Fix it now

by Shawn Cumberbatch

The Barbados Bar Association’s effort to prosecute allegations of professional misconduct against lawyers has hit a major snag – Parliament.

And it’s a source of personal and professional frustration for its outspoken President, Andrew Pilgrim.

The well-known criminal lawyer, who is in the middle of his second year at the helm of the 800-member body, spoke candidly during an interview with Barbados TODAY.

Long before he assumed the presidency, successive Bar councils have been lobbying Government for the enactment of a new Legal Profession Act to more adequately investigate and resolve complaints of wrongdoing against lawyers, and otherwise improve the image of the fraternity.

But Pilgrim said while some continued to point fingers at the association and claimed it was merely trying to protect its own, it had done all in its power to fix the problem and it was now up to the legislature to complete the job, but it was not doing so.

The official said while he was unsure of the exact number of complaints against lawyers, there had been no “significant increase”, although he asserted “the backlog is the problem”.

“Whether there is proper parking in the (Supreme Court) facility or whether the security is too strict for some lawyers I don’t give a flying Ferdinand, but my two things are [to] improve the availability of justice to Barbadians and improve the ability of the Bar Association or whoever is responsible for policing its membership who are running afoul of the law, to wit, thieving lawyers, and if I can’t improve those things I am frustrated no end,” a disappointed Pilgrim said.

Legislative change

“And it seems that in terms of dealing with the issue of prosecuting cases against lawyers who are not doing the right thing, that can only come through legislative change and I don’t expect it to come now elections are hot on our heels so I think that I have to accept that I will be frustrated completely in that endeavour.

“We need legislative change, the Bar has done everything humanly possible to make it possible for the Government to make the legislative changes. Everything else is up to the Government so it’s a success rate in the sense that we at the Bar have done everything that we can do, but we can’t go into Parliament and change the laws,” he added.

Pilgrim said unless he saw progress in this area and improvement in the administration of justice in Barbados, he was unlikely to offer himself for the presidency again.

“I don’t like the idea of people ruling too long, I don’t want people to say that this is Pilgrim’s aim and the next thing they are going to say that I want to get into (elective) politics too,” he noted.

“When one is frustrated one can give up and honestly I am frustrated and I was frustrated from the beginning because I knew it would be that type of challenge – I knew it would be frustrating, but I am not giving up because it is difficult. I will give up if I feel it is impossible and I don’t feel that it is impossible, it isn’t time to talk about giving up yet.

“The whole reason I took this thing was two fold; one (was) to see if we could do something to improve the way that lawyers are policed and … to see if we could make justice more readily available to members of the public. Those are my two goals, nothing else really,” Pilgrim stated.

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