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Features of cohabitation within our society


The local Bar Association held the annual Agnes Cato Memorial Lecture on 27th March at Frenches House, Kingstown and featured eminent legal mind R. Andrew Cummings Q.C. of some 39 years call to the Vincentian Bar, opining on the topic ‘Inclusivity – the common-law wife?’{{more}}

Cummings’ seminal outlook traced the features of cohabitation as cultivated within our society and asked the pivotal question of our society – when and how will the rights of the common-law wife be preserved? The rights of children born out of wedlock have been taken care of with respect to claims on the estate of a father.

He traced the attempts of regional jurisprudence that tried to enable or fashion a mechanism within the common law that sought to protect the common-law wife; however, the common law can only go so far, but no more.

He further traced the positions of our island neighbours Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados, who have each enacted laws protecting common-law wives, by giving them rights pertaining to their common-law husband’s property.

Participants then had the opportunity to table questions and comments and, by all reports, the lecture was timely and well-received.

The Bar has expressed gratitude to Cummings Q.C. for his electrifying and informative lecture and to all attendees.

There was also an address by the SVG Bar Association president René Baptiste, who welcomed the attendees and outlined in summary the initiatives of the new Executive and the thrust of the Private Bar and paid tribute to the need to have a sense of history, recognizing the sterling contribution of Agnes Cato to the development of the profession as a whole. Baptiste also urged the Bar to not miss the forest for the trees and remember the Bar’s place in society and the wider community.

The Lecture Series was established in the memory of Agnes Cato, one of the first Vincentian women lawyers who, despite her diminutive size, was a “giant.” Her lionizing tribute, contributed by Maia Eustace and Nicole Sylvester, delivered with distinctive aplomb by SVGBA vice president Duane Daniel, serialized her achievements including, but not limited to, being called to the Bar of the UK in 1968, the local Bar in 1969, magisterial posts in 1972-1980, chairperson of the Adoption Board (1976-1980), registrar of the High Court (1985-1987), member of the OECS Bar Association (being an Honorary Life member, the only woman member to be so honoured), SVG Bar Association and the International Bar Association. Being a devout Roman Catholic, she was also bestowed with the Catholic award of the Benemerenti Medal, an award dating back to 1775.