The Barbados Bar Association cannot prevent any lawyer from committing an offence, says President Rosalind Smith-Millar.
Just a day before attorney-at-law Phillip Nicholls is expected to appear before the Court of Appeal on a disciplinary matter, Smith-Millar stressed that association’s function was not to “police” lawyers.
The Bar’s Disciplinary Committee will reportedly make a recommendation that Nicholls be disbarred when it goes before the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
It is alleged that Nicholls has been unable to account for $860,000 belonging to his clients John and Hazel Connor, the proceeds from the sale of a property in 2008.
If he is struck from the list of attorneys, he would become the second lawyer to be disbarred for the year. Joyce Griffith was disbarred in February for misappropriating the proceeds from the sale of a property.
Another attorney-at-law, Vonda Pile, was sentenced to three years in prison in September after she was found guilty of stealing $191,416.39 from her former client in 2009.
She too is facing the possibility of being disbarred.
However, while she refrained from speaking on any particular case, Smith-Millar said it was impossible for the Bar Association to prevent lawyers from engaging in illegal acts.
“If you are asking me if I can police lawyers to prevent them from behaving badly the obvious answer is no I cannot.
“There are laws that say you can do this and you should not or must not do that and if you do that then here is the penalty. That applies to the whole of society,” the president maintained.
“Can you prevent somebody who wants to do something bad from doing it? No you cannot….”
While Smith-Millar admitted that lawyers were placed in positions of trust and had to be held accountable, she explained that they were still human beings.
“You cannot stop children from behaving badly and you cannot stop adults from doing wrong things. You can only tell them that if they do wrong things this is what to expect will happen,” she said.
Since being elected president in July, Smith-Millar has publicly condemned the actions of lawyers who have brought the profession into disrepute.