The Freundel Stuart Administration is preparing to crack down on lawyers who steal from their clients.
Draft amendments to the Legal Profession Act have been circulated to the Bar Association of Barbados with new provisions to protect clients from being deprived of their money or property.
If approved, the changes will give the Bar the authority to act in certain circumstances.
Section 16A (1) will now say: “In order to protect clients against loss of money or property held on their behalf by an attorney-at-law, the Bar Association shall have power, upon an order of a Judge to (a) take possession of any relevant documents related to the money or property of such clients.”
The draft, a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY, will also give the Bar power to manage the account of such clients. A Judge may also make an order under subsection (1) where a lawyer has been incarcerated, cannot be located after six months or is incapable of effectively performing his legal functions due to an infirmity of body or mind or any other cause.
Over the past several years, a number of lawyers have been convicted and/or disbarred for robbing their clients. Among them was Therold Fields who was disbarred in April 2013 after being charged with stealing three sums of money from Patricia Simpson of London over a two-year period. The Court of Appeal also ordered him to repay $601,000.
The proposed amendments also require attorneys to be more accountable with regards to their finances. If the law is approved by Parliament, lawyers will have to deliver to the secretary of the Bar an accountant’s report in respect of each financial year. Furthermore, they cannot employ just about any accountant; the amended legislation mandates the attorneys to use a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados. Any attorney who deems it unnecessary or impractical to submit an accountant’s report must make a declaration on a special form, according to the proposed Act.
The attorney must also produce to the accountant all books, records and accounts required to be kept by him, as well as all files or other documents connected with or related to, or explaining anything in those books, records and accounts. Lawyers will also be allowed to establish their own professional companies. The new Act also re-enforces the contentious requirement of an annual registration fee in order to practice law in Barbados.