At the last sitting of the House of Representatives, the members of the House discussed a Bill to Amend the Legal Profession Act, which was presented by the Attorney General Wilfred Elrington. The bill and the implications it holds for the Bar has made the local headlines for quite some time.
The Amendment Bill, as described by the Prime Minister, is twofold, it seeks to restructure the General Legal Council, a system with the power to discipline attorneys, and to abolish the compulsory membership of the Bar, which the Government believes to be unconstitutional.
The Bar Association and the Government are in a long standing discord that runs along the lines of the political regime, and so it was no surprise when the president of the Bar Association, Eamon Courtney, came out in full force against the Bill.
On Tuesday the bill was discussed by Constitution and Foreign Affairs Privileges, Standing Orders and Regulations Committee, which was protemp chaired by the Hon John Saldivar.
The Bar Association was represented by attorney Andrew Marshalleck who spoke to us after the meeting. He believes this meeting was a matter of formality and nothing else. The Bar’s contribution, he says, will have no effect.
“I expect that politics will work in its usual way, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t come here and say what we have to say, and that’s what we’ve done.
We expect the law will be changed. We will meet, consider it, and decide what next to do. I suspect there is a possibility of some legal challenge being launched. We’ll have to see the final version of it, once whatever changes the Committee chooses to recommend and are adopted.
We came here in the full knowledge of what will happen. You have to remember that our membership is comprised of all the major political players. We know how it works. We’re not naive to what happens up here in these aisles. In fact, our members in large measures control them.
I don’t expect very much to be done.”
The Bar Association says they will have to consider taking legal action against this proposed bill.