After eight years of research, legal consultations and parliamentary debate, the Limitations of Actions Ordinance 2021 is now law.
The bill was passed and enacted into law by the House of Assembly on September 30, and came into effect October 14. As such, actions which would have been barred on 12 October or within twelve months from commencement, can be brought before the Court up to 11 October 2022.
The Ordinance bars the bringing of several civil actions to the court by persons after the expiration of the limitation period. In consideration of the fact that persons’ right of action would be barred after certain periods, the limitation periods in the Ordinance were given much consideration, and are comparable to other jurisdictions.
The Ordinance provides for safeguards to ensure that it would not affect ongoing actions.
Furthermore, the Ordinance gives a grace period of actions that would expire on the date of commencement of the Ordinance or within one year of commencement to be extended without being barred for a period of 12 months from that date.
The research on the Limitation of Actions Bill commenced in 2014. The Ordinance is based on the UK Limitation Act 1980, with consideration given to other statutes of limitation in jurisdictions such as Anguilla, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and the Cayman Islands.
The Bill was completed in 2016 and has benefitted from consultation with the Judiciary and members of the Bar Association. The Bill was originally introduced into the House of Assembly in 2016, but the House was dissolved leading to General Elections before it was completed and as such, it fell away.
Following feedback from members of the House of Assembly and the Chief Justice, the Bill was reviewed, updated, and sent again for consultation with the Judiciary and the Bar Association in 2020 and 2021. Following debate, the bill went through the House of Assembly with unanimous support from all members.
In announcing the commencement of the Ordinance, Attorney General, Hon. Rhondalee Braithwaite Knowles OBE QC remarked that:
“I want to especially thank the Hon. Chief Justice Mrs. Mabel Agyemang and the members of the senior bar who commented on the drafts as well as to recognise the sterling work of Senior Legislative Drafter Ms. Gogontle Gatang.
“The introduction of statutes of limitation in the Turks and Caicos Islands is a welcome development as it places the Turks and Caicos Islands on par with mature jurisdictions and is a positive and progressive benefit to the people of the Islands.
“The Limitation of Actions Ordinance provides certainty to the end of litigation. Prior to the enactment of the Ordinance, whilst there are some particular provisions, there was no legislation in the Islands dealing with limitation periods in general for various civil actions.
“As such, a majority of civil actions were open for litigation indefinitely, irrespective of when the right of action accrued, or a person became aware of his or her right to an action.
“It is recognized that having litigation open for long periods of time is not favourable for any society as it denotes no end to litigation.
“The problem is that with the passage of time, recollections fade, witnesses pass away, records are lost and people move on with their lives (Canny M. Limitation of Actions in England and Wales), making it difficult to be successful in litigation.
“In line with the notion and expectation that litigation or the right to bring certain actions should at some point come to an end, the Ordinance seeks to introduce general limitations consistent with the law in other commonwealth jurisdictions and having taken into consideration the issues at play in the Islands.”