The legal system of the territory is based on English law, and is administered by an independent judiciary.

The Laws: St. Helena has a body of locally-enacted laws (Ordinances and secondary legislation), the texts of which are available via this link: Laws page.  The online versions are regularly updated with new laws and amendments, usually within a few days of the change taking effect.

In any matter not covered by a local law, St Helena uses English Law.  The English Law Application Ordinance English-Law-Application-Ordinance adopts English Common Law and those English Statutes which were in force in England on 1 January, 2006.  However, these laws are applied with such modifications, adaptations, qualifications and exceptions as are necessary to make them suitable to local circumstances.

In addition, a number of laws are applied directly to St Helena by Act of Parliament, or by Orders in Council authorised by an Act.  These mostly concern international issues such as Merchant Shipping, Aviation, and UN or EU sanctions: Other examples include the Saint Helena Act 1833 and the Constitution made under it (see the ‘Constitution’ page).

Courts: Most civil and criminal cases are dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, established under the Magistrates’ Court Ordinance 2011 Magistrates-Court-Ordinance-New.  But that Court has no jurisdiction in matrimonial cases (divorce/nullity of marriage), probate (administration of the estates of deceased persons), or indeed any other area which is not specifically mentioned in the Ordinance.  All matters which are not able to be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court are the province of the Supreme Court, which is established by section 82 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court also hears appeals against the decisions of the Magistrates’ Court. Section 86 of the Constitution establishes a Court of Appeal, which determines appeals against decisions of the Supreme Court; and there is a final appeal (in limited circumstances) to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

There is also a mechanism for the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths, in which decisions are made by Coroners.

The judges of the superior courts (Supreme Court and Court of Appeal) are appointed by the Governor, acting on instructions from a Secretary of State acting on behalf of the Queen. They can only be removed on grounds of inability or misconduct, and only after investigation by a specially-constituted tribunal of three members, at least two of whom must be serving or former judges of a superior court in some part of the Commonwealth or Ireland.

The judges of the subordinate courts are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (‘JSC’) constituted by section 94 of the Constitution. They can only be removed on grounds of inability or misconduct, and only if the JSC has recommended removal.