Notes From a Native Son: Is Barbados a Failed State?

Hal Austin

Chief justice Marston Gibson has recently slapped down the Barbados Bar Association, the lawyers’ trade union, for its impertinence in questioning how he does his job. It did not come a minute too soon. There is a culture of elitism in Barbados in which some professionally and socially well-connected people feel, as if by nature, they have a right to be excepted from the normal courtesies. It is an arrogance which has emerged to substitute for substance in other areas of their lives, such as the poverty of progressive ideas and of cultural understanding.

But, and it is relevant to the issues I want to raise in this blog, within the legal profession there is an absence of any significant liberal tradition in Caribbean (Barbadian) legal thought. I have raised this issue before to much disdain. Like the societies they regulate, what passes for legal thought is based on a Victorian social conservatism, which pre-dated human rights theory, and in which outdated practices such as hanging still play a central role in the legal imagination and, as a direct result, the idea of criminal justice.

Two dominant influences shape our deeply conservative criminal law tradition: the so-called Westminster model (lawmaking), based on the UK’s parliamentary tradition, and the common law model, based again on the England and Wales tradition of statute and case law. Linking both these traditions is the doctrine of the rule of law, the principles rooted in the Magna Carta, which stipulate that the state must have legitimate grounds for depriving a citizen of her/her liberty and right to property. One hybrid political position best exemplifies this tradition, that of attorney general.

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Registrar And Registry Exposed To Action For Defamation By Senior Lawyers

Attorney at law Hal Gollop, one of six top lawyers in Barbados not registered with the Supreme Court of Barbados - Photo Credit: Bajan Reporter

The Official Gazette of December 29, 2011 published the list of attorneys-at-law registered with the Supreme Court of Barbados with effect from January 31, 2011. Many practicing attorneys have been omitted from that list. These include certain senior counsel and, indeed, members of the inner bar of both local and international reputation. Among them:

Sir Frederick Smith Q.C., Mr Edmund  King Q.C., Mr Maurice King Q.C., Mrs Beverley Walrond Q.C., Mr Hal Gollop, Mr Vernon Smith Q.C.

As a result, all these attorneys-at-law have been defamed by the Registrar, as the failure to include their names on the list implies that they have either been disbarred or that they are deceased. And it looks as if the Registrar is likely to be sued for defamation, as BU has learned that letters giving notice of legal action have been sent to the Registrar.

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A Barbados Judiciary In Limbo

Chief Justice of Barbados Designate

Barbados is to open its Courts on June 24, 2011. The burning question is if after over a year without a permanent sitting Chief Justice, we can expect Marston Gibson to warm the bench as the new Chief Justice. Would the shareholders of an important and profitable corporation appoint an acting CEO for one year?

Can we expect Mr. Gibson’s appointment to be gazetted FINALLY?

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The PEOPLE Crying Out For Justice From The Barbados Courts

Attorney General, Minister Adriel Brathwaite

Supposing any of you are widowed.

Supposing that you and your late husband had worked all your lives to accumulate a little nest egg to secure financial comfort in your golden years and that everything you own was in your husband’s name.

The funeral is over and you go to the lawyers and ask them to obtain probate in your husband’s estate so that you can continue to have the means to live (either in accordance with your husband’s Will or he may have died intestate, let us deal with the intestate part another time.)  The lawyers will enter the Will for probate.

There was a time in Barbados and in some other jurisdictions, the process of probate would have taken between 6 and 12 weeks from the time the lawyers filed the application.

Today, the Registry takes TWO (2) YEARS.

So what are your avenues for recourse? Remember, your husband’s assets are FROZEN until probate is granted. You rely on the charity of family and friends.

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