This island’s latest batch of attorneys is being encouraged to get involved in the transformation of the judicial system.
Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite made the appeal in his address to 53 attorneys, who were admitted to the Bar during a special sitting of the Supreme Court this morning.
Making reference to the high percentage of prisoners on remand at HMP Dodds, Brathwaite said that situation was unacceptable, adding that there was need for more attorneys in the field of criminal law.
“Just this morning I saw a report that suggested that we had around 700 individuals on remand which is an unacceptable situation and I want us collectively to do as much a possible to see how we could right that situation,” Brathwaite told the gathering, which included judges, magistrates and other court staff.
He revealed that plea-bargaining should soon be introduced, but there were still concerns that there were not enough attorneys practising criminal law.
“I want to encourage the applicants here, as many as possible, to join us in that quest to have more [attorneys] at the criminal Bar,” he added.
Brathwaite also urged the new lawyers to adopt the best practices of the profession and also called on the seniors to get involved in more mentorship even though he was satisfied that the new batch of attorneys would make the Bar stronger.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson also echoed the Attorney General’s sentiments saying: “There are too few lawyers practising criminal law . . . . The problem is of course that . . . so many of the new attorneys . . . are women [and] I understand the trepidation of a young woman going up to Dodds to interview prisoners.
“Nonetheless even if you have to take somebody with you, I want to urge you to dedicate some of your time to criminal law because those persons who are in the prisons are going to need your assistance,” he said.
He also urged the group, which included two Jamaican nationals, a Canadian and a British national, to be mindful of their reputation, as it “is your most valuable possession”.
Speaking on behalf of the new attorneys, Taylor Laurayne said they should seek to debunk the perception that the average attorney was “crooked”.
“We have the task of working towards changing that perception. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but we can begin by refusing to do, support [or] encourage dishonest actions and taking steps to ensure that our work and our relations are transparent and well documented,” she said.
“We stand here 53 strong. Now is when we must prove that this many attorneys, this increase in the number of legal minds, is a good thing. We clearly have the quantity now. We must prove our quality,” she added.
Last year 45 attorneys were admitted to the local Bar.