Welcome to the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Laws website.
This website has been published whilst it remains in its development or beta stage. We are still checking the various links and the accuracy of what is published. If you find an error or a mistake please let us know.
Through this website you will be able to access the laws that apply in South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands today as well as those that applied in the past.
Important Notice – Accessing this website and using any information derived from it is subject to the following stipulations:
- The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Gazette is the publication of record and has been from 3 October 1985 onwards. Prior to that date the Falkland Islands Gazette was the publication of record. Nothing published on or by this website alters that position.
(i) everything published on this website is designed to assist those interested in identifying the laws that applied or apply in South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; and
(ii) what is published is believed to be accurate; the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands is not responsible for and will accept no liability with regard to any use or application of any information taken from or derived from this website.
- These webpages reflect the history of the law in the territory of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. Whilst the history of this territory is closely linked to that of the Falkland Islands it is not the same. Nothing in these webpages should be construed as making any representations regarding the history or status of the Falkland Islands.
The laws that apply in South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands derive from several sources including:
- Royal Prerogatives such as Orders in Council
- Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament applied to the territory
- English Common Law and doctrines of Equity
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Ordinances and secondary legislation
- Falkland Islands Ordinances and secondary legislation
This website provides ready access to:
- The Ordinances and subsidiary legislation of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; and
- The relevant laws originating in the Falkland Islands that apply or applied in South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.
Primary and secondary legislation originating in the United Kingdom should be searched for on the relevant UK website such as:
- National Archives
- The Falkland Islands National Archives also contain useful information relating to South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands: www.nationalarchives.gov.fk
Law making for South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands falls into five distinct periods:
1775 – 1843
Foundation from when Captain Cook took possession of South Georgia on behalf of the Crown to the establishment of the Dependencies into a Colony with the Falkland Islands. During this period the underpinnings of English law applied including – Royal Prerogatives (including Orders in Council), English Common Law, doctrines of Equity etc. together with relevant statutes of the United Kingdom1 Parliament. There was no formal ‘local’ law making.
1843 – 1908
By way of Letters Patent dated 23 June 1843 the Governor with the advice of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands was empowered to:
“make and establish all …Laws, Institutions and Ordinances as may from time to time be necessary for the peace, order and good government of Our subjects and others within the said present or future Settlements in the … Falkland Islands and their Dependencies…” 2
This power was subject to the underpinnings of English law and in particular the right retained by the Crown to disallow any local Ordinance etc.
Local law making is known to have commenced no later than 1846. Printed Ordinances are available from 1853 onwards.
The Administration of Justice Ordinance 1851 s55 established, amongst other things, rules for interpreting Ordinances. This included construing the term ‘Falkland Islands.’ “The words ‘Falkland Islands’ shall be understood to mean “the Falkland Islands and the Dependencies thereof” unless there are words to restrict their meaning.”
In the absence of words to the contrary therefore all Ordinances enacted in this period applied to the Dependencies.
Dependencies – law by notice
1908 – 1948
Following the issuing of the Letters Patent of 21 July 1908 which included:
“It shall be, and shall be deemed always to have been, competent for the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council of Our Colony of the Falkland Islands to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Dependencies.” 3
….and the enactment of the Dependencies Ordinance 1908 the laws of the Colony of the Falkland Islands and Dependencies only applied in the Dependencies subject to the provisions of the Dependencies Ordinance 1908 being satisfied. Principally this related to the posting of notices in the Falkland Islands Gazette that specific Falkland Islands Ordinances were to be applied in the Dependencies.4
In this period there was some confusion how Falkland Islands Ordinances were to be applied to the Dependencies.5 Some of this confusion arose from the definition of ‘Colony’ in the
Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance 1900 (which included the Dependencies). More confusion came in determining whether Dependencies Ordinance 1908 created two mechanisms whereby Falkland Islands laws had effect in the Dependencies or one. On occasion Ordinances were passed with express declarations that they applied to the Dependencies.6
As previously this power was subject to the underpinnings of English law and in particular the right retained by the Crown to disallow any local Ordinance etc. Ordinances etc. applied in the Dependencies were to be in force:
“only as the circumstances of the Dependencies and their inhabitants permit and subject to such qualifications as local circumstances render necessary.” 7
Dependencies – separate Ordinances
1949 – 1985
From 1st January 1949 until 2nd October 1985 and pursuant to the Application of Colony Laws Ordinance (Cap 1 DS)8 the Governor could enact Ordinances for the Dependencies. Falkland Islands Ordinances not already in force could only apply in the Dependencies if a separate Dependencies Ordinance applied them there.
This was subject to the underpinnings of English law and in particular the right retained by the Crown to disallow any local Ordinance etc. Such laws were also subject to the provisions of the Application of Colony Laws Ordinance which provided for the interpretation of Falkland Islands laws to the Dependencies in similar terms as had been provided for in the Dependencies Ordinance 1908 s5 quoted above.9 In this period some 35 Application of Colony Laws Ordinances were enacted applying more than 170 Falkland Islands Ordinances to the territory. In addition, several separate Ordinances were enacted solely for the Dependencies.
Subsidiary legislation from this period originating in the Falkland Islands automatically applied in the Dependencies, unless the Governor specifically chose not to apply the instruments or to modify it. *
* Application of Colony Laws Ordinance (Cap 1 DS) s4
British Overseas Territory
1985 – to date
From 3rd October 1985 onwards and subject to the provisions of The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Order 1985 the Commissioner of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands can enact Ordinances for the territory. This is subject to the underpinnings of English law and the right retained by the Crown to disallow any local Ordinance etc. The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Order 1985 confirmed the continuance of the existing laws.
 From 1801 (Parliament of Great Britain prior)
 Letters Patent 23 June 1843 Article V
 Letters Patent 21 July 1908 Article V
 Dependencies Ordinance 1908 s3
 Governor’s Notice dated 27 July 1945 published in the Gazette
 Purportedly in accordance with Dependencies Ordinance 1908 s4
 Dependencies Ordinance 1908 s5
 (Cap 1 DS) in force from 1st January 1949
 e.g. Application of Colony Laws Ordinance (Cap 1 DS) s3