LTE

I read an article in the Express on Thursday September 17 (Page 4) reporting on, among other things, a Facebook post where a senior attorney posted obscenities not only against the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, but also against his family members and further threatened the Learned Minister with “a fight you have never experienced before”.

Please note I am in no way, defending the acts of the minister.

An “apparent” retraction came the following day where the senior attorney said “the purport and tenor of the comments of the Honourable Minister required, necessitated and precipitated my use of the obscenity”.

Can there really be a justification for use of obscene language? In any circumstance?

The Summary Offences Act by section 49 (that makes the use of obscene/indecent/profane language an offence) does not say that a person may use obscene or indecent language in certain excusable circumstances.

The gentleman is a member of our honourable and noble legal profession.

How can our profession respond to such an outrage?

The Legal Profession Act (No 21 of 1986) was passed in 1986 in our Parliament to deal with, among other things, the reorganisation and regulation of the profession and also for the discipline of its members.

Under the Third Schedule Part A to the Legal Profession Act 1986 headed “Code of Conduct” section 1 reads:

“An attorney-at-law shall observe the Rules of this Code, maintain his integrity and the honour and dignity of the legal profession and encourage other attorneys to act similarly both in the practice of his profession and in his private life, shall refrain from conduct which is detrimental to the profession or which may tend to discredit it.”

What does the Act say about the application of these Codes of Conduct for attorneys?

By section 35 of the said Legal Profession Act subsection 1:

The rules contained in the Code of Ethics set out in the Third Schedule shall regulate the professional practice, etiquette, conduct and discipline of Attorneys-at-law.

(2) A breach of the rules in Part A may constitute professional misconduct and in Part B shall constitute professional misconduct.

What has the Law Lords of England said about the term “professional misconduct”?

In the historic English Appeal court case of Re A Solicitor Ex Parte Law Society (1912) 1 KB 302 learned Law Lord Darling in dealing with a case of professional misconduct of a solicitor said and applied the same standard of conduct used in the medical board to that of the Law Society in England to regulate the conduct of solicitors. He said this:

“I do not think I need attempt to add any-thing to the definition which was given in Allinson v General Council of Medical Education and Registration(1894) 1 QB 750. In that case Lopes LJ said: “The Master of the Rolls has adopted a definition which, with his assistance and that of my brother Davey, I prepared. I will read it again. “If it is shown that a medical man, in the pursuit of his profession, has done something with regard to it which would be reasonably regarded as disgraceful or dishonourable by his ‘professional brethren of good repute and competency,’ then it is open to the General Medical Council to say that he has been guilty of ‘infamous conduct in a professional respect’.”

In light of these provisions of our present laws and in light of the exemplary statements made by learned Law lords on the meaning of “professional misconduct“ in cases that are still followed in our country and are highly applicable up to present day I will leave it up to the noble members of our Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago to decide the next move on these horrific Facebook posts.

Yaseen Ahmed

via e-mail

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