A BU blog Compensation Fund: Another Screw-up By the Barbados Bar Association highlighted another in a list of indiscretions by the Barbados Bar Association (BA). The big regret is that the traditional media refuses to honour its obligation to expose this club to the glare of the public. For years the who is who in the legal fraternity shuffle in and out of the President’s position all for the glory of achieving silk or the token of notoriety it offers. BU relishes the opportunity to ask Andrew Pilgrim QC what he accomplished during his tenure as BA president.
What is really irksome has been the lack of transparency and disclosure regarding lawyers who have had complaints lodged against them by the public. BU’s Plantation Deeds among many come to mind. It is obvious that the BA as a self regulating body is woefully inadequate – by its track record – to deal with the mounting concerns of the public regarding those bad apples in the legal barrel. Surely the time has come, if we want to be solution oriented, to change the governance structure as it relates to the legal profession. The Disciplinary Committee of the BA has done nothing to assuage the concerns of the public. The BA as represented in the Act has failed to regulate on a simple matter like who qualifies to be issued practicing certificates and what fee to receive from lawyers.
A report in the UK Press recently – Guilty: Barristers watchdog (looking into the Leveson lovers scandal) is condemned for its shoddy handling of complaints – highlighted the role of the Legal Services Board (LSB). The LSB is an independent body established to regulate lawyers practicing in the United Kingdom among other responsibilities. BU found Item 7 of the LSB’s Code of Conduct interesting. “The Lord Chancellor (in consultation with the Lord Chief Justice) is responsible for appointing a lay Chairman and at least seven, but not more than 10, additional ordinary Board Members (a majority of whom must be lay persons)[BU’s emphasis]. The Lord Chancellor (in consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and, unless the Chairman is the Board Member in question, the Chairman) may also remove an ordinary Board Member, but only in accordance with Legal Services Act 2007 (‘the Act’).”
BU concedes that the LSB is a relatively recent animal created in 2007. Given the lack of commitment to get a similar body activated and fully functional in Barbados, the Police Complaints Authority, one can only hope and pray that the Prime Minister through his agent the Attorney General may feel motivated to see the wisdom in dissolving the BA, the Club, and replace it with a body that mirrors the LSB.
How many ordinary citizens (yes and the not so ordinary) must continue to suffer the brazen disregard by the BA. Lawyers are key actors in our system of justice. Our inability to constructively engage this issue reflects poorly on Barbados, a nation which has a significant percentage of lawyers in our parliament.