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 USAID 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, officially established in 2003 with the assistance, first of LEXUM and then with Andornot, resulted from this partnership between the University of the West Indies and USAID. By the beginning of 2015 it contained the full text of 38,050 with headnotes.
Since CariLaw was established, many changes have been made to the database. The most significant occurred at the beginning of 2015 when the Government of Canada provided funds to upgrade and expand the database through the Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean (IMPACT Justice), a civil society justice sector reform project. Under the IMPACT Project, the site will receive a major overhaul to make it more user-friendly and to boost the speed of its search engine and cross-referencing capabilities.
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 is included, and so, cases on manslaughter, murder, rape, etc. which are sub-subjects of criminal law may be found by searching under the "Any word (s) or phrases" field.
Most of the cases are those decided by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (PC), 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 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 and the following courts which are now defunct:
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)
The full text of each case is preceded by catchwords which act as a guide to the area of law and issues discussed in the case.
Velma Newton, Regional Director
Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean Project (IMPACT Justice)
Caribbean Law Institute Centre
Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies
Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
Junior Brown, Officer in Charge
Faculty of Law Library
University of the West Indies,
Cave Hill Campus
February 26, 2015