No one likes a good ole constructive and analytical argument more than Kristin Turton.
And from a very young age she had three professions in mind – priest, politician and lawyer – that she believed would ensure she got to speak to her heart’s content.
“I really was choosing any profession or mode of employment which would allow me to argue,” she says.
And where better to exercise that than the courtroom?
“I always liked talking, arguing and persuading people. I liked giving speeches, and law just spoke to me as something that I could do. I suppose it is fortunate that even though I started out imagining that it would suit me, that it has actually suited me.”
Turton is among a handful of female attorneys who practise criminal law in Barbados. She wasn’t initially bowled over by that field of law, but an experience at university convinced her she should go that route.
“I wasn’t as interested in it. In fact, I had the same fears that most women had but . . . I had the opportunity to witness a criminal trial and
. . . it showed me that every person who is charged with an offence is not someone to be afraid of; that really and truly it might be someone that you just need to help, and that is what started to
open my mind to doing criminal law. That, in addition to the excitement of the process of a criminal trial, all of those things started to move me.”
And for the past eight years, Turton has been doing what she does best with Pilgrim and Associates where she was given a chance to practise since being admitted to the Bar in November 2009.
“I was given an opportunity to observe him [Andrew Pilgrim]
. . . and other attorneys at Pilgrim and Associates . . . like Angella Mitchell-Gittens . . . who do criminal law, and it created that passion and it has not left me since I started to practise and I still have the passion.
“I have grown to love it beyond just the arguments. I have grown to love the thoughts that have to go into it, the level of analysis, the understanding of people and circumstances, and knowing that ultimately you play a very important role in ensuring that the country operates as it should and that people receive what they ought to and are treated the way that they should be.”
And she is urging fellow female lawyers and those aspiring to become attorneys not to shy away from criminal law.
“I think that a lot of women are afraid that they will find themselves in compromising positions or that they might be with people who might be a danger to them. And then there are also those women who, as much as they have dreamt about becoming lawyers, may not necessary be sufficiently confident to go to court, and criminal law requires a lot of that . . . .“Don’t be afraid of criminal law. Criminal law is one of the noble aspects of law because when you represent accused persons, you are fighting for a system that is supposed to operate effectively to ensure that persons who are guilty are appropriately punished and rehabilitated and persons who are innocent can feel secure that they would not be found guilty without there being sufficient evidence against them.”
As the country joins the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day,
Turton, who also practises estate, personal and civil litigation, says women have made their mark on the profession which at one point was dominated by men.
“You would find that there is an expansion of women in the profession and you see more women now than you do men [but] I would like there to be a balance. I would like it to be a situation where there is not a substantial majority of women or a substantial majority of men, because we have different perspectives and both sexes can be just as effective because we approach things in different ways often times.”
And the young lawyer is also urging others to press for progress, “regardless of what assumptions people make about what is an appropriate role for your gender”.
“You need to strive to be whatever it is that you want to be and take active steps towards it. Personally, I don’t think we need to have women who strive for progress as women; I think women need to strive for progress as people, as individuals. Nobody should be judged, no assumptions should be made based on someone’s gender, and that is the kind of society that we need to come together to work on. Men and woman need to work together to make each other better and not focus so much on what might be traditional gender roles, or how one gender is advancing over another because in reality what we need is a society that advances not creates a conflict between sexes.”
Turton also has this advice for younger persons: “Never let your circumstance define your outcome; always strive to be the best that you can be in whatever it is that you are doing.”