The following is a statement from the Honourable Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, Q.C.:
“It is with deep concern that I have heard the reports of serious criminal charges being laid against members of the Bar, including some senior attorneys at law. I recognize that, like any other citizen, they are entitled to the presumption of innocence. Nonetheless, the number and seniority of the attorneys being charged, and the proximity in time within which these reports are being brought to the public attention, are potentially damaging to the image and reputation of the Legal Profession in Jamaica.
That reputation was built on a fine and noble tradition of excellence and ethical conduct over the years, exemplified by such giants as our National Hero, the Rt. Excellent N. W. Manley, Vivian Blake QC, Ian Ramsay QC, David Coore QC, and others similarly distinguished for their expertise and professional integrity. The Bar must do its utmost to protect that well-earned reputation from being undermined by aberrant behaviour that is a violation of those traditions and the modern regulations that reflect them.
I respectfully remind my colleague attorneys-at-law to hold dear to these standards and traditions. We must handle our clients’ affairs and properties with prudence and care, so that all monies due to them are promptly and transparently available to them. Clients’ accounts must be declared and held transparent to the General Legal Council, and clients’ funds must never be misappropriated or commingled with lawyer’s funds.
Lawyers are critical to the administration of justice, and the public needs to have confidence in them. As Shakespeare recognized in Henry VI, part 2, one cannot set up a totalitarian government without first getting rid of all the lawyers. Constitutional rights of all citizens, including the poorest among us, need to be protected and litigated where necessary.
I trust that justice will be done speedily in the related matters before the courts.