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Letter: Saint Vincent's Law Society
Published on February 2, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

How many of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines solicitors would be found to be a fit and proper person to be a practicing solicitor if they came under Scottish Law Society regulations?

Ask yourself the question, if an SVG judge/attorney/solicitor/lawyer declares that he/she sometimes tells lies, are they fit and proper people to be registered to practice law?

Ask yourself the question, if an SVG judge/attorney/solicitor/lawyer puts his/her signature to a document/contract/deed knowing the contents to be unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable, are they fit and proper people to be registered to practice law?

Ask yourself the question, if an SVG judge/attorney/solicitor/lawyer calls Vincentian citizens nasty and untrue names, are they fit and proper people to be registered to practice law?

Ask yourself the question, if an SVG judge/attorney/solicitor/lawyer makes indecent gestures to citizens publicly, are they fit and proper people to be registered to practice law?

Section 6 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 (“the 1980 Act”) provides that a person shall not be admitted as a solicitor unless (inter alia) he has satisfied the Council that “he is a fit and proper person to be a solicitor” and obtained from the Council a certificate (“Entrance Certificate”) to that effect.

The Scottish Law Society, when considering if a person is a fit and proper person to be a solicitor, may take into account evidence indicating:

-- Lack of probity (this expression is not limited to stealing or telling lies; it includes a failure to tell the whole truth, and any conscious act or omission which might mislead another person, including plagiarism or cheating in exams);

-- disregard for the rule of law;

-- intemperate or discourteous behaviour (such as anti-social behaviour orders); or

-- lack of judgment or self-control.

Mental Health Issues

In issues involving mental health the Society is likely to require professional (psychological/psychiatric) reports in order to reach a proper assessment.

Criminal Convictions

References to convictions include all unlawful conduct, whether criminal or civil and whether or not it has been the subject of prosecution/litigation. A Disclosure Scotland Form is obtained for every intrant, and may disclose information other than criminal conviction, including police warnings or fiscal fines. The relevance of any criminal conduct is that it reflects (or might reflect) upon the attitude of the intrant towards the law; it is a fundamental expectation of society that solicitors will uphold the rule of law and obey it themselves.

The significance of the effect which such issues can have on the question of suitability for admission, is underlined by the fact that intrants cannot rely on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, to withhold details of a conviction which is otherwise regarded as “spent” under that Act (See Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2003).

Offences Leading to Imprisonment (Immediate or suspended)

This section covers all offences leading to imprisonment (immediate or suspended), other than those dealt with above.

In general, offences which lead to a sentence of imprisonment suggest either a single very serious offence or a series of offences which together may indicate a serious disregard for the rule of law.

As in other areas, there can be no rigid rules, but an intrant who is currently serving a custodial sentence or who:

-- is subject to a suspended sentence, or

-- has been released on parole and is still liable to recall, or

-- has served a custodial sentence within the last five years,

is likely to find it very difficult to persuade the Society that he is a fit and proper person to be a solicitor.

Where a custodial sentence has been served in the more distant past, the Society will carefully examine the whole circumstances; the potential variety of circumstances is so enormous that no further meaningful guidance can usefully be given.

Onus of Proof

The onus is always upon the intrant to satisfy the Society that he is a fit and proper person to be admitted.

The Act does not say that the Council of the Law Society may refuse to issue the relevant certificate if it is satisfied that the intrant is not a fit and proper person to be a solicitor; it says that a person may not be admitted unless “he has satisfied the Council that he is a fit and proper person to be a solicitor”. So, in any of the examples outlined above which require further investigation, it is for the intrant to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that he is a fit and proper person to be admitted as a solicitor.

These are some of the rules, there are many more. Are such rules enforced in SVG?

Peter Binose
Reads: 5849

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