Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division (LCAD) facilitates cooperation among member countries in constitutional and international law, the development and administration of systems of justice, and in combating serious and transnational crime.
This legal cooperation is a unique feature of the Commonwealth, made possible because member countries have similar legal systems, most based on or greatly influenced by the common law.
The division organises three-yearly meetings of law ministers and of senior officials of law ministries. These meetings consider legal developments of common concern, consider model legislation developed to assist countries address common legal problems, and seek to give effect to the legal aspects of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.
Member countries are informed of national and international legal developments through a range of publications, the prime amongst which is the Commonwealth Law Bulletin. The division also responds to specific requests from member countries for information and advice on legal issues.
Legal cooperation schemes
There are three Commonwealth schemes for cooperation in the legal area. These cover the subjects of extradition, mutual assistance in criminal matters, and the transfer of convicted offenders. The schemes are kept under review by law ministers to ensure that they address current concerns.
Incorporating international conventions and norms
Much of the division's work involves advising and assisting member countries with the implementation of national programmes to give effect to international obligations. The implementation of the various conventions and UN resolutions relating to a range of issues such as the environment, trade, intellectual property rights, terrorist activities, and combating serious and organised crime is the major area in which the division is now working. The division has also been closely involved with the newly established final/appellate national and regional courts to assist in the maintenance of Commonwealth standards.
LCAD has facilitated the training of hundreds of legal drafters over many years: originally through the provision of scholarships and more recently with the development – in partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning – of distance-education materials. Its other training and capacity-building activities cover fields such as international cooperation to combat crime, the recovery of proceeds of crime, implementation of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, delivery of model bills on e-governance, competition laws, implementing environmental instruments, and the administration of justice.
Collaboration with the legal profession
In all its work LCAD seeks to collaborate with the legal professional bodies in the Commonwealth including the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, Commonwealth Legal Education Association and other specialist professional groups.