Gibraltar Law Courts

Gibraltar's Government and Judiciary

Gibraltar is a self-governing UK overseas territory. The 2006 Constitution Order provides for a governor as Her Majesty's representative in Gibraltar. The governor is responsible for external affairs, defence, internal security and various public appointments as specified in the Constitution. Elected ministers are responsible for any matters that fall outside the governor's responsibilities. The new Constitution includes an updated chapter on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual. It establishes a legislature for Gibraltar consisting of Her Majesty and an elected parliament, and a council of ministers appointed from among the elected members of the parliament. It provides for a supreme court and a court of appeal for Gibraltar, and for appeals to Her Majesty in council. It also makes provision for public finance and for the public service of Gibraltar.

i. The Legislature

The legislature for Gibraltar consists of Her Majesty and the Gibraltar Parliament. The Parliament consists of the speaker and at least 17 elected members. The maximum life of the Parliament is four years. Those entitled to vote in elections for members of Parliament are British citizens, British dependent territories citizens, British overseas citizens or British subjects under the UK Nationality Act 1981 who have been ordinarily resident in Gibraltar for a continuous period of six months ending on the registration day and who are 18 years of age and above.

ii. The Executive

The executive authority of Gibraltar vests in Her Majesty and may be exercised by the Government of Gibraltar. The council of ministers (comprising the chief minister and at least four other ministers), together with the governor (representing Her Majesty), constitute the Government of Gibraltar.

iii. The Judicature

The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has unlimited jurisdiction to hear and determine civil or criminal proceedings. It consists of the chief justice and a puisne judge. Appeals are made to the Court of Appeal, consisting of a president and two justices of appeal, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court as an ex officio member. In certain cases, there is a right of further appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK. The Court of First Instance and the Magistrate's Court in Gibraltar correspond, respectively, to the county courts and the Magistrates Court in England. Judicial appointments are made by the governor, acting upon the advice of the Judicial Services Commission. However, the governor, with the prior approval of a secretary of state, may disregard the advice of the commission if the governor judges that compliance with that advice would prejudice Her Majesty's service.

iv. Legal system

Gibraltar's law is based on common law and the rules of equity, as in England. Therefore, it differs from the Spanish legal system which is based on the Roman Law and the Napoleonic Code. The application of these general principles and certain specific enactments of English law are covered by the Application of English Law Act 1962. However, statute law is for the most part, based on acts passed by the Gibraltar Parliament.