Chief Justice, Sir Patterson Cheltenham, has sounded the warning that he is not prepared to tolerate breaches of the clients’ trust by attorneys who benefit from monies that do not belong to them during the discharge of their professional obligations.
He issued this reminder as he addressed 32 new attorneys who were admitted to the bar last Friday, during a special sitting of the Court of Appeal.
The Chief Justice reiterated: “New and older attorneys must be reminded, and if need be daily, that frequently in the course of duty, funds impressed with a clear and unmistakable trust will be assigned to them. The trust is sacred…the attorney-at-law is a trustee; he is never, I will repeat, he is never a beneficiary. These funds are to be held for the prescribed period to be delivered undiminished to the person or persons on whose behalf they are held.”
Sir Patterson continued: “Deviation from this trust destroys the public confidence in the administration of justice, inflicts grave and intolerable pain on those affected, and diminishes us all in the eyes of right-thinking members of society. Breach of trust is always viewed without sympathy by courts, and sanctions for deviation must reflect that perspective. You have been warned, do not deviate!”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Dale Marshall, in response to questions from the media after the ceremony, said although the warning to attorneys from the Chief Justice was not new, the reminder was timely.
He noted that “just bout every Chief Justice” during every call to the bar has tried to reinforce in the minds of new attorneys, their duty as attorneys-at- law to the court and to their clients as trustees, in relation to funds placed in their care.
“It is very disappointing to me that we have had a situation where over the last 12 months or so, several lawyers have been brought before the court. The fact of the matter is, it is exactly that kind of spotlight that helps to underscore new entries to the bar that there are dire consequences to dealing with clients funds in a way that was not intended….
“Unfortunately, the perception has been there over the years that lawyers can get away with anything…that lawyers can do what they like…the system is closed, and that no lawyer is ever going to be punished. It is unfortunate that lawyers have found themselves before the court, but in every instance, I am satisfied that the due process of law has been carried out, and I think it serves to send a very strong signal that as far as the law enforcement side of things, it’s a no tolerance policy,” Mr. Marshall emphasised.