A gaping void has been left in the local justice system following the sudden passing of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock, QC.
So said former colleagues of the late Guyana-born chief prosecutor, who rose to the position of DPP here back in 1997 — becoming the fifth and youngest holder of the office at age 39.
Leacock would go on to serve 20 years before his death on Saturday night, after undergoing prostate surgery in Orlando Florida. The 59-year-old senior judicial officer is survived by his wife Betty June and two sons Donald and Brian.
The announcement on Sunday of the DPP’s death sent shockwaves across the legal fraternity with many offering their condolences and remembering Leacock’s passion and fervour in the courtroom.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite was among the first to express sadness at his death and was quickly joined by President of the Bar Association of Barbados Liesel Weekes, who told Barbados TODAY Leacock’s passing was a great loss to the legal profession.
“The profession is losing one its more senior and eminent practitioners,” said Weekes, adding that “he certainly will be missed in the profession, in his department . . . . Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family in their time of loss.”
Monday morning, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Gayle Francis-Vaughan used her address to participants in a regional e-commerce workshop to express her profound sadness over Leacock’s death.
“He was a dear friend and a colleague. We sat in the committee of Permanent Secretaries together every month and he will be dearly missed . . . . We have lost a great Barbadian,” she said.
An emotional Queen’s Counsel Ralph Thorne also reacted to the news of the passing of the man he described as a long time friend and legal colleague.
Thorne reported that from the time Leacock entered into the legal profession in 1983, he knew that his life’s calling would have been in the prosecution of crime, as he spoke of Leacock’s unrivalled confidence and prowess when facing a fellow attorney or judge during his illustrious legal career.
“Charles had the ability to lighten the heavy burden of criminal trial with a sharp wit that nurtured our friendship that never dimmed in the adversarial process.
“He had the ability to sway judges and juries with sound legal research, beautiful language and a most charming disposition. He did all this while stealing occasional glances at the desperate defence,” Thorne said.
Although he and Leacock fiercely fought each other in the law courts, the Queen’s Counsel said the result of a case never diminished their friendship, which was based on mutual respect.
“He believed deeply in the honour, virtue and propriety of prosecuting crime and all of us who love justice shall miss him terribly,” added Thorne.
Leacock played a pivotal role in the fight against the illegal drug trade and criminals who benefitted from the proceeds of crime.
Grenville Williams, director of the Regional Security System, expressed deepest sympathy to Leacock’s family on behalf of members of his staff. He credited Leacock for his instrumental role in the establishment of the recently launched Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of the Caribbean.
As for Leacock’s contribution to regional security as a whole, Williams said “his dedication and commitment to the rule of law will live on through the work of this network”.
Attorney-at-law Gregory Nicholls described Leacock as “a lawyer’s lawyer”. He explained that as a longstanding member of the bar and a friend to many in the Bar Association, Leacock’s legacy was undeniable.
“[He was] the kind of lawyer that you would like to have as an adversary on the other side. You know you had to prepare but it was not a terror to work against him, it was always a pleasure,” said Nicholls.
“He has always never been an aggressive prosecutor and was always one, who would stick out for the interest of justice, never compromise on the principles of justice,” he added.
Also paying glowing tribute to Leacock was attorney-at-law Wilfred Abrahams who said Leacock’s death came as a shock and the fraternity had lost one of its “most known, most important and most influential” characters.
Recalling that his name was associated with many high profile cases, Abrahams suggested with great power comes great responsibility as Leacock was capable of deciding a person’s fate.
“Charles was a very dynamic and confident prosecutor, he was a bit of a controversial figure. You either liked Charles or you hated him – that was his personality . . . . Charles had a very strong character, he held that position [of DPP] for 20 years and he held it strong. That says a lot about the man,” said Abrahams.
While not disclosing the details of his father’s death at age 59, Leacock’s son Donald, speaking on behalf of his family, expressed his gratitude to those who had been flooding them with condolences and best wishes.