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From its inception in 1971 the Faculty of Law Library has made the collection and organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean primary legal materials its main mission. Tremendous assistance has been received from the region’s governments, which, for the most part, still honour their pledge to contribute to the training of the region’s legal profession by providing the Library with complimentary copies of legislation and transcripts of court decisions.

The Law Library’s efforts to make the case law collection accessible outside its walls received a boost when U.S. AID provided funds, firstly, during the 1980s, to prepare headnotes for the cases received from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and in 2001 to edit and publish online the full text of cases received from all superior courts of the region. In some instances the collections date back to the late 1950s.

Carilaw is the result of this U.S.AID and University of the West Indies partnership. Initially, it will contain the full text of nearly 20,000 cases with headnotes. For other cases, only headnotes will be reproduced, but the full text can be made available on request.

A selection of legislation, initially in areas of commercial law, and treaties (bilateral and multilateral) will also be added to the website.

The database may be searched by date, jurisdiction, subject, judge, citation number, title of case/legislation/treaty or by words or phrases. For subject searches, the main branches of law are to be used (for example, constitutional law, contract, family law, practice and procedure, real property, tort). In a few cases topics such as damages, judicial review and negligence may be retrieved using the subject field. However. the database allows for searching of any word which if includes, and so, cases on manslaughter, murder, rape, etc. which are sub-subjects of criminal law may be found by search the "Any word (s) or phrases" field.

The Courts

Most of the cases are those decided by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (PC), and present day Supreme/High Courts and Courts of Appeal of the islands listed on the jurisdictional page of CariLaw. Also included are cases decided by the following courts:

The West Indian Court of Appeal (1920-1958)

Windward Islands and Leeward Islands Court of Appeal (1940-1967)

The Federal Supreme Court (1958-62)

The British Caribbean Court of Appeal (1962-1966)

West Indies Associated States Supreme Court (Court of Appeal and High Court) (1967-1980)

Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (1980 -

Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (1980-

and by special courts such as the industrial Courts of Antigua and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago; the industrial Disputes Tribunal of Jamaica, the Tax Appeal Board of Trinidad and Tobago and the Revenue Court of Jamaica.


Each case, item of legislation and treaty is preceded by a digest which lists title, country, citation, subject and provides other pertinent information.

Velma Newton

January 13, 2005

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