Legislation could soon be coming to make it easier to punish lawyers who steal their client’s monies.
This was revealed by Attorney General Dale Marshall this afternoon, as he told members of the media he had already spoken to new Chief Justice Patterson Cheltenham about the matter.
Speaking moments after 32 new attorneys were called to the Bar at the Supreme Court, Marshall said amendments were coming to the Legal Professions Act.
“It is unfortunate that lawyers have found themselves before the law court but in every instance I am satisfied that the due process of law has been carried out and I think that they serve to send a very strong signal that at least as far as the law enforcement side of things it’s a no tolerance policy.
“There are, however, some challenges that we have to address and the Chief Justice has opened up discussions with me about bringing some much needed amendments to the Legal Professions Act so that we could more swiftly and more effectively deal with lawyers who run afoul of the code of conduct and in particular those who use their client’s monies,” Marshall said.
“I expect that we will be giving some priority to making the necessary amendments to the Legal Professions Act, which, truth be told, is in serious need of being modernized and being made more responsive to the needs, not just of the lawyers but to the needs of clients and the community that they serve.”
Marshall conceded that the problem was not a new one.
Recently, attorneys-at-law Vonda Pile and Cheraine Parris were found guilty of misappropriating their clients’ funds and were both sentenced to prison.
The AG said it was important for those now entering the profession to be honest and responsible in their duties.
“The charge that has been renewed today by the Chief Justice to our new lawyers in relation to the inviolate nature of client’s funds is welcomed but it is nothing new. I think just about every Chief Justice on the occasion of every call has tried to reinforce in the minds of young attorneys their duty as young attorneys-at-law to the court and to their clients and as trustees in relation to funds that are placed in their care,” Marshall said.
“It is very, very disappointing to me that we have had a situation where over the last 12 months or so several lawyers have been brought before the court but the fact of the matter is it is exactly that kind of spotlight that helps to underscore for new entries to the Bar that there are dire consequences to dealing with client funds in a way that was not intended and also to existing practitioners.
“Unfortunately, the perception has been there over the years that lawyers can get away with anything, that lawyers can do what they like and that the system is closed and no lawyer is ever going to be punished,” he added.