Book Chapter

The interpretation of Commonwealth caribbean constitutions: Does text matter?


This chapter focuses on the differing approaches of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Caribbean Court of Justice towards the interpretation of the independence Constitutions of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Critiquing the lack of autochthony and the lack of meaningful public participation in the drafting of the region’s independence Constitutions, a number of influential Caribbean constitutional scholars have advocated a much more judicially creative approach to the interpretation of the region’s constitutions than the more conservative approach that has dominated the JCPC’s more recent jurisprudence. I call the approach advocated by these scholars the holistic approach because it treats the constitution as a whole as greater than the sum of its parts. The Caribbean Court of Justice in two recent judgments on appeals from Barbados and Guyana respectively has now adopted this approach. Notwithstanding its undoubted attraction in terms of resolving some of the deficiencies and flaws in the region’s independence Constitutions, it will be argued that the holistic approach risks undermining not only the whole interpretive process, but also the whole constitutional order.

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O'Brien, Derek

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Law


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-03-17

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Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of The interpretation of Commonwealth caribbean constitutions: Does text matter?
This RADAR resource is Part of The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Constitutions [ISBN: 9780198793045] / edited by Richard Albert, Derek O'Brien, and Se-shauna Wheatle.


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