Therold Fields can no longer practise law in Barbados. But he will have to find more than half million dollars to repay client Patricia Simpson, after the Court of Appeal today found he was dishonest in his dealings with the elderly woman who had entrusted him with money to get her a house here.
The decision to disbar Fields was handed down by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson and Justices of Appeal Sherman Moore and Sandra Mason today.
The matter arose out of a complaint by Simpson, a Barbadian residing in London who sent money to Fields for the purchase of land and construction of a house at #13 Eloise Gardens, Christ Church. She said she was repaying a mortgage of £1,599.38 every month, even though her house was never built.
Not only will Fields’ name be struck from the roll of attorneys but he was ordered to repay Simpson $601,000 with eight per cent interest from October 2008 until the judgement is satisfied. His disbarment will also be carried in the Official Gazette and he will have to meet with the Registrar and the President and Secretary of the Bar Association to make arrangements to hand over all his current business.
Hearings on the matter first took place before the Disciplinary Committee of the Barbados Bar Association, between October and November 2010. The Committee then forwarded a report and referred the matter to the Court of Appeal.
The Chief Justice, who read the court’s decision today, said that based on the evidence heard by the Committee, Fields had shown an “obvious condescending and disdainful approach” to not only the elderly woman, but the Disciplinary Committee as well.
The court took issue with the fact that Fields strenuously denied ever meeting Simpson or receiving money from her and insisted he was never her attorney.
Under cross-examination, Fields had told the Committee that he “never interacted with her, never exchanged, to my recollection, a ‘hello’ with her”.
Simpson paid Fields three cheques in 2006 in the amounts of BD$5,000, £20,000 and £112,000. The last amount was paid by Lester Corbin, a friend to whom she had given power of attorney. He testified to paying the money to Fields.
The attorney denied this, although he acknowledged a receipt dated November 2006, for a similar amount, signed by his secretary.
Further, the court found that the attorney “sought to assign blame” to everyone but himself.
Simpson said she had conducted certain aspects of the transaction with some of Fields’ employees at his Hastings, Christ Church office. However, he told the Committee that one person was never employed by him, another was never given permission to accept money on his behalf, and his secretary was never authorized to issue a receipt for the $5,000 mentioned.
He said he never received any funds, nor could he confirm that Simpson ever paid the money to his office.
The Chief Justice said Fields’ conduct and his dishonesty would have concerned the court just as much even if the amount of money at the centre of the case had been much less.
During an earlier Court of Appeal hearing, Fields’ attorney Debra Gooding submitted that her client should be suspended rather than disbarred.
In dealing with that submission, the court referred to cases in which attorneys had misappropriated funds. The Chief Justice noted that those lawyers had been suspended because they admitted to wrongdoing, showed some measure of remorse, and promised to either repay or had started repaying, none of which Fields had done.
Simpson’s attorney Philip Pilgrim, former Bar Association president Barry Gale QC, Marguerite Woodstock-Riley QC who represented the Disciplinary Committee, Deputy Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite QC, and Sandra Rawlins who appeared on behalf of the Attorney General, all expressed the view on the last occasion that Fields ought to be disbarred.
They took that position not only because of Fields’ seeming lack of remorse, but because they felt his unprofessional conduct could tarnish the legal profession.