Understanding the Law
September 11, 2009
The proposed constitution / Correction of Errors

The debate among the parliamentarians in the House of Assembly is completed, the vote has been taken, a two-thirds majority was obtained. The bill is passed. It is now the turn of the electorate to vote yes or no in the referendum. The next hurdle is crucial. I had promised to bring you more on the Constitution, but since it has undergone some changes, I will continue to examine it when the amended version is available. We will instead look at the correction of errors.{{more}}

Correction of errors, an unnecessary cost

It continues to be a burden on persons whose marriage, birth or death certificates have errors not of their own making. It is incumbent on persons who record information to take the utmost care that the record is correct.

The legislators anticipated errors and so Section 43 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, Chapter 179 and Section 55 of the Marriage Act, Chapter 173 of the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines provide for the correction of errors on the registers.

(1) Subsection 2 of the Marriage Act allows for the “correction of any clerical error which may from time to time be discovered…. by the Registrar General or any person authorized subject to regulation passed under this Act.”

(2) Subsection (3) allows for the correction of “an error of fact or substance” by the Registrar General “upon the production to him by either parties to the marriage, or in case of his or her death, by the issue or other lawful representative of such party of a statutory declaration setting forth the nature of the error and the true facts of the case.

Clerical error

Regardless of how the error occurs, the correction process could be tedious and inconvenient to the applicant. The issue is how one distinguishes between a clerical error and an error of fact or substance. All words that are spelt incorrectly on the records should be treated as clerical errors and I say this because no one would spell their own name or their parents name incorrectly and since a clerk writes or types the information, then it could be assumed that the error is a clerical error. I would not expect anyone to spell his or her father’s name “Gerrod” when it is “Jacob”. Hence the clerical error should only require proof of correct spelling from other documents and not treated as error of fact or substance.

Error of fact or substance/
Statutory declaration

The law requires a statutory declaration to be made only when there is an error of fact or substance. The statutory declaration had been traditionally drafted by a lawyer. Fortunately, persons are spared this expense as the Ministry of Legal Affairs has now undertaken to prepare the declaration without cost to the applicant. However, the fees associated with the filing of the document still remain. To make a case for your claim, you might have to attach exhibits of birth, marriage, baptism or vaccination certificates as the case might be. So if you have to prove your case with three other certificates, you would have to spend at least forty-five dollars to do, so plus the government fees. To prevent the expenditure on exhibits, perhaps a cross check could be made for the information in the registers.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com