2014 Casino Gaming Act”. The fee schedule sets the casino licence application fee at $600,000 and the provisional licence issue fee at $1.4 million. Under the regulations a casino licence issue is set at $1 million, while an annual casino licence fee is $1 million, “less any applicable discount”. The regulations state: “The schedule sets out the fees payable which are in addition to any requirement to reimburse the Commission for the costs of any investigation pursuant to the Act of any regulations”. Mr Pettingill also took aim at the fee regulations, saying that the costs were far too high for Bermuda, noting that he as a lawyer has clients in the gaming industry. “My clients have passed on Bermuda because it doesn’t have the traffic,” he said. He further accused the Gaming Commission of acting outside its remit by meeting with casino operators and attacking the body for its slow movement on bringing gaming to the island. “We needed to get it up and running,” he said. “We spent significant time and energy in getting the initial legislation together and it was entirely workable. The public campaigning by the commission and the lack of progress do not sit well with me.” Progressive Labour Party MPs echoed Mr Crockwell’s and Mr Pettingill’s concerns. Zane DeSilva said: “These fees are not only way too high, but it’s going to scare people away. We are making the cost of doing business way too high.” He urged the Government to withdraw the regulations, axe the Gaming Commission and listen to Mr Pettingill, while Kim Wilson questioned if the fees would price Bermuda out of the industry, leaving the island without a casino. And while Michael Dunkley agreed that the delay in progress was unfortunate, he said gaming is an issue the island must get right, adding that he had not heard of any pushback from those involved in the industry. “Until there is pushback, we don’t want to sell ourselves short, and I haven’t heard of any,” the Premier said. “If there’s pushback, we can drop it, but its hard to go to someone you have given a licence and ask for more money.” Opposition leader David Burt agreed it was important to get gaming right, saying the Minister should take the regulations off the table until they can be supported by the House. But Dr Gibbons said the Gaming Commission has been conversing with between 12 and 15 gaming operators and has not heard pushback about the fee structure. “I’m not disputing what the other members are saying, but our sense is that it’s not unreasonable,” he said. “We are probably on the lower side in terms of sustainability.” When the second set of regulations relating to casino fees came to a vote, MPs voted along party lines with the PLP going against the regulations and the OBA — with the exception of Mr Pettingill, who abstained — voting in favour. Mr Crockwell voted against the motion and, while Dr Gibbons suggested that the independent MP had a conflict of interest, Mr Horton ruled that his vote should count, leaving the vote at 17 to 17. Casting the deciding vote in favour of the regulations, Mr Horton said: “In coming to make a decision, we have to weigh the information that seems to have been brought forward by those that are experts in the industry.”


Charities Act 2014. In effect since December 31 as are the Charities Regulations 2014. The new Act designates the Registrar General as the authority for supervising charities, and gives the Registrar the power to conduct investigations, seize documents, to disclose information in his possession to other public authorities and to charge an annual registration fee. The 2014 Act is based on the UK Charities Act yet some of it is specific to Bermuda.

Chief Justice

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


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.

Consumer Affairs

Bermuda Government's Department of Consumer Affairs. Ingham and Wilkinson Building, 129 Front Street, Hamilton HM 12. Phone (441) 297-7627. Fax (441) 295-6892. Consumer, landlord and tenant, cable TV, shopping and utilities complaints, mostly. The Consumer Protection Act 1999 deals with unfair or deceptive business practices, unconscionable representations and unconscionable acts.  For instance, double tipping or paying gratuities twice is an unfair business practice under the Act.   Therefore a patron of a local restaurant or bar can lodge a complaint with this office regarding that practice. The Consumer Protection Act 1999 is divided into six parts: Preliminary; Administration; Unfair Business Practices; Consumer Safety; Enforcement; Miscellaneous. Typically, consumers call the Department of Consumer Affairs with complaints about defective or poor quality products; problems with warranties; issues concerning  sales and return policies; automotive sales and repair; home improvement contract disputes; landlord/tenant issues; financial contracts and deceptive advertising. Businesses also contact the Department when they require advice and guidance about customer complaints as they relate to  the Act.

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.

The Director of Public Prosecutions can be reached at Global House, 43 Church Street, Hamilton. Phone 296-1277.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

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 in 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 Copyright & Design 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

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.

Bermuda Employment Laws and Employment Rights

Employment law in Bermuda comprises local legislation (statutes enacted by Parliament) and English and Bermuda common law (case law decided by courts over the years). The relevant legislation, under Bermuda laws  is The Employment Act 2000 (as amended), which applies to all employees working wholly or mainly in Bermuda, including foreign employees. It sets out minimum statutory entitlements, including notice of termination rights and various leave benefits (vacation, sick leave, maternity, bereavement, public duty leave, etc. It mandates that there be a written contract (“Statement of Employment”) in place setting out fundamental terms of the employment relationship. If the contract contains more favourable terms than the Act, then the contract prevails. Parties cannot contract out of the Act’s minimum requirements. It provides that an employee can only be dismissed for a valid reason, such as ability, performance, conduct or business operational requirements (redundancy); that statutory redundancy pay (“severance allowance”) must be paid if conditions of redundancy are made out (capped at 6 months’ wages).  It protects employees from disciplinary action or termination (“unfair dismissal”) on human rights related grounds or for being a whistle-blower. It defines constructive dismissal (also “unfair dismissal”) and provides compensation for same based on the employer’s unreasonable conduct. It provides for a mandatory warning process for employees engaging in misconduct (short of serious misconduct) or unsatisfactory performance and time to improve (employees engaged in serious misconduct related to the employment relationship can be summarily dismissed). It has a complaint process for breach of the statute to an Inspector and then to the Employment Tribunal, with a 3 month limitation period. Compensation is limited to 6 months’ wages or reinstatement. It shows that either side can terminate the contract for any reason and without notice during a contractual probation period (if there is one, the contract must state whether there is one or not). It gives priority to an employee’s claims for unpaid wages and accrued vacation pay in a winding up action.

Note that The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 (as amended) provides that employees who are not Bermudian or a spouse of a Bermudian or a Permanent Resident’s Certificate (PRC) holder must have a work permit issued by the Department of Immigration to work in Bermuda. These can range from 3 months to 10 years in time (the latter subject to several stringent criteria) and are renewable. The time for processing is approximately 8 to 10 days (for “fast track” or “temporary permits”) or 6 to 10 weeks (for standard permits of 1 year or more). A work permit will not be issued where a qualified Bermudian, spouse of a Bermudian, non-Bermudian dependant of a Bermudian, Permanent Resident Certificate holder or other person with a qualifying connection to Bermuda applies for the position. Employees are generally subject under Bermuda immigration policy to a maximum of 6 years of working under a permit in Bermuda (“terms limits.”) Certain positions can be deemed “key” to a business and the holder of that position can be exempted from term limits or receive an extension of to their term limit of up to 3 additional years. Other grounds for exemption can be made out (e.g. worldwide shortage in that industry, company hardship, etc.).

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

Since 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. 

Human Rights

See 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

Legal Aid Committee

A Bermuda Government appointed body, under the Legal Aid Act 1980, Amendment Act 2003.. 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.


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.


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.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1972

It is illegal to import drugs into Bermuda, even for personal medical use.

Mortgaging of Aircraft and Aircraft Engines Amendment Act 2017

2017. June 2. Updates to the Mortgaging of Aircraft and Aircraft Engines Act 1999. The island has long been a jurisdiction of choice for aircraft financing transactions. Thus the continued positive outlook in the global aircraft finance sector means that protecting the interests of secured parties over aircraft and engines is crucial. Legislative amendments have further strengthened Bermuda’s position as an offshore leader in the global aircraft finance market. Removed from the earlier act is the requirement that an aircraft or aircraft engine must be owned by, leased or chartered to, or otherwise in the lawful possession of a company incorporated in Bermuda to be made security for a loan. The amended Act, together with ancillary regulations made under the Act, provide for the establishment and maintenance of a register of aircraft mortgages and aircraft engine mortgages. Prior to the amendment, mortgages could only be registered against Bermuda-registered aircraft and aircraft engines if such aircraft or aircraft engine were either owned by, or otherwise in the possession of, a Bermuda incorporated company. The amendments to the Act now allow security for loans or other valuable consideration to be made by qualified registrants over aircraft registered on the Bermuda register (or capable of being registered); and aircraft engines if: (a) the engine is attached to an aircraft registered on the Bermuda register (or attached to an aircraft capable of being registered) or (b) the engine is for such aircraft and is owned by, or leased to, the owner of such aircraft. The Amendment Act follows amendments that were made to the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order that took effect on January 1, 2015. The amendments expanded the list of persons and corporations eligible to register an aircraft on the Bermuda register of aircraft to include Commonwealth citizens or nationals of any European Economic Area state; bodies incorporated in any other part of the Commonwealth and having their registered office or principal place of business in the United Kingdom or any other part of the Commonwealth; and  undertakings formed in accordance with the EEA state having their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the EEA. However, there still remained a Bermuda policy that continued to stipulate that a Bermuda-registered company was required in the structure for the purposes of registration. It was the removal of the policy at the end of 2015 that resulted in parties being in a position to take advantage of the amendments. On July 27, 2016, Royal Assent was received in respect of the Bermuda International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention) Act 2016. The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, commonly known as Unidroit, has now confirmed that the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment will be extended to Bermuda, effective January 2018. The Cape Town Convention facilitates aircraft finance by standardizing transactions involving moveable property with respect to “aircraft objects” (airframes, aircraft engines and helicopters) by the creation of an electronic international registry of “international interests” that are recognized by those states that have implemented the Convention and to provide various default remedies to a creditor (including in the context of insolvency) should the need arise. These latest initiatives by Bermuda underline the importance to the island of having a modern legislative framework to facilitate aircraft financing transactions.

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 the Immigration Department.

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


Puisne Judges

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


2017. September 25. The Quarantine Amendment Act 2017 and Quarantine (Maritime and Air) Regulations 2017 were enacted. The new regulations will streamline the procedures required at both the airport and ports, provide the key structure to the security, ensure the roles of health officers are outlined and the rights and responsibilities of travelers are enshrined in law. They will allow health officers to stop the disembarking of passengers and crew from a ship or aircraft as did the 1946 Regulations. However, in the new regulations health officers will only have this ability where a public health threat has been reported on board, a death was reported or the conveyance is coming from an affected country.

Real Estate

2017. September 25. The Real Estate Brokers’ Licensing Act 2017 became law yesterday. Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, told MPs that the legislation would modernise the operation and supervision of the real estate industry and bring the island into compliance with standards set up by the Financial Action Task Force. Opposition MPs including Jeanne Atherden, Grant Gibbons and Trevor Moniz raised concerns that the legislation could adversely impact lawyers who practice in real estate.

Rebecca Middleton legal case

From 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 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 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 









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. 

Regulatory Acts

Regulatory Authority Act 2011

Private Investigators and Security Guard Act 1974

2014. July 5. The first group of security guards — 21 in all — have been presented with their level two door supervisor certification. The presentation took place last week with Minister of Home Affairs Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and the Minister of National Security, Senator Jeff Baron, handing out the certificates.


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

Segregated Accounts Companies Act 2000 (SAC Act)

Makes it possible for a company incorporated in Bermuda to register as a segregated accounts company (SAC). A segregated account contains assets and liabilities that are legally separated from (i) the assets and liabilities of the company’s general account and (ii) such company’s other segregated accounts. Registering as an SAC allows the assets of one account to be protected from the liabilities of other accounts. The statutory divisions between accounts do not create separate bodies corporate, but rather achieve within a single company what could otherwise be achieved by incorporating subsidiaries or by using complex contractual or trust structures. As a result, the accounts will be self-dependent, whereby only the assets of a particular account may be applied to the liabilities of that account. Importantly, a segregated account does not have a separate legal personality; it cannot sue and be sued in its own name. SACs are commonly structured so that the voting share is held by a person or entity that has the responsibility for the day to day running of the company and the account owners usually hold securities linked to a particular segregated account. The SAC Act provides that an asset, right, contribution, liability or obligation that belongs or pertains to a segregated account of an SAC must be ‘linked’ to that segregated account by one of the following methods: An instrument in writing (which includes a governing instrument or contract); An entry or other notation made in respect of a transaction in the records of an SAC;  An unwritten but conclusive indication. SACs are commonly used for a variety of insurance purposes, including rent-a-captives, life and annuity companies, transformer vehicles, as well as financial guarantee, securitisation and derivatives structures and special purpose vehicles. They are also frequently used in the mutual and hedge fund industries. Recently, there has been interest in using SACs for segregating intellectual property and for use in the film industry. Sometimes, it is necessary or desirable for segregated accounts within an SAC to contract with each other or the general account. For example, it may be convenient for the general account to provide, and charge for, centralised administrative services to one or more segregated accounts or for a segregated account to invest in another segregated account within the same SAC. Investors in SACs can also change their investment strategy by ‘exchanging’ securities linked to one segregated account for securities linked to another account without capital gains implications. Specific provisions have been included in the SAC Act to avoid any problematic legal issues in connection with internal transactions. This has been accomplished without compromising the paramount notion that a segregated account does not have separate legal personality. The SAC Act also introduces provisions to protect creditors in the event that preferential or other improper transactions are entered into between accounts and, within limits, protects management (on a consensual basis) from exposure to liability consequent upon inevitable conflicts of interest that will arise in internal transactions. The Bermuda courts have considered the SAC structure and upheld the statutory segregation of accounts established by the SAC Act. Bermuda courts have also confirmed the following: When dealing with segregated account companies that it is imperative, in order to preserve the fundamental segregation concept, that the governing instrument is clear and complete, that the byelaws are carefully drafted and that Bermuda legal advice is sought both at the creation of the segregated account company and in the event of a complex and substantial restructuring. Segregated account companies are typically designed to ensure that third party creditors cannot attack the assets in the segregated account that are intended to be available exclusively to meet the claims of creditors who have entered into transactions linked to that specific account. The courts confirmed that only the general assets are available to meet general claims. The winding-up regime applicable to Bermuda companies in general also applies to segregated account companies. The Bermuda court further confirmed that the statutory provisions provided under the SAC Act will also apply providing that each segregated account must be wound up on an individual basis. A liquidator must deal with the assets and liabilities of each segregated account in accordance with the SAC Act and in the absence of contractual terms to the contrary, not apply the assets of one segregated account to the liabilities of another segregated account or the general account. The court held that it was clear on the evidence presented before the court that there was nothing to support piercing the ‘iron curtain’ that applies to the segregation of accounts. It should be noted that there is a risk that the SAC Act may not be upheld or recognised in jurisdictions other than Bermuda where the SAC may operate or have assets, particularly if that jurisdiction does not have corresponding segregated account legislation. Overall, SACs present a unique opportunity to operate ‘mini companies’ within one company thereby avoiding the burdens associated with incorporating various companies while maintaining the benefits of varying investments and ring-fencing assets and liabilities.

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



2015. June 13. New legislation designed to update vending practices in Bermuda were passed by MPs in the House of Assembly. The Vending Act 2015 was created. The new statute, which replaces the 1894 Peddler's Act, opens the way for the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) to take the reins of overseeing the vendor sector. Under the act the BEDC’s executive director has the power to grant or renew, or refuse to grant or renew a licence, with the final point of appeal being the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs. It also makes it an offence to conduct vendor activity on all public roadsides unless the vendor has obtained permission from the Department of Public Lands and Buildings. The vendor policy also proposes that authority for issuing vendor licences is transferred from Magistrates’ Court to the BEDC and that criteria is implemented for securing a vendor licence for those persons eligible. More than 200 vendors had voluntarily registered with the BEDC, which provided in-depth oversight and comprehensive governance, support, and advocacy. A vendor’s licence was not needed for the sale of Bermuda-made products, while other exceptions to the need for a licence include the sale of agricultural produce or horticultural produce by the producer or fish by a registered fisherman.

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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