AG MUST CLEAR THE AIR

High-level scrutiny

AG to get to the bottom of wiretapping and Mottley’s legal qualifications

Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite is being asked to clear the air on two thorny issues, which could prove to be a bugbear for the Mia Mottley-led Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the upcoming general election campaign.

With the ruling Democratic Labour Party now seemingly getting into full election mode the party has resurrected concerns dating back to 2010 about the alleged wiretapping of the phones of top officials, including then Prime Minister David Thompson (now deceased), his predecessor in office Owen Arthur and a number of High Court judges.

A resolution to this effect was passed by the DLP at its 62nd annual conference last weekend.

The party has also mandated General Secretary George Pilgrim to draft correspondence to the attorney general asking for him to clear the air on Opposition Leader Mia Mottley’s legal qualification to practise law in Barbados, after Minister of the Environment Dr. Denis Lowe had openly challenged Mottley back in June 2015 to “bring proof” that she was qualified to practise law here.  At the time, he had also warned Mottley that if she could not present the necessary proof of her legal certification, she could face either a $5,000 fine or 12 months in jail for practicing law illegally.

However, during the recent Budget debate, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party leader attempted to clear the air on the matter by holding aloft a set of personal documents, which she made a record of the House, to prove she was an attorney-at-law of good repute.

High-level scrutiny
Mia Mottley and Darwin Dottin

In addition to her October 1983 application to study at the famous Middle Temple Inn in Britain, Mottley also shared a certificate of character endorsed by late Prime Minister, National Hero and Father of Independence, Errol Walton Barrow, as well as photocopies of her CXC and GCE certificates. Mottley also tabled in the House what appeared to be a cover note, dated April 27, 1984, and signed by a Kavita Daftary, which made reference to the photocopies of her academic certificates and the fact that she was a student of the “London School of Economics and Political Science, reading for the LLB”.

She also brought proof that her application to Middle Temple had been approved. However, there was no copy of a law degree among the documents presented in the Lower House.

Under the Legal Professions (Qualifications for Admission to Practice) Rules, 1972, “a person is qualified for admission to practise law who has pursued the course of study and professional training in law provided by the Council of Legal Education established by the Caribbean Legal Education Agreement and has obtained the certificate, diploma, licence, or other status or form of recognition awarded by the Council of Legal Education” – proof of which has not been presented by Mottley to date, even though she has been a practising attorney here for 30 years and is recognized as a Queen’s Counsel.

Against this backdrop, the ruling DLP, which is in the throes of preparations for what is expected to be the mother of all elections here, has called on the attorney general to clear the air on the legitimacy of the requirements for the Legal Education Certificate as a condition of practicing law here.

As for the phone-tapping issue, it can be traced back seven years to when then suspended Police Inspector Anderson Bowen had filed an affidavit in the High Court, accusing then Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin of authorizing unlawful recordings of telephone conversations.

In the affidavit, Dottin was cited by Bowen for at least 12 instances of wiretapping. Bowen also alleged that the former police chief had played the taped recordings for him in the former commissioner’s office at Central Police Station and that the tapes were germane to an internal investigation.

In Dottin’s signed affidavit, he did not deny the charges but sought to link the alleged wiretapping to national security.

“With respect to the tape-recorded conversations referred to in paragraphs 22 to 32 of the applicant’s affidavit, I have formed the opinion that it is not in the public interest to disclose these as I believe that such disclosure would cause real damage in relation to the security of the island of Barbados,” the former top cop, who has since retired, said in his legal submission at the time. In its resolution, the DLP said “there have been several allegations about the subverting of citizens democratic rights by the last Government using state agencies to tap the phones of various citizens of Barbados” without a definitive declaration that this was not the case.

“Be it resolved that this conference calls on the Attorney General’s Office to clear the air on this matter and reassure citizens that such a practice is not used in Barbados without the consent of the court,” the resolution states.

Brathwaite could not be reached for comment on the matter this week as he was said to be abroad attending a family funeral, and when contacted Pilgrim said he was in the process of preparing the formal correspondence to the attorney general.

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