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Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Grand Turk.
The Turks and Caicos Islands is a British Overseas Territory and our legal system is based on English common law. Bahamian and Jamaican law influences are found in the local legislation.
European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) applies in a limited scope in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Primarily, protocols 6 and 13 (regarding the death penalty) are the only applicable sections.
Magistrates’ Courts are located on Providenciales and Grand Turk. Appeals from Magistrates’ Courts are sent to the Supreme Court (with sittings on both Grand Turk and Providenciales). The Supreme Court exercises a jurisdiction similar to the High Court in England, in which a single judge presides. Cases which are beyond the Magistrate's Court, such as serious criminal cases and higher civil cases, have first instance in the Supreme Court.
Appeals from the Supreme Court are heard in the Court of Appeal, which is held twice a year. Final appeals are heard in the Privy Council (in England).
Laws and Ordinances
Unlike in many other countries where the laws are free and online, you must pay $700 to see the current version of Turks and Caicos laws. It costs $500 for a set (including a CD-ROM) of the 2018 Revised Laws, and then $200 for a subscription to the Gazette to see what amendments and regulations have been made affecting them.
Some copies of the laws are available at local libraries, but these are usually out-of-date and useless for research.
The Government posts the majority of laws online at the Attorney General's website, but unfortunately, there is a delay in publication, and the complete law is often not posted, particularly older legislation (which is still in effect).
It's common for laws to only take effect 'once the Governor publishes a notice in the Gazette', but without access to the Gazette, it's impossible to know if the law is in effect, or if the Government simply did not post the notice online.
Copies of individual laws can be purchased from the Attorney General’s Chambers on Providenciales. Prices start at approximately $75 for each ordinance (longer laws are more expensive).
Example: The Flag and National Symbols (Regulation) Ordinance 2016 is listed under 2016 Ordinances on the Attorney General's website. This law criminalizes commercial use of the
Turks and Caicos Flag (such as on a souvenir coffee mug) without a license for each product you intend to sell. It does not appear under the 2018 Revised Laws or the 2018 Subsidiary legislation, possibly due to the fact that it is a regulation. Considering that only ordinances from 2015 onwards are posted on the Attorney General's website, are there similar 'regulations' for 2014, 2013, 2012, etc. which are not part of the revised laws?
Example: The Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism (Taxation) Ordinance 2019 states in section 53 (6) that small tourism businesses 'whose turnover does not exceed $50,000 in any year or $4,000 in three consecutive months may.....apply to be exempt from the requirement to collect tax.' However, it then states that the Governor, by notice in the Gazette, can vary these amounts. If you are starting a small business which is liable for tourism tax, it is impossible to know if these amounts have been changed, unless you purchase a copy of the Gazette.
Example: During the global Coronavirus pandemic of 2019-2020, the Government (as part of their stimulus package) announced a customs duties waiver. The Government put out posters, advising the public "For ease of reference, see regulations published in the Gazette Vol. 171 NO. 20 issued March 21st, 2020". This required all persons interested to pay $200 to sign-up for the Gazette to see the full list of criteria and regulations, individuals who are already in extreme hardship.
The root problem is that the Gazette is not free, unlike in other countries, and recent and archive copies are not available at local libraries. As such, the true and complete laws are only available to the privileged few who pay for the right to view them.
Cayman Islands Gazette - Free
Bermuda Official Gazette - Free
Irish Official Journal - Free
United States Federal Register - Free
The Gazette (UK) - Free
Turks and Caicos Gazette - $200/year
The Issue with 'Regulations'
Many laws rely on 'regulations' which are made by the Governor, Cabinet, a director of a department, Minister, or similar such person.
These regulations are typically only found in the Government Gazette, which is not free and requires an annual subscription of $200.
Every several years, the Attorney General consolidates and republishes the laws 'as at', for example the Revised Laws 2018.
However, it should be noted that these quickly fall out of date due to changes in regulations, outright amendments to the laws, and the fact that many laws are specifically excluded from the revised laws.