Vestiges of a Dutch legal system remain, particularly in the area of land tenure. However, the common law of Britain is the basis for the legal system of Guyana.
In May 1966, Guyana gained independence from Britian and soon thereafter in the early 1970's enacted Constitutional, judicial and legislative and legislative reforms, abolishing appeals to the Privy Council in the U.K. The Guyana Court of Appeal then became the final tier in the then three tier hierarchy, with the Magistrate's Court at the lowest ring and the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicaure following.
In early 2005, another Legislative amendments were made to allow Guyana's accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final Court of Appeal.
The constitution secures the tenure of judicial officers by prescribing their age of retirement (sixty-two or sixty-five), guaranteeing their terms and conditions of service, and preventing their removal from office except for reasons of inability or misconduct established by means of an elaborate judicial procedure. These constitutional arrangements are supplemented by statutory provisions that establish a hierarchy of courts through which the individual under scrutiny may secure enforcement of his civil and political rights.
As mentioned earlier the lower courts, known as magistrates' courts, have jurisdiction in criminal cases and civil suits involving small claims. The High Court has general jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. Criminal cases are always tried by a jury of twelve persons. whilst appeals of High Court rulings go to the Court of Appeal.
Any person in Guyana has the right to bring charges involving a breach of criminal law. In practice, the police as the official law enforcement body generally institute and undertake criminal prosecutions. Traditionally, the Director of Public Prosecution exercises supervisory authority over all criminal prosecutions.