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Application for disbarment of former registrar premature

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Tue, Sep 02 , 2014

Editor: I was following with interest the serious fraud allegations against Tamara Gibson Marks, her resignation as Registrar, her departure from the country, her voluntary return, charges brought against her as well as an application filed by the Attorney General for her to be disbarred because of improper and unprofessional misconduct.{{more}}

Looking at the sequence of incidents I am of the view that the Attorney General’s move is premature. She filed her application since June 5, more than two months before criminal charges were filed against Gibson Marks. I also note that Gibson Marks pleaded not guilty to the three charges and she was placed on bail without conditions. She retained her passport and most importantly, since she pleaded to the charges, they are not indictable cases to be tried by a judge and jury, but summary to be determined by a magistrate.

The hearing of the charges is scheduled for October 7, and the date for the AG’s application is set for September 17 – three weeks before the date of hearing of the charges.

It would be unethical and improper for me to comment on pending cases, so I will not delve into the facts, but I feel that the learned trial judge will adjourn the application until after the determination of the criminal charges. Note that she pleaded not guilty.

The Attorney General should have waited until the defendant has exhausted all options open to her in her defence – from Magistrate’s Court, Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (ECSC) or even the Privy Council, since St Vincent and the Grenadines has not accepted the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court, and still tied to the apron string of the British Law Lords.

I read in two online news sources that the former Registrar was prevented from leaving the jurisdiction by Immigration Officer. I do not think the learned Magistrate made an order that the defendant should not travel, hence the reason why her travel documents were not confiscated, neither was she ordered to report to the police station on a regular basis as being done in certain cases. In any event, the Chief Immigration Officer said that she was prevented from leaving because investigations against her are still in progress and his action was separate and apart from the charges laid against her.

I am emphasizing the point that a defendant should be allowed to exhaust all remedies available to her/him before any disciplinary action is taken. It should be noted that a government lawyer more than three decades ago was convicted by a jury for dishonesty, but appealed to the Court of Appeal and won and as a result the conviction was quashed. In that case, no step was taken after the charge was laid or even after the guilty verdict by the jury. This was an excellent move by the then Attorney General because the conviction was overturned by the higher court.

There are a few lawyers in St Vincent and the Grenadines who were convicted and are still practising. It is even worse in Guyana where a lawyer served three years in prison in Canada for fraud more than seven years ago, and he is still practicing because he was only disbarred in Canada and not Guyana his homeland where he practicsed law before moving to Ontario.

Oscar Ramjeet

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