All attorneys-at-law under a certain number of years admission may soon be required to do some legal aid work in criminal cases.
Notice was given this afternoon in the Court of Appeal by Chief Justice Marston Gibson, while addressing 30 lawyers who were admitted to the Barbados Bar minutes before.
Gibson was speaking against the background that more criminal lawyers were needed to help reduce the backlog of cases.
“I’m told, and this is purely anecdotal, that it is because there are more women than men in practice in Barbados and that the women lawyers are generally afraid to interview prisoners or to go to Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds,” he said.
“Well, our profession requires a minimum level of toughness. You need to take someone with you on the interview and have them sit outside so as not to hear any confidences, because we need to remind ourselves that the people on remand are not cases, there are people, like you and me, entitled to the same constitutional guarantee which you and I hold dear, of being presumptively innocent until proven guilty.
“So I request that you must consider, at least in the initial stages of your career, dedicating some of your time to criminal law — you are needed.
“I may be compelled to consider a requirement that all attorneys under a certain number of years admission, should be required to do some legal aids work in criminal cases,” the chief justice declared.
He said it was neither fair to the accused persons, the Bar, nor the judiciary, considering that people charged with crimes must still enjoy that constitutional protection.
The island’s head of the judiciary also warned the newly-admitted lawyers that in their quest to build that dream house on the hill, not to cut corners. He reminded them that one bad lawyer would tarnish the entire profession.
The chief justice also cautioned the attorneys that their reputation was also their most valuable asset and they needed to understand that their first obligation was to the court and then their client.
“Be aware of the serious consequences that will attend any misstep,” he warned.
The newly-admitted lawyers, who included some from neighbouring Caribbean countries, were introduced to the court by Attorney-General Adriel Brathwaite and Solicitor-General, Jennifer Edwards. The court room was packed with parents other relatives of the lawyers as well as friends. (EJ)
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