Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (L) with Karl Hudson-Phillips, QC, recipient of the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the sphere of law. Photo: Newsday
By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Celebrated Trinidad and Tobago attorney-at-law Karl Hudson-Phillips died in his sleep, while in London on Wednesday night. He was 80 years old.
Condolences and expressions of sympathy immediately flowed into inboxes and on social network Facebook as word of the death of the famed attorney spread.
His colleagues, the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago, said they are saddened by the passing of Hudson-Phillips.
“It is with a profound sense of sadness that the Law Association today learnt of the passing of Mr Karl Hudson-Phillips, QC, ORTT. He died peacefully in his sleep in the UK,” the association said.
The illustrious attorney was recognized for the trail he blazed after graduating from Cambridge University in England and being called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1959.
“Mr Hudson-Phillips was a powerful legal luminary and an outstanding and formidable advocate, whose career spanned over fifty years at the local and regional bars. He was a mentor, friend and benefactor to countless junior counsel/attorneys around the region. He will be sorely missed,” the law association said in their statement.
The former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago and head of the law association (for four terms) was also the founder and political leader of the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR) – what the law association described as a major political force in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1980s.
In 1970, Hudson-Phillips was appointed Queen’s Counsel after a mere 11 years in private practice. In the same period he served as attorney general and legal affairs minister in the then Eric Williams-led People’s National Movement (PNM) government between 1969 and 1973. He was a member of parliament from 1966 to 1976.
By 1981, Hudson-Phillips looked like he was about to change the political landscape with his ONR party, which won the popular vote in the then general elections but failed to win a single seat, losing his bid to form the government and becoming prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said the death of Hudson-Phillips brings to end, an era of legal luminaries in Trinidad and Tobago.
“His death was unexpected, as he had travelled to London, England, a few days ago for a family reunion,” Persad-Bissessar said in a statement.
“Mr Hudson-Phillips leaves a void in the legal profession in Trinidad and Tobago. He was a lawyer par excellence, and a legal luminary who brought dignity and honour to his profession. He was very articulate and he earned the respect of all, the Bench, the Bar, and the general public,” she said.
The prime minister said Hudson-Phillips was a regular advocate at the Privy Council in London. He was also awarded the Order of Trinidad and Tobago for his sterling contribution to the law.
The distinguished attorney of Grenadian parentage was lead counsel in major cases in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. Hudson Phillips, who also has a law firm on the island of Grenada, was lead counsel in the Maurice Bishop trial, representing the 17 insurrectionists that were jailed for the assassination of the former Grenada prime minister and some of his cabinet ministers. Hudson-Phillips was also lead counsel in the Abdul Malik trial in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Mr Hudson-Phillips, QC represented a unique generation of advocates and he will always be remembered for his eloquence, wit, incisive cross-examination skills and his command of English. His passing leaves a great void but also a rich legacy of legal precedent.
“The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago takes the opportunity to convey our condolences and that of the entire legal fraternity to the family of Mr Hudson-Phillips, QC. May he rest in peace” the law association said.
The illustrious attorney, who held several high profile positions in his career, including being a former chairman of the board of directors of BWIA and a former commissioner of the Law Reform Commission, is remebered as a classy politician and the most sought after legal mind.
Opposition leader Keith Rowley said Hudson-Phillips exemplified the highest standards:
“It is with a great sense of loss that I received news this morning of the passing of Mr Karl Hudson Phillips QC. He was a former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago, a former International Criminal Court judge, distinctive legal luminary and classy politician who exemplified the highest standards of Westminster.
“Mr Hudson-Phillip remained a most sought after legal mind whose opinions invariably reflected his exceptional knowledge of law as well as standards of ethics. Present day attorneys and politicians will do well to follow his sterling example.
“On behalf of my family and the People's National Movement I express deep condolences to the family, relatives and friends of Mr Hudson-Phillips and indeed the legal fraternity on his passing. May he rest in peace.”
The Congress of the People (COP) also joined the list of mourners, saying the nation lost a great son of the soil who dedicated his life to the tenets of justice.
“Notwithstanding his many public duties, Mr Hudson-Phillips mentored many young persons in the legal profession, politics and public life. He showed a remarkable personal touch, while dedicating his life to the development of his profession, our governance and the overall growth of our society and its people. He was never afraid to stand for what he believed in,” the COP noted in a statement.
"He was also one of the architects in the formation of the political party, National Alliance for Reconstruction, which served as government from 1986 to 1991. He was later appointed to serve as a Judge of the International Criminal Court,” the COP added.
Lawyer and legal affairs minister Prakash Ramadhar is the political leader of the COP.
Karl Hudson-Phillips was the son of the late Henry Hudson-Phillips. His father was from the parish of St David’s and his mother from St Andrews, Grenada.
When this reporter spoke to Hudson-Phillips at his office in Port of Spain back in 2012, he threw his head back in the chair with a smile and spoke gleefully and quietly about his property in Carriacou, Grenada, where he went to relax from time to time.