Legal Eagle: Christmas and the law

December 18, 2017
In this file photo, vendors expose goods for sale in downtown Kingston.

Next Monday, Christians around the world will celebrate another special day on the Christian calendar, that is to say, the birth of Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Virgin Mary, baptised by John the Baptist, started a ministry of preaching and healing before He was crucified by the Jews.

From the above, it would be easy to assume that the celebrations of the birth of Christ would have much to do with a renewal of faith in Christianity, but this in not so, especially in the Western world, where the focus is more on secular and commercial activities. In fact, we can expect the usual buzz of business and commercial activities in all our town centres and business districts in Jamaica.

For many ordinary Jamaicans, the Christmas season is a time to make an extra dollar, but in doing so, everyone must bear in mind that the law is still in force. In fact, many are likely to descend on the town centres to sell their merchandise, but they must be careful not to break the law.




The Town and Communities Act makes it an offence for "any person on any highway or thoroughfare or in any town to expose for sale or show, any goods, wares and merchandise or any animal, to the annoyance of the inhabitants living in that area or passenger aboard vessels in such areas, except in a market or places lawfully appointed for that purpose".

The said act also forbids the sale of goods on Sundays, Good Friday or Christmas Day. Further, those who expose goods on piazza or public places without the consent of the owner first obtained may also be in trouble with the law.

It is also a season for toy guns and fire crackers, although they are not as prevalent as some years ago. However, it is still necessary to warn those who might be so inclined to sell them or purchase them as gifts for children.




Section 25 of the Firearms Act provides that: "Every person who makes or attempts to make any use whatsoever of a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to commit or to aid the commission of a felony or to resist or to prevent the lawful apprehension or detention of himself or some other person, shall be guilty of an offence."

It might be wise to avoid giving a toy gun as a gift this Christmas or to encourage the use of firecrackers.




Also, there is no Christmas without a little 'spirit'. Persons interested in the sale and/or consumption of alcohol should note that unless excepted or permitted under the Spirit Licence Act, "no spirits shall be sold by wholesale or retail in the island unless by persons duly licensed under the Spirit Licence Act or on their behalf by persons in their immediate employ".

Those who sell spirits without a licence are liable for penalty under the said Act.

May God continue to richly bless the cheerful giver who gives to the poor and needy, especially at this time of year. Merry Christmas.

- Keith N. Bishop is an attorney-at-law and senior partner in the law firm of Bishop & Partners. He may be contacted at or by WhatsApp at 876-4608231.

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