Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite last night called time on members of this island’s legal fraternity, while accusing them of holding up the passage of a new Legal Professions Act.
“I’m putting you on notice that, with or without your cooperation, we will take a new Legal Professions Act to Parliament before the end of the year,” Brathwaite
told those attending a meeting of the IMPACT justice project here.
Complaining that the process of amending the law was taking too long, the Attorney General said he has had dialogue with about three presidents of the Bar Association since his appointment in 2010.
Yet, he said, the draft changes to the law were lying at the Bar.
“The Bar has asked for me to give them until the 30th of June to comment on the draft that we have sent to them . . . [but] I’ve given myself a very tight deadline that we will enact the new law by the end of this year,” Brathwaite said.
He also described some of the responses received to date as “a problem”, while explaining that the draft Act seeks to tighten up on practices of lawyers, and to put disciplinary procedures in place.
“What I want the Bar to do is to comment on policy, to let me know if what we proposed makes sense, [but] I really don’t want you at this point and time to tell me that we’ve left out a comma here, X word is spelt incorrectly, etcetera.”
“Whether or not we should have a mandatory membership to the Bar is neither here nor there. Whether or not it is an infringement of freedom of association, if you don’t want to be associated with your colleagues, it doesn’t bother me,” he said.
“But what I will say is that once you are an attorney-at-law practising in Barbados, you have to be subject to be disciplined by somebody, and you must have some mechanism were you are disciplined. So if you don’t want to be a member of the Bar and pay your subscription, that’s our business.”
Brathwaite said Government’s focus was on having a structure for dealing with any attorney.
“I’m saying that we will find a mechanism, and it must be a mechanism that ensures that all lawyers are subject to some common standards.”
Moving away from domestic criminal and civil matters, Brathwaite gave an example of how the draft new Act intends to cover the work of lawyers in offshore companies.
In the area of customer due diligence, he said it would not be business as usual.
“We’re going require you to have some minimum standards. You are going to have to not only know your clients, but be able to demonstrate that you know your clients; to be able to produce if required a copy of a passport or an ID; to be able to produce some kind of reference so we know that you’ve actually done some due diligence.
“We don’t need to fight on these issues. This is the way of the world and this is the way of doing business in this new environment,” he said.