Pilgrim hits back
A former president of the Barbados Bar Association has dismissed a senior Government minister’s criticism of the legal profession as “a pure red herring” to distract from the legal troubles facing Speaker of the House Michael Carrington.
Andrew Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY that while he agreed the Legal Profession Act needed to be updated, lawyers had been clamouring for changes but parliamentarians had not answered the call.
Speaking at a meeting of his St James South constituency branch on Sunday, Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss said the existing legislation did not ensure enough accountability and, in most cases, mandates lawyers to have oversight for the conduct of their colleagues since the disciplinary committee is comprised of only attorneys.
However, Pilgrim hit back today.
“Yes, the legal profession has many grave concerns that need to be addressed but there are few very bad apples that are spoiling it for a lot of us and those bad apples need to be properly judged . . . Anyone who breaches the law should have to meet the full force of the law and the disciplinary committee needs to be upgraded but it can’t upgrade itself,” he said.
“People like [Inniss] – Members of Parliament – allow the law to remain how it is. It is an archaic law; it needs to be changed so that lawyers can be judged by people other than lawyers alone. But we have been calling out to them . . . and asked to change it; they didn’t do it . . .
“The real hard truth is that the Government has to change the law and if the Government doesn’t do it, it’s the Government fault,” Pilgrim added.
Inniss had made his comments as he avoided addressing the situation involving Carrington – an attorney-law whom the court ordered to pay to a former client, money owed from the sale of his deceased aunt’s property – even though he said the matter had brought to the fore the broader issue of lawyers’ conduct.
“Now that his friend is in difficulties, he is coming out to talk about other lawyers . . . Get to the point Mr Minister! We don’t want any red herrings . . . We want people to tell us what is going on with [Carrington] sitting down alongside them in these circumstances,” Pilgrim insisted.
“It’s just annoying to think that these people think that they can tell us anything they want, whenever they want to distract us from the fact that this serious issue is being dealt with in the face of Barbadians. It is so annoying and abhorrent to me and something really needs to be done and I am wondering what type of protest is appropriate to make the Government see that it is unacceptable for them to continue in this way.”
He also took issue with Inniss’ complaint that while the number of lawyers in Barbados was increasing legal fees were not decreasing.
“This is just a politician opening his mouth because he has one and talking and I challenge him to say whose fees are too high for what,” Pilgrim dared.
“Where is he when I am doing free work and working for people for next to nothing and when I am doing as many as 15 murder cases for legal aid fees that would pay me approximately . . . 25 cents an hour? When I get paid $1,500 to work on a murder case for four and a half years where is he?”
Pilgrim said while some lawyers may be charging high fees, people could “shop around and find a good lawyer who is charging a reasonable fee”.