A question mark continues to hang over Opposition Leader Mia Mottley’s qualification to practise law in Barbados, even after her valiant attempt last week to put the matter to bed.
During her three-hour long Budget reply in Parliament, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader held up a set of personal documents, which she made a record of the House, to prove she was an attorney-at-law of good repute.
Her attempt to clear the air came after Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe had openly challenged her in the previous Budget debate to “bring proof” that she was qualified to practise law here.
“I have produced an authentic copy of my doctoral certificate and I am making it a document of this House. Produce your legal certificate to prove that you have a right to practice law in Barbados!” said Lowe, whose professional qualifications had also been brought into in question.
At the time, he had also warned Mottley that if she could not present the necessary proof of her legal certification, she could face either a $5,000 fine or 12 months in jail for practising law illegally.
However, while sidestepping Lowe’s challenge, the Opposition Leader has presented her October 1983 application to study at the famous Middle Temple Inn in Britain.
She also shared a certificate of character endorsed by late Prime Minister, National Hero and Father of Independence, Errol Walton Barrow, as well as photocopies of her CXCs and GCEs certificates, which accompanied her application.
“This is to certify that Mia Mottley, student of London School of Economics has been known to me personally for upwards of 18 years last past.
“I have been a close family friend for over 30 years and I have known the applicant from birth,” said Barrow in the document dated January 8, 1984.
Mottley also tabled in the House what appeared to be a cover note, dated April 27, 1984, and signed by a Kavita Daftary, which made reference to the photocopies of her academic certificates and the fact that she was a student of the “London School of Economics and Political Science, reading for the LLB”.
She also brought proof that her application to Middle Temple had been approved. However, there was no copy of a law degree among the documents presented in the Lower House.
However, according to the Legal Professions (Qualifications for Admission to Practice) Rules, 1972, “a person is qualified for admission to practise law who has pursued the course of study and professional training in law provided by the Council of Legal Education established by the Caribbean Legal Education Agreement and has obtained the certificate, diploma, licence, or other status or form of recognition awarded by the Council of Legal Education” – proof of which has not been presented by Mottley to date, even though she has been a practising attorney here for 30 years and is recognized as a Queen’s Counsel.
The matter has resurfaced in the lead up to what it expected to be the mother of all election battles here.
However, BLP stalwart Sir Henry Forde, QC, who had introduced Mottley to the Bar, has already admitted publicly that Mottley did not attend any of the law schools in the Caribbean administered by the Council of Legal Education, prior to being admitted to the Bar of Barbados. However, when the controversy over her qualifications first erupted last year Sir Henry strongly argued that this fact did not preclude her from practising law in the region.
“Such attendance was NOT necessary at the time. It was NOT a pre-condition to the right to practise,” argued Sir Henry.
He pointed out that “Schedule 2 to the Legal Profession Actapplies to her and permitted her to practise in Barbados without having to do any prescribed course of study at a law school in the region.
“It should also be noted that pursuant to the same rules of the Council of Legal Education, Miss Mottley has been admitted to practise in the jurisdictions of St Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.
According to Barbados’ Legal Profession Act, Appendix 2 of the second schedule relating to the qualification of a Barrister-at-law, section 2 states: “No person who has joined any of the Inns of the Court of the United Kingdom after the 31st December, 1984, shall be deemed to be qualified, by virtue of his having been called to the Bar of England, to practise law. Miss Mottley was admitted to the local Bar in 1987.