I. A Home for JAMBAR
With the growth of the profession, it was felt that JAMBAR needed a permanent home from which administrative and operational affairs could be conducted. In 1989 JAMBAR Holdings Limited was incorporated, with its main object being the acquisition, development, maintenance and management of property at 78 Harbour Street, Kingston. While JAMBAR Holdings Limited is a distinct legal entity from JAMBAR, the property acquired by that company serves as the home for JAMBAR, the General Legal Council, and other entities.
II. Protecting Fundamental Rights and Principles Necessary to Uphold the Proper Practice of Law as Illustrated Below.
- In the important appellate case of Jamaican Bar Association v The Attorney General and The Director of Public Prosecutions – SCCA 96, 102 & 108 of 2003, JAMBAR (et.al.) argued successfully as regards the fundamental principles of legal professional privilege, and it was held (inter alia) that searches and seizures conducted at the offices of certain attorneys-at-law were in breach of legal professional privilege.
- In 1999 the Jamaican Bar Association took the then Chief Justice and the Attorney General to court to quash a directive that would alter the court hours, as same was not considered and authorised by the Rules Committee. After a lengthy hearing before the Judicial Review Court, that court, on July 30, 1999 (by majority decision) found in favour of the Jamaican Bar Association that the chief justice did not have the legal authority to unilaterally alter the court hours and only the Rules Committee had the authority to make such a change to the court hours.
- In 1997, JAMBAR issued guidelines to attorneys-at-law not to disclose client instructions or to show or hand over their briefs and instruction papers, as doing so would “…strike at the very foundations of the independence of lawyers and the confidentiality of the communications with their clients…” (The Gleaner – May 18th, 1997).
III. Commenting and Acting on Important Legal/National Issues to the Public
Through various media releases and interviews, JAMBAR has sought to deal with various issues that impact the Jamaican society and our system of justice. Below are just a few of the media reports and statements issued by, or on behalf of JAMBAR pertaining to various issues of national importance.
- The Gun Court Act 1974 – DID YOU KNOW THAT if someone leaves a firearm or even a cartridge in your room or car you in danger of indefinite detention. DID YOU KNOW THAT you cannot appeal against a sentence of indefinite detention. YOU KNOW THAT A single Resident Magistrate without a Jury is the sole arbiter of whether you are guilty of crimes involving indefinite detention. DID YOU KNOW THAT In many parishes of Jamaica today the Police may search your home at will without a search warrant or any suspicion that you or any occupant is involved in any criminal activity. DID YOU KNOW THAT The Public is not entitled to be present at the Gun Court and the Press is in practice allowed to report anything about the evidence given at trials in the Gun Court … HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WHETHER It was necessary for Government to pass Legislation which presents such a threat to innocent persons. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WHETHER it was necessary to remove the discretion of the court to decide whether the circumstances of a particular case deserve the severest punishment? HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WHETHER it was necessary for permanent Laws to be passed undermining your fundamental rights and freedoms in INDEFINITE DETENTION…?
[Extract from a public service advertisement published by the Jamaican Bar Association (et. al) in (The Gleaner on May 30, 1974)].
- … The Council of the Jamaican Bar Association views with alarm the reported circumstances concerning the death of Courtney Irwin who is alleged to have stolen a motor car and detained at the May Pen Police Station. It was further reported that he was admitted to the Hospital in an unconscious condition with his body showing bruises and cuts and he died on Friday 17th November 1978. The Council also views with concern the circumstances leading to the death of ex private Anthony Williams a former member of the Jamaica Defence Force whose body was found in a crocus bag behind the St Andrew Technical High School at Bumper Hall in the Corporate Area. It has been reported that on the day before he was murdered a Policeman said that Anthony Williams was on a political wanted list. We desire to make it clear that we commend the Police in their vigorous attempts to stamp out crime in Jamaica and to apprehend the culprits… We exhort them in that regard. We call upon the Minister of National Security, the Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of Police to immediately order an impartial investigation of the circumstances leading to the death of these two persons….
[Extract from a statement of the Jamaican Bar Association (The Gleaner, November 29, 1978)].
- …In dismissing the third motion brought before it within a month the Court awarded costs against the attorneys who appeared personally. The Court ruled that it should be made clear that any further applications of a similar nature could be construed as contempt of court… A release from the Council of the Bar Association said … the Jamaican Bar Association notes with alarm certain aspects of the judgment … and we wish to express our dismay at the threat to the historic duty of counsel at the bar without fear to pursue the rights of citizens even in unpopular causes, which should be most jealously guarded in relation to custodial matters… We emphasize that the right of access to the court is fundamental for any citizen…
[Extract from a statement of the Jamaican Bar Association (The Gleaner, July 6, 1979)].
- … The Council of the Jamaican Bar Association has described the recent amendment to the Income Tax Act which require companies to designate “responsible officers” to be jointly and severally liable together with the company for the payment of the company’s income tax as a “retrograde and ominous step” which could only lead to disruption in business activities and mass resignations of directorships… the council of the Jamaican Bar Association hereby registers its protest against legislation of this kind…
[Extract from a statement of the Jamaican Bar Association (The Gleaner on March 13, 1986)].
- … It is necessary at this time for the Council of the Jamaican Bar Association to state its belief in trial by jury in criminal cases and to reject any call for its abolition… In a system of trial without jury, the state would appoint the prosecutor, the judge of the law and the judge of the facts. There will be no reflection of the prevailing sense of justice in the populace in times of political excitement. This is how democracies are destroyed and dictatorships sustained…
[Extract from a statement by the Jamaican Bar Association(The Gleaner, April 11, 1986)].
- … The Jamaican Bar Association supports the call for an expeditious establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into the recent events in West Kingston, possibly including persons from outside our jurisdiction. It is of utmost importance that we uncover the facts and have an independent assessment of whether the actions carried out on July 7, 2001 were in any part unlawful. It is of equal importance that we do not arrive at conclusions based on rumors and innuendos.
[Ms Hillary Phillips Q.C, July, 2001 (The Gleaner July 29, 2001)].
- … The Jamaican Bar Association, in July of this year, stepped in, in an effort to curb the exodus of prosecutors from the Office of the DPP. At a meeting at Medallion Hall Hotel, St. Andrew, senior prosecutors outlined the problems they were facing in the department to… (inter alia) the President of the Jamaican bar Association…
(The Gleaner, November 29, 2002).
- … The Jamaican Bar Association has seen in the media that the Government of Jamaica and the opposition are about to embark on discussions on the steps to be taken for the establishment of a final regional Court of Appeal… we are duty bound to remind you that the Jamaican Bar Association in resolutions from 1991 to the present period has consistently invited the Government of Jamaica to promote public participation in all discussions and in the decision making process. This is so, as the issue so fundamentally affects the rights of all citizens… We call on you and the Government to involve the Jamaican Bar Association … in the critical discussions that must now take place…
[Mrs Arelene Harrison-Henry, February, 2005(Letter to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Gleaner February 27, 2005)].
- … The Jamaican Bar Association objected to any scheme that would deny bail for sixty days, without a judge being able to exercise his/her discretion… Our primary concern with the proposed raft of legislation is the limiting or prescribing of the powers of the judges and when they come into operation and how they should operate…
[Ms Debra Martin, October, 2008(making submissions to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on behalf of JAMBAR as regards various ant–crime bills, The Gleaner, October 20, 2008)].
- … Successive governments are to blame for the weaknesses in the justice system. The Jamaican government as a whole has abdicated its responsibility to the people by not committing any funds to justice over the years – make that decades… For a healthy society and economy Jamaica must have a properly functioning justice system. The tiny budget allocation is absolutely awful…
[Ian Wilkinson, QC, Oct, 2012(in the same speech he proposed a five-year plan for the justice system including allocation of an additional J$5-6 billion for justice issues)].
- … The Jamaican Bar Association has expressed concern about what it calls the frightening level of violent crimes in Jamaica. The Association states that increasing crime can take the country into a perfect downward spiral where every sector suffers… the Association says the profile of crime in Jamaica leads to a reduction in and a withdrawal of local and foreign investments. The Bar Association argues that reduced investments means fewer opportunities for employment for young people; less tax revenue to provide for the justice system, education, housing, health and other social services. Additionally, it says fewer opportunities for employment mean more crime… no one in the society benefits from the unacceptably high crime rate…
[Jamaican Bar Association Press Release, April 2013 (published and reported by several media houses)].
IV. Continuing Legal Professional Development (CLPD)
For over 20 years JAMBAR has hosted hundreds of seminars and presentations on various matters germane to the legal profession and the practice of law. These seminars range from two hours in Kingston to weekends on the north coast, and workshops. With the advent of compulsory CLPD in 2013 JAMBAR has an important role to play in ensuring that our members are given the opportunity to attend seminars hosted by JAMBAR to assist in their satisfying the requirements of CLPD and, more important, in enriching their legal practices and pedagogy.