This is the third Article in a row in which I am responding to events in Jamaica which involves members of the Bar Association.
During the years I served in the (JCF) Jamaica Constabulary Force I became friends with several decent and hardworking members of the Legal Fraternity.
In fact a couple of my good friends kindly assured me they would defend me “pro-bono” if ever I needed to be defended legally as a result of the pursuits out my duties as a police officer.
Those assurances will forever remain in my heart. The kindness and thoughtfulness of those assurances still warms my heart even though I left law enforcement over two decades ago.
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Such was the extent of the friendships which developed as a result of the mutual respect and admiration we had for each other from working together though working at different ends of the spectrum.
I also built relationships with some members of the bench who are still serving today and I am indeed proud of those associations as I fundamentally believe those professionals were of the highest caliber and still remain so.
From my perspectives others were simple bullies who hid behind the clown costumes and hurled abuse at those who could not defend themselves.
Those abuses continue to this day and in many cases have increased exponentially.
Over the years we have seen situations in which members of the Legal fraternity have brought the once proud and pristine fraternity into serious question. Some members cannot seem to avoid committing larceny as servants, fraudulent conversions, or misappropriating their client’s monies.
Every year as I have pointed out in recent articles several are struck from the list of those allowed to practice law on the Island.
The General legal Council provides a detailed list which provide the names of those so disbarred . One must bear in mind that list includes only those bad lawyers who have been caught and found to have committed serious and egregious breaches of their sacred trust.
The same is true of the Police service in which I spent 10 of my formative adult years.
As we seek to look at the behavior of some members of the Bar it is important to observe that Lawyers become Judges. No one goes to School to become a Judge.
Judges are appointed from the pool of lawyers which practices law both on the side of the Prosecution and the Defense.
Most Western Industrialized nations tend to pick their Judges from the Prosecution side, the same cannot be said for Jamaica.
This may or may not have something to do with the perception that it is almost impossible to gain convictions in Jamaica’s criminal courts, particularly when the accused is connected.
I made the aforementioned observations against statements made by President of the bar Association of Jamaica Donovan Walker and an alleged Investigation which has been commenced by Zaila McCalla the Island’s Chief Justice into an incident in which an Attorney was arrested at the Supreme Court in Kingston.
In his statement Walker said he spoke to the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Justice about the arrest which he saw as problematic .
Stating quote : “Arresting an officer of the court within the precincts of the Supreme Court building sends a bad signal ‚the action may be seen as an act of contempt, the dignity of the courts must be observed by all officers of the court, including the police”.
This writer maintains that the laws of the Country must be upheld and respected indeed by everyone in the country. In a Democracy no person is greater than the other. As such the laws must be applied fairly and equitably across the board.
I fundamentally believe there is no better place to arrest a person than in the very halls of justice , if the Supreme Court does consider itself a hall of justice as it once was.
The President of the Bar Association has from the reporting been able to secure the commencement of an investigation into what is clearly a justifiable and proper arrest.
He argues that the arrest in the confines of the court could be viewed as contemptuous without providing one iota of evidence in support of that scurrilous assertion.
The enforcement of Jamaican laws cannot be confined to the poorest of the poor and the least connected only, and it certainly cannot be subject to the whims of a gentrified Bureaucrat.
The greatest impediment to our system of Justice is not where alleged criminals are arrested it rests with the application of the law. Most importantly it rests with the perception the public has of the people who are sworn to uphold those laws.
Judges, Attorneys and Police officers have a duty to comport themselves in a dignified manner.
Allegations of Police misconduct is well documented based on their numbers.
Instances of misconduct by Lawyers are not as well know or amplified, probably because their numbers are not as voluminous.
Judges engage in unlawful conduct however their numbers are significantly less than the number of practising lawyers.
Juxtapose that with the fact that the higher a person is positioned in Jamaica the less likely he will ever be accused much less charged or convicted of a crime.
I will now introduce to you a letter which appeared in the Jamaica Daily Gleaner of Oct.22nd 2015 ..
This letter was written by one of the Country’s pre-eminent legal minds whom from his letter believes fundamentally in the quote: world class quality of the nation’s legal minds.
In a letter to the Editor published on October 19, Glen George Wilson gives as a reason for keeping the Privy Council as our final Court of Appeal that the lawyers of the Caribbean will continue to benefit from participating in deliberations with other world-class legal minds. The objective of having Caribbean lawyers exposed to world-class legal minds will be more readily achieved by the acceptance of the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction because at present only a very limited number of lawyers have the opportunity to appear in the Privy Council so as to have deliberations with other ‘world-class legal minds’. Since there are world-class legal minds within the Caribbean, the CCJ as an itinerant and more accessible court would offer more and better opportunities for that participation.
Power To Legislate
The second reason Wilson gives is that the CCJ will use its power to legislate from the bench and so the voters could be ignored. He has given no basis for this surmise and there is no evidence in the CCJ’s 10 years of adjudication to support it. But why does Williams feel that the CCJ would be more prone to legislate from the bench than the Privy Council? Certainly, the CCJ will be in a better position to sense the will of ‘the voters’ than the Privy Council, as Lord Hoffman, an eminent Law Lord and Privy Councillor advised us.
Lloyd G. Barnett .
This letter is a classic demonstration of what we have systematically maintained in this medium , that at the highest level in Jamaica it is all about self and not the long-term welfare and wellbeing of the country.
Of course Jamaica has no shortage of world ‑class legal minds that is never in question.
Jamaicans are overachievers, whatever we set our minds to we excel at it even when we seek to self-destruct.
That is not the issue, the issue is that bright legal minds like the Goodly Dr Lloyd Barnett is willing to cajole and coax our country into getting rid of the Privy Council and replacing it with the CCJ.
It is clear from this letter that what’s uppermost and of paramount importance to the Author Dr Barnett as indeed many others is not the future of our nation and the rule of law but the promotion and aggrandizement of the legal fraternity.
No Jamaican lawyer can reasonably pick up the phone and call the Privy Council in England with a view to influencing a ruling one way or the other.
Can we say the same about the criminal Justice system in Jamaica?
if we discard the Privy Council will Jamaicans be able to say to themselves they are comfortable that the process is untarnished and without collusion?
Are Jamaicans confident they are getting justice at home when Prosecutors, Defense Lawyers and trial Judges were trained at the same law school, attend the same functions and are members of the same social clubs?
If Jamaicans believe they are getting untarnished justice I have a bridge I would like for them to consider purchasing.
These are just a few of the powerful voices lobbying for the CCJ which ultimately will be a grand old social club for the good old boys.
Jamaicans need to see this for what it is and eschew it.