JIS News

Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, said it is time for a review of the roles and functions of the General Legal Council.

"The time has come for a further review. The Bar has put forward suggestions, the General Legal Council has views on those suggestions and that will become something that we move to deal with in due course," Senator Golding said.

He was closing the debate on the Bill to amend the Legal Profession Act in the Senate today (July 13), which was passed with three amendments.

The Bill, which aims to enhance the conduct of attorneys-at-law, and the quality of service they provide, contains provisions empowering the General Legal Council to take specified actions to protect money, property or documents of an attorney's client.

Senator Golding said that the General Legal Council will require more personnel to implement the different provisions of the Bill.

"I have also been advised that they have drafted the regulations that will deal with the continuing professional development, protection of client and property and the establishment of a compensation fund," he told the Senate.

In his comments, Leader of Government Business, Senator A.J. Nicholson, said it is good that the legal profession is looking to improve the quality of the service that it gives.

He noted that the amendments will also impact on foreign trade and foreign relations, as persons overseas, who want to invest in property in Jamaica "must be confident that when (they) seek the assistance of an attorney in Jamaica, not only are (they) going to rely on his good deeds, but must be able to rely on Section 7 of the Bill, which seeks to amend sections 41 and sections 42 of the Principal Act."

Section 7 of the Bill establishes a Compensation Fund, for the purpose of compensating on an ex gratia basis, persons who have suffered any loss of client property as a result of any act or omission of an attorney or former attorney.

Senator Golding, in response to concerns raised by Opposition Senator, Kamina Johnson Smith, proposed an amendment to the Bill making it compulsory for lawyers practising in the public sector to undertake continuing legal professional development and have practising certificates.

Senator Johnson Smith while supporting the legislation, said attorneys in the public service, by virtue of the construct of the Bill, are not required to undertake continuing legal professional development or have practising certificates.

"The Bill binds the requirement for continuing legal education to having a practising legal certificate, but once you are an attorney practising in the public service, you are not required to have a legal certificate. I feel quite strongly that we shouldn't miss the opportunity to amend this Bill to bind attorneys in the public service to the same requirement," Senator Johnson Smith said.

The Bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration. Senator Golding said it is hoped that the legislation will be in place by September.

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