Jamaican Court Hierarchy

The Judiciary of Jamaica is based on the Judiciary of United Kingdom.  The courts in the country are basically divided and arranged in 4 main levels with each level having its own set of functions and responsibilities. Starting from the court of appeal to the petty session’s court, there is a proper hierarchical structure and division of specific cases and appeals that courts handle.

Most cases are first tried at the basic or district level and then move on up the ladder if the person is not satisfied with the results that the lower court announces. To understand the hierarchy structure of Jamaica courts better, you can read the following given information.

Jamaican Court HierarchyCourt of Appeal

This is the highest appellate court in Jamaica and is superior to the Supreme Court, unlike in many countries.  The court of appeal is made up of a President and six other judges.  Even inspite of being the highest court in the country, its judgements can be appealed to the Queen-in-council.

Supreme Court

This court has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil as well as criminal cases. The head of the Supreme Court is the Chief Justice who is also the head of the Judiciary.  This court has certain internal divisions as well which are given below.

  • The Circuit court-this is the division for criminal cases and holds sessions in the individual parishes.
  • Gun court
  • The commercial court
  • The revenue court
  • The family court

Resident Magistrate’s Court

This level of court comes at the third tier of the judiciary of Jamaica. Each of the Parish or district has a Resident Magistrate’s court which has the power to hear both criminal and civil appeals or cases. The jurisdiction of each of such courts extends one mile beyond the border of the respective parish.  Crimes like rape, murder and treason are not tried by these courts. The following are some of the divisions within this level:

  • Traffic court
  • Gun court
  • Family court
  • Coroner’s court
  • Tax court
  • Juvenile court
  • Traffic court
  • Small claims court
  • Night court
  • Drug court

Petty Session’s Court

At the fourth level or the bottom-most level in the pyramid of hierarchy of Jamaican courts is the Petty Sessions court which is the court that hears minor criminal matters such as resisting arrests etc.  There are several Petty sessions’ court in Jamaica and more than one can be present in each city or district. The Justices of the Peace serve as judges in the Petty sessions.