Attorneys Who Practise Without Certificate to Face Disciplinary Sanctions

Following recommendations by the General Legal Council (GLC) and subsequent changes to the Legal Profession Act, attorneys-at-law, who practise without a certificate, will now face disciplinary sanctions instead of criminal charges.
A Bill to provide for this amendment, inter alia, was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday (March 27). Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, explained that a Bill addressing these amendments was considered and passed by the House in 1998, but failed to get approval in the Senate as some members took issue with the proposal to treat practising without a certificate as a criminal offence.
“The Bill fell off the order paper before the matter was has been revised but with a modification of that particular provision. The current Bill treats practising without a certificate as professional misconduct – a matter that attracts a disciplinary sanction, instead of a criminal sanction,” he told colleague members.
The Bill also seeks to tighten up the legislative provisions in some instances and clarify certain areas of ambiguity, and generally to enhance the effectiveness of the regulatory machinery, particularly in regard to the disciplinary commission, Dr. Phillips stated.
The principal changes deals with: practising as an attorney without a practicing certificate; fines for offences under the Act; cases of admission to practise gained by fraud or misrepresentation; the jurisdiction and powers of the disciplinary committee; the effective date, stay of execution, enforcement and publication of orders of the disciplinary committee; the right of appeal against dismissal by the disciplinary committee, of a complaint against an attorney at law; the withdrawal of orders suspending attorneys at law from practice; and contingency fees.
The Leader of Government Business further informed that the amendments were based upon recommendations that were made by the GLC, which is the regulatory body for the legal profession.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for North Eastern St. Andrew, Delroy Chuck, said that the recommendations were “indications that the Council wants the practising attorneys to maintain a high standard, because the legal profession is noble and honourable, and it is important that those who practice it maintain the highest standard of integrity”.
He noted that there were persons who, “sometimes indicate that they are lawyers, but they have no practicing certificate and in those circumstances, this Act is intended to ensure that when they are found, that they are properly investigated and if necessary, charged”.
Mr. Chuck congratulated the GLC, which he said had acted with the highest standard of professional ethics and dealt with all complaints efficiently and adequately.
“If there are persons who have complaints, they must bring it to the GLC, so that these can be dealt with, because, unfortunately, there are still members who practise as attorneys, who really must improve their quality of service, how they deal with their clients and must as a matter of importance, communicate with their clients and discharge their duties fairly and honestly, and where they fail, it is only right that they should be brought before the disciplinary committee,” he stated.
The Council was established under the Legal Profession Act, and the functions and powers are prescribed by that Act. It has statutory responsibility and authority for fixing and maintaining standards of professional competence and conduct. The Bill, which was passed without amendment, was also approved by the Senate on February 9.

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