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Bar President speaks on General Legal Council

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay

Wednesday, September 24, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting:  Recently the House of Representatives discussed an amendment to the Legal Profession Act presented by Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington.

While the move to deregulate membership in the Bar Association of Belize has grabbed the principal headlines, a function of the legal system that has the power to discipline attorneys is also affected.

It is called the General Legal Council, and its name was recently invoked in relation to the alleged misdeeds of Arthur Saldivar.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said that the new composition of the Council will increase its efficiency and keep it from being under the thumb of the Chief Justice. But Bar Association President Eamon Courtenay, not surprisingly, disagrees.

He told us today that the Government must reconsider two important sections of the amendment that threaten to make the Council meaningless – the right given to the Attorney General to appoint two members himself and two more on the advice of the Bar Association and the power to discipline attorneys.

There is no guarantee that the Bar’s nominees would be accepted, considering the rift between the Bar and the A.G. and Prime Minister, who have both led public criticism of the Association.

According to Courtenay the legislation weighs too heavily on the side of the Attorney General and Government. He says the Council is too much in the image of the Attorney General and essentially controlled by him.

Courtenay recommends broader consultation with the wider general public, not limited to the Bar itself. He says the Council must serve the interest of all, not one.

The Bar’s own proposals have been submitted and the Committee of the House meeting to consider the legislation was scheduled to meet on Tuesday of this week but no member of the Government side appeared and so the meeting was put off.

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