BVI News

AG says COI attorneys should be admitted to practise law in BVI

Attorney General Dawn Smith

This article has been updated

Attorney General (AG) Dawn Smith has said the three attorneys conducting legal work for the Commission of Inquiry (COI) “should” be admitted to the BVI Bar.

They are Bilal Rawat, Rhea Harrikissoon, Andrew King; against whom House of Assembly Speaker, Julian Willock has filed a court injunction to prevent them from continuing their work with the COI.

Arguing that the three COI lawyers are in criminal breach of the law since they’ve been practising law in the BVI for months, Willock and a prominent local attorney, Michael Fay, have indicated that the court should consider that breach whenever it sits to determine whether to grant the trio’s application to be called to BVI bar.

And in a letter dated June 23, Fay — a Queen’s Counsel (QC) — shared his position on the matter with the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The AG, who was copied to that letter, responded to QC Fay on July 8.

“The law is clear,” Smith stated. “A barrister or solicitor appointed by the Attorney General under Section 13 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (COIA) should be admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands.”

“For that reason, it is my position that Bilal Rawat, Andrew King and Rhea Harrikissoon should be admitted to practice in the Virgin Islands if they are to perform duties as counsel and solicitors to the Commission of Inquiry established under the COIA on 19 January, 2021. They have now applied to be so admitted, albeit belatedly,” she further stated.

The Attorney General further said she does not intend to object to the COI trio’s applications when they come up for hearing.

Notwithstanding her position, she told Fay: “It is regrettable that the applications for admission were not made and dealt with before Mr Rawat, Mr King and Ms Harrikissoon began their work for the Commission of Inquiry and I am very grateful to you for insisting that the rule of law be upheld and that the legal profession in the Virgin Islands in respected.”

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28 Comments

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  1. Missing the point says:

    The AG agreed with Fay that the three CoI lawyers were breaking the law and that they should have been admitted before they did any work for the CoI!

    Like 5
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  2. Judge says:

    Thoes three coi lawyers need to do jail time boss

    Like 2
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  3. Interesting says:

    It would follow that if this line of reasoning were to be applied to the blatant violations of the constitution by our elected reps as it relates to disclosure of interests and the like; these reps in contravention should be expelled from the HOA….

    🥴

    Like 25
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  4. All of this is inconsequential says:

    Bottom line: The COI will continue.

    Like 27
    Dislike 1
    • Conflict of Interest says:

      Yes it will, but surely it would be better to continue with lawyers that are not themselves breaching the law!

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      Dislike 8
  5. Fair says:

    Finally a reasonable and fair legal opinion in this unnecessary matter! English legal scholars have always known that the Queen’s prerogative supersedes any local laws in civil matters.

    Like 14
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    • Strange says:

      Straight to the point. The Governor represents the Queen. The Queen in my view was briefed on the Commission before it began. There is no stopping the COI. All this filing of injunction and question as to being called to the bar is rubbish.

  6. Attention says:

    What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. The members of the HOA who also had their concerns with filing their interest needed clarity before filing and file to their understanding even though they were late. Better late than never.

    The 3 attorneys seeking permission to practice put the cart before the horse and those in Authority said that permission should be granted for them to practice even though they broke the law.

    It will be interesting to see who gets the leg up in their rear or this whole ordeal can be considered a lesson learned on all sides!

    Like 5
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  7. Tongue Fu says:

    Pretty straightforward this. Just another failed attempt to derail the inevitable by the incumbent Government. Wasting taxpayers monies on frivolous matters.

    Like 10
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  8. Cryst says:

    Remember the ag. Does not make the decisions,she can only put forward a legal opinion, we need to await the justice decision.

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  9. Please! says:

    Madam, these men may be lawyers: but first and foremost they are investigators appointed by the Governor into alleged wrong doing. The COI is not a court. DUH!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Of course they should, this isn’t rocket science. Some people think that just because it isn’t an actual criminal trial that what Bilal and others are doing sums up to this not equating to practicing law which is so uniformed and foolish. This is a COI where these guys are using powers granted under COI legislation to subpoena people to give evidence or face reprimand that alone shows that this isn’t just some minor discussion between folks from the UK and BVI. Bilal and others aren’t here as businessmen or people with interest in ridding the world of corruption. He is here as a lawyer. His whole professional career is in the legal field so why you think he is here to do otherwise. The only question we should have is whether the COI is above local laws that is the question that need to be answered because it is clear that he is practising law.

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  11. Me says:

    Wasn’t the AG the one who advised the Comissioner Sir Gary? Is she saying she did not give proper advise?

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    • @me says:

      No, the Commissioner does not think he needs any BVI legal advice, not does he seem to think that BVI law applies to him.

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  12. Not so fast, AG says:

    Seems to me that the Attorney General is incorrect. First of all she uses the word “should”, which is not legally binding.

    Second, I think the attorneys that she hired in the COI are there to defend those “geniuses” in the government only. Nothing to do with the COI guys. At this stage they are neither prosecuting nor defending.

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  13. The oppresor says:

    A set of law breakers trying to say the bvi is crupt

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  14. Thin ice says:

    Unsolicited political opinions by the judiciary!

  15. Young concerned citizen says:

    The question of whether or not an application should have been submitted to practice law in the VI should have been addressed and communicated to the COI lawyers before the COI commenced. MORE specifically, the AG, Speakers of the House, QC and whoever chairs the BVI Bar Association that are should have done so much earlier, if it was on oversight on their part, close to the time the COI first commenced or shortly thereafter . Why have you’ll dropped the ball on this and waited so long? The AG, some practising lawyers that are legislators or were former legislators went through the whole line of questioning during the COI and this was not an issue raised then either. All of you’ll are in the wrong for painting the COI lawyers as criminals when YOU’ll failed to advise or correct the issue when it should have been addressed much earlier. This did not have to be on social media or any other media platform. It makes those speaking out (who have certain legislative powers to regulate or approve a person) look incompetent when others outside are looking in. You should advise at the appropriate time, not many months later when it suits.

    Like 7
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  16. Shaking my head says:

    Black people wake up. Wake up. These people aren’t here to uncover truth or help us as it relates to good governance. These people are here as a first step in taking over this territory. EDUCATE YOURSELVES. Read their OWN words. They are counting on you NOT to read. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmfaff/1464/1464.pdf

    It is time for all OTs to legalise same-sex marriage and for the UK Government to
    do more than simply support it in principle. It must be prepared to step in, as it did
    in 2001 when an Order in Council decriminalised homosexuality in OTs that had
    refused to do so. The Government should set a date by which it expects all OTs to
    have legalised same-sex marriage. If that deadline is not met, the Government should
    intervene through legislation or an Order in Council. (Paragraph 63).

    They also want THEIR British Citizens to be able to VOTE in our country – yet we can’t vote in theirs. They want THEIR British Citizens to be able to HOLD OFFICE in our country – but we can’t hold in theirs.

    Belongership and its equivalents are wrong. While we recognise that the OTs are
    small communities with unique cultural identities, we do not accept that there is
    any justification to deny legally-resident British Overseas Territory and UK citizens
    the right to vote and to hold elected office. This elevates one group of British people
    over another and risks undermining the ties that bind the UK and the OTs together
    in one global British family. The UK Government should initiate a consultation with
    the elected governments of the OTs and work with them to agree a plan to ensure that
    there is a pathway for all resident UK and British Overseas Territory citizens to be
    able to vote and hold elected office in territory. In its response to this report the FCO
    should lay out a timetable for this consultation process and set a deadline for phasing
    out discriminatory elements of belongership, or its territory-specific equivalents.
    (Paragraph 67)

    READ BLACK PEOPLE and wake up. This is NOT about this administration or the last. This is about the future of this territory and our right to GOVERN.

    They have a clear mission. It’s all there for the world to see – yet we spend time-fighting each other and dividing our blessed land. BLACK vs BLACK while the white man continues to do what he has always done – DIVIDE and DESTROY.

    Like 1
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  17. Ya awl says:

    Time for the AG to either stand by Willock and his personal action, or time for Willock to resign.

    Like 2
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  18. hmmm says:

    So there should be no repercussions for breaking the law?
    Or is it ok to break certain law and not others.

    Like 2
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  19. Just my 2 cents says:

    This apparent oversight fails to meet the criteria necessary for any successful injunction or criminality. Arguably then, the members of the HOA, the government ministers, the AG and the Governor have indirectly aided the criminality through their approvals and participation…should they all be prosecuted?

    This whole charade is just a delaying tactic or distraction which shall eventually fail.

    According to the reported news above, “a barrister or solicitor appointed by the Attorney General under Section 13 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (COIA) should be admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands.” Should and must is not the same. There is no definitive for appointment to the BVI bar…

    Additionally, even if their application are presented to the BVI bar, the applications cannot be denied, nor can they be charged or the work previously conducted be deemed null and void.

    Another point to critically note is that the BVI still remains an OT, subservient to the British whose Head of State us the Queen who essentially is above the law.

    Like 1
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  20. Privy Council says:

    This COI is forever tainted whatever the outcome. I guess this issue is going to privy council as a private citizen or lawyer will surely take it up…like COVID we will have to live with the COI for a while.

  21. BVISLANDER says:

    So if I break the Law I hope the AG protects me the same way she is doing for the COI how can you allow people to come in a break the law you are setting a bad president so anyone can come in now and do cases with out being call to the bar what about those lawyers here who are not called can they now handle cases TELL ME AG

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