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Law reform commission being advanced

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Lawyer Delroy Duncan will chair the Law Reform Commission (File photograph)

An independent Law Reform Commission has been set up — ten years after legislation paved the way for its introduction.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, said this week that in 2009 it became “unarguably clear that Bermuda lagged behind international best practice”.

She told the Senate that the six-strong group will study and review Bermuda’s legislation to identify areas where development or change is needed.

The commission’s chairman will be Delroy Duncan, a founding partner at law firm Trott & Duncan.

Commissioners will include former attorneys-general Michael Scott, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, and Mark Pettingill, a director of law firm Chancery Legal.

Ms Simmons said: “This government acknowledges that the need for comprehensive and systemic reform of Bermuda’s laws is as urgent today as it was in 2009 when a formalised law reform body was conceived.

“Therefore, I am pleased today to inform senators and members of the public that we are advancing this initiative.

“Over the next several weeks, the contact information for the commission and how persons can make submissions will be provided.”

The Upper House heard that Bermuda has had an ad hoc law reform committee since 1968, but the PLP saw the need to introduce a statutory body.

Ms Simmons explained that throughout the Commonwealth, it appeared that law reform was best carried out by a permanent body with a defined role. She added that a review of other jurisdictions during the development of legislation in 2009 showed that a range of countries had law reform agencies that shared common characteristics.

Ms Simmons said: “It was unarguably clear that Bermuda lagged behind international best practice previously in establishing an independent statutory law reform agency.”

She added that the Law Reform Commission Act 2009 came into operation in February 2011. Mr Scott, then the justice minister, said in March that year the commission was expected to be “fully operational” by April 1.

However, Trevor Moniz, at the time the One Bermuda Alliance’s shadow attorney-general, said in August 2011 that he believed the Law Reform Commission had still not started its work.

The other commissioners named were lawyers Rod Attride-Stirling, Kim Wilkerson and Jacqueline MacLellan.

Ms Simmons said: “All appointees bring a wealth of experience and commitment to advancing the much needed reform of Bermuda’s laws.”

The commission’s work will include law development “with the aim of making it more responsive to the changing needs of Bermudian society” and the adoption of more effective ways to use the law and serve justice.

Another function is to make recommendations “for the elimination of anomalies in the law, the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary Acts or provisions of an Act, and the simplification and modernisation of the law”.

Ms Simmons explained that the commission would be able to consider suggestions for law reform from others and start or commission research. The body will be staffed by public officers and a parliamentary counsel will be assigned to help with its work.

Ms Simmons said that consultants and experts can be hired by the commission and paid at rates approved by the Government.

She added: “The expenses of the commission will be met out of funds to be appropriated annually by the legislature.

“It is intended to use existing resources to support the commission during this initial stage.

“During the remainder of this fiscal year, the expenses of the commission will be monitored and assessed to determine the level of funding to be appropriated during the next Budget.”

Ms Simmons said the commission must produce annual reports of its work, which will go before both houses of the legislature. The Royal Gazette asked for more information about what had happened with the Law Reform Commission since the Act came into operation in 2011, but Government did nor respond by press time.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs (Photograph supplied)