Cyprus became a British colony by virtue of its initial occupation by Turkey and then Turkey’s ceding of the island territory to Great Britain. The rule of the British in Cyprus lasted 82 years from 1878 until 1960, when the nation sought its independency. The major changes to the Cyprus legal system under British rule was the introduction of common law principles, namely, precedent, ratio decendi, and equity. Acts that were introduced the British included the Criminal Code. Laws that were introduced included the British criminal law and civil wrongs law. Seminal British cases such as Donoghue v Stevenson on the law of negligence were also good law in Cyprus. After 1960, with Cyprus’s independence there was a strong push to maintain the English legal system. In the Courts of Justice Law (14/60), section 29(1)(b) provides that in addition to applying the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, and the laws which Article 188 of the Constitution retains, the Courts of Cyprus also retain the common law and equity principles, and the Laws of England, which prior to 1960, were applicable in Cyprus. The upshot is the business and social legal norms in Cyprus are largely indistinguishable from the United Kingdom.
Procedurally, the majority of Cyprus’ court processes are inspired by those of the United Kingdom— to the extent that many of the laws are officially translated into English. Just like the UK, Cyprus provides the right to due process, and the right to appeal. Due process is not just provided by the law, but is exercised throughout the entirety of the country—assuring that all citizens have the right to a fair and public trial before their peers. Likewise, defendants are guaranteed the right to be present at their trial, and to be represented by counsel. If one cannot afford to be represented by private counsel, then a counsel will be provided at public expense. Alternatively, defendants may present evidence and confront witnesses themselves, in lieu of formal counsel.
As in the UK, there are different court levels that deal with different sorts of cases. District courts deal most often with criminal and civil cases, but such cases may be passed to the Supreme Court if an appeal is made. The Supreme Court passes final judgment on administrative law and follows French Droit Principles. Political and security offenses are dealt with by these courts as well.
Unlike the English system, the Cypriot legal system has a written constitution that is based upon the European Convention of Human rights. The constitution is further inspired by the application of the Convention in the US and throughout Europe.
The Mixed Legal System of the Republic of Cyprus, supra note 4, at 443-445.