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- Legal System
The legal system of the Bahamas is based on English Common Law, which has since 1964 been complemented by an American type of constitutionalism declaring the existence of certain fundamental principles that are to be observed and enforced.
Civil and criminal jurisdiction is held by the Bahamas Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the magistrates’ courts, the courts of first instance. In New Providence and Grand Bahama the magistrates’ courts are presided over by magistrates, and in the Family Islands they are presided over by island administrators. The magistrates have been empowered to hear inquests since 2006, when the coroners’ court was closed. The Supreme Court, the second highest in the country, is staffed by a chief justice and eight justices, and sits in Nassau on New Providence island and Freeport on Grand Bahama. The Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgements, orders and sentences made by the Supreme Court. The final court of appeal is the Privy Council in the UK.
The Bahamas has one of the highest concentrations of lawyers in the Caribbean and is in the top 25 in the world, with a lawyer for around every 500 people. A practicing lawyer belongs to The Bahamas Bar Association (BBA) and is styled as a ‘counsel and attorney’. With around 1,000 members, the BBA is the largest single professional organisation in The Bahamas.
The Bar Council, the executive body of the BBA, is responsible for deciding whether an applicant for admission to practice is qualified. The statutory qualification for admission to practice is a call to the Bar of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, admission to practice as a solicitor in any of these countries, or receipt of a Legal Education Certificate from the Council of Legal Education of the West Indies. Additionally applicants must then serve for 12 months under the tutelage of a lawyer in an actual practice in The Bahamas before admission to practice. All persons admitted to practice are members of the BBA and it is open only to Bahamian nationals, although those of other nationalities may become registered associates, an agent of a counsel and attorney.
In a court case the advocate or lawyer is required to be a member of the BBA. Bahamas has dozens of senior counsel, with more than 15 or 20 years experience, four of whom are Queen’s Counsel (2012). The Legal Profession Act is the legislation that governs the legal profession in The Bahamas, the operation of the BBA and governs the process of joining the Bar and the rights of people admitted to practice
Not included in the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report (2012-2013).