The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council: Constitutional Bulwark or Colonial Remnant?

Otago Law Review, Vol. 5, pp. 503-522, 1984

20 Pages Posted: 28 May 2011

See all articles by Peter T. Burns

Peter T. Burns

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1984

Abstract

The F. W. Guest Memorial Trust was established to honour the memory of Francis William Guest, MA, LLM, who was the first Professor of Law and the first full-time Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago, serving from 1959 until his death in November 1967.

It was felt that the most fitting memorial to Professor Guest was a public address upon some aspect of law or some related topic which would be of interest to the practitioners and the students of law alike.

The significance of the work of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in hearing appeals from Britain's overseas Empire and Commonwealth and from English ecclesiastical courts has long been recognised by historians and legal commentators. New Zealand's association with the Privy Council, which dates back to the first years of settlement, arose as a natural incident of the diaspora of the British people. For a new British community to which the colonists had brought their own legal system, there was no artificiality in a constitutional practice enabling an appeal at the ultimate level from the most distant part of the Empire, back to London as its centre and capital. Ultimately, the issue of retaining or abolishing appeals to the Privy Council is a political one. But it is not merely a matter of political judgment in terms of popular sentiment because the decision to abolish the right of appeal would have important consequences for the whole judicial system, the constitution of the Court of Appeal being the most significant. Such a decision should therefore not-be made without a careful analysis of its implications.

The article reviews the arguments for and against the New Zealand abolishing appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and favours abolition, arguing that until the day that the New Zealand Court of Appeal is recognised as the ultimate court of this land, that remaining vestige of colonialism will continue to frustrate the creation of a truly New Zealand judicial culture.

Keywords: Great Britain, Privy Council, Judicial Committee, JCPC

Suggested Citation

Burns, Peter T., The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council: Constitutional Bulwark or Colonial Remnant? (1984). Otago Law Review, Vol. 5, pp. 503-522, 1984, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1809043

Peter T. Burns (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
Canada

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