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AG agrees CoI Counsel & Solicitors have breached VI laws

- said it was regrettable that applications to BVI Bar were not made before their work with CoI commenced
Virgin Islands (VI) Attorney General, Hon Dawn J. Smith has agreed that the trio hired by the UK to assist with the Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) have breached VI’s law, specifically, the Legal Profession Act of 2015. Photo: GIS
CoI Commissioner, Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom then defended the trio, indicating that they did not need to be admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands in order to carry out their duties; however, he still directed that they take steps to be admitted anyway. Photo: VINO/File
CoI Commissioner, Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom then defended the trio, indicating that they did not need to be admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands in order to carry out their duties; however, he still directed that they take steps to be admitted anyway. Photo: VINO/File
Andrew King, left, and Bilal M. Rawat, right, are two of the three lawyers currently assisting the UK-sponsored Virgin Islands (VI) Commission of Inquiry (CoI) and have been accused of practicing law in the territory while not being called to the BVI Bar, a violation of the Legal Professions Act 2015. Photo: Internet Source
Andrew King, left, and Bilal M. Rawat, right, are two of the three lawyers currently assisting the UK-sponsored Virgin Islands (VI) Commission of Inquiry (CoI) and have been accused of practicing law in the territory while not being called to the BVI Bar, a violation of the Legal Professions Act 2015. Photo: Internet Source
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Virgin Islands (VI) Attorney General, Hon Dawn J. Smith has agreed that the trio hired by the United Kingdom (UK) to assist with the Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) breached VI’s law, specifically, the Legal Profession Act of 2015.

During the June 14, 2021, hearing of the CoI, it was revealed that Bilal M. Rawat acting as Counsel and Andrew King, along with Rhea Harrikissoon, acting as Solicitors have been practising law in the territory without being first called to the BVI Bar, in breach of the laws.

CoI Commissioner, Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom then defended the trio, indicating that they did not need to be admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands in order to carry out their duties; however, he still directed that they take steps to be admitted anyway.

In a July 8, 2021, correspondence to Attorney Michael J. Fay seen by Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) on the matter, AG Smith said with regards to the issue, the law is clear.

Mr Fay had raised concerns about breaches of sections 15(10) 18(1)(a) 18(1)(b) 18(1)(c) of the Legal Profession Act.

Law is clear - AG Smith

According to Smith, while quoting the law, “(1) 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,” he said.

Additionally, the Attorney General indicated, "no person should use any name, title or description which implies that he or she is entitled to act as a legal practitioner in the Virgin Islands unless his or her name is registered on the Roll maintained by the Registrar of the High Court under section 10 of the Legal Profession Act.”

AG Smith said she believes that for that reason, Mr Rawat, along with King and 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 on January 19, 2021.

“They have now applied to be so admitted, albeit belatedly,” she said.

The Attorney General said the correspondence has further said that she would not object to the applications when they come on for hearing.

“ I have already informed the Court and counsel for Mr King and Ms Harrikissoon accordingly and will do the same in respect of Mr Rawat," she said.

Further, the AG in correspondence said it was regrettable that the applications for admission were not made and dealt with before the trio commenced worked in the VI.

Matter now before the courts

Meanwhile, in the case brought by House of Assembly Speaker Hon Julian Willock and the Deputy Speaker of the HoA, Hon Neville A. Smith (AL), the two object to applications for the three CoI lawyers being admitted to formally practice in the VI on the basis that the Applicants have been practising law in the Virgin Islands since March 2021, in breach of the Legal Profession Act.

The Speaker and Deputy Speaker also objected on the ground that the three held themselves out to be Barristers and Lawyers despite not having being admitted to practice law in the territory.

The matter has since been adjourned to October 26, 2021, in the High Court by Judge Vicki Ann Ellis.

30 Responses to “AG agrees CoI Counsel & Solicitors have breached VI laws”

  • Yes (01/09/2021, 07:37) Like (3) Dislike (7) Reply
    They dont them because they donteant no more diging what is there to hide

    I am glad they will be given such an opputunityin practise
    • Citizen (01/09/2021, 09:22) Like (24) Dislike (1) Reply
      What are u trying to say? People can not write yet still be so bold to send in comments and blogging. I guess it’s because there is no shame since your identity is hidden. Learn to write please. It is basic and for your own long term good.
      • josiah'sbay (01/09/2021, 10:12) Like (9) Dislike (10) Reply
        I can't write well but I still have an opinion. Do bad writhing nullify my right to speech? If you're a competent writer perhaps your service can best be appreciated by tutoring children that need it and adults that wants it. The goal is communication and understanding. If you can correct it its highly likely that you understand it. If you can't understand it move on its only one opinion amongst many.
    • JO (01/09/2021, 16:15) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
  • Rubber Duck (01/09/2021, 07:38) Like (6) Dislike (21) Reply
    Yet again the esteemed Speaker is vedicated
  • judge (01/09/2021, 07:45) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    Although she is not a judge and has decided not to oppose their applications. Sooo....
  • They're coming for you! (01/09/2021, 08:03) Like (23) Dislike (4) Reply
    The UK are providing an incredibly valuable service to the BVI by offering a free audit of government processes and this is how you repay them? Most ungrateful. Luckily it will have very little impact on the end result!
    • @They're coming for you (01/09/2021, 09:59) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
      As a taxpayer, I am mindful that this process is anything BUT free. Is the bill for the government's attorney's being settled out of their own pockets personally? If that is the case, then I could probably agree.
  • Still confused (01/09/2021, 08:10) Like (8) Dislike (12) Reply
    Why all the circles. So they breached the law for which consequences should flow. They should not be admitted because they have committed a punishable offence seeing they SHOULD HAVE BEEN admitted before this whole COI thing commenced. This is what the injunction application is for. To stop them from continuing to breach the laws allegedly (that she now agrees they have indeed breached thanks to the opinion of the honourable former judge) until a judge determines whether they have actually breached the laws (which again she is now agreeing they have breached the laws thanks to the opinion received from a judge...dear Lorrrrd) and if so, what penalties should flow remembering that this sets the precedence for future similar matters (if we actually understand anything about law). They SHOULD NOT be admitted without due process and the court needs her consent for it to proceed with that due process. So after the long arse explanation, what is she saying, she consent to the due process of the law or not. Maybe I should read over??
  • Cisco (01/09/2021, 08:18) Like (9) Dislike (2) Reply
    Who allowed that to happen? If we don't protect ourselves and know our own laws, this is what happens. Then we want to make a scene because a light bulb goes off. We have been reacting and just making noise regarding this COI. If the UK or any organisation come in and do what they want is because we let them. Who is watching the gates? Who is our star legal mind? Lord help us.
    • @Cisco (01/09/2021, 08:48) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      I could not agree with you more. There is no vision. The place is plagued with short sighted people.
  • Medusa (01/09/2021, 08:50) Like (14) Dislike (0) Reply
    Did they get their work permits as well? But Government and others accused of corruption and they attack the very people investigating those allegations! Shouldn't the question as to admittance to the Bar been asked by the AG before the CoI started? Not a very good AG if she doesn't know the law and it has to her pointed out to her an expat lawyer.
  • Reality check (01/09/2021, 08:56) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
    I want to commend all those who have worked to make sure there are no grounds for appeal of whatever happens in the future, preventing the parasites from escaping retribution. Make sure every "i" is dotted, every "t" crossed, parse every ambiguous statement, and make sure to follow even the most absurd rulings of our laws. Go COI!!
  • john John (01/09/2021, 10:38) Like (1) Dislike (13) Reply
    Only whites can break the laws
  • WELL DONT ATTEND (01/09/2021, 11:37) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
    If the COI is practicing illegal and you guys think they need permission to ask questions on good governance, when sent directly from the U.K. ordered by the former governor due to suspicion which right now you cant even hide, trying everything to avoid the COI to continue, go ahead don't attend to the next summons lets see how much ranks you really have!
    • josiah'sbay (01/09/2021, 14:26) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
      It's not about personal ranking It's about respecting the territory and its laws. If you don't attend they will have to prove that you have broken some kind of law or policy and if they can't they won't be able to force you to testify. It's just a matter of legal pursuit which takes time and money. Unfortunately the common man usually don't have enough of either.
  • Thoughtful Sailor (01/09/2021, 13:04) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    It is interesting to see the Speaker get so exercised by paperwork, submitted late, when his COI testimony included him first denying and then dismissing more important paperwork slip ups of his own.
  • Jane (01/09/2021, 13:05) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
    What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The COI f*cked up. These lawyers should have been called, they weren't and frankly they ought not to be given admission now because they have breached this Territory's very clear laws. However, the COI can simply appoint new attorneys to replace them. Those new attorneys should seek admittance as a first step, but the Court will not decline that admission. Once they are properly admitted the COI can continued, unblemished. If the COI does not take those steps them whatever findings it comes up with will be tarnished. Corruption is a crime but so is breach of the Legal Practice Act.
  • PT9 (01/09/2021, 13:06) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    @WELL DONT ATTEND, I couldn't have said it any better.
  • stop (01/09/2021, 13:43) Like (15) Dislike (1) Reply

    .I would think that the AG the local lawyers and judges will understand that they can’t get in the way of the Commission of Inquiry ordered by the UK. Most of the people of the BVI welcome the COI for years we have been ripped off, when I drive on the roads it makes me sick to know that we can do better but there is no control on spending on things we don’t need now, the roads are dangerous with all the potholes I hit one this morning I was lucky not to break anything, our infrastructure is worse than anywhere in the Caribbean I have been and some of those islands are not in as good a position as we are financially. Yes I think it would be a very good idea if the UK will take us over for 2 years and get things moving in the right direction because as long as the UK doesn’t step in the corruption will carry on.
    Turks and Caicos Islands: The move means Britain will take day-to-day control of the island group, a British overseas territory with a population of about 32,000 located in the Atlantic between the southern Bahamas and the north coast of Haiti.
    British authorities said the step was needed to restore good governance and sound management in the territory, which has unspoiled beaches and coral reefs and is striving to become a leading offshore financial center the UK stayed for 2 years to put things in order.


  • Important Question. (01/09/2021, 16:58) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    So tell me what happens to lawyers in England who practice law without being called to the Bar? They sure bet don’t get a tap in the back.

  • Clearly (01/09/2021, 18:04) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    This was clearly an oversite by all parties involved and there was no intentional forethought to break the law.
    This should have been indicated by the AG from the outset but no one thought this was necessary in the first case because of their instruments of appointment. However , now that all angles of attacks have been tried to discredit the COI, this appears to be the only plausible way to impede the COI processes so this has now become the herring bone.
  • Forbidden Truth (01/09/2021, 22:44) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    If it was the people that look like most of the people in the Virgin Islands. The headline would read very different. Bastards.
  • ExPo. (02/09/2021, 13:21) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    All you bloggers are missing the point. I wonder who is really posting these comments. The fact of the matter is it doesn't matter how arrogant the speaker may appeared. Its doesn't matter if he filed his matter incorrectly. what matters here is the respect for the laws of the territory. No person, red or yellow, black or white should be allowed to come to the BVI and trample on the laws of the land. The lawyers are indeed practicing law, some of you all need to get that through you all thick skull and understand what is the meaning of practicing law. The law states that you first must apply and be admitted to practice law in the territory. Failure to do so commits a criminal offence. The AG clearly states that the trio should be admitted to the bar before practicing law. Having said this, how could she then say that she has no objection in them applying to be admitted after belatedly? Are you serious? Three lawyers have clearly committed a criminal act and it is the AG intention to allow them to continue practicing law here? What a mockery to the institution of justice in this territory. I wonder if a lawyer from the islands come here and commit this offence what would be the outcome? If you ask me I think the right thing to do is have those three lawyers barred from practicing law here, reject their application if they apply because they have already committed a criminal offence and blatantly disrespect the laws of the land, then the the commission should be instructed to have them be replaced by three new lawyers only after they have applied and approval given Only the should the COI be continued.. Anything less would make the BVI look like the comedy capital of the Caribbean when it comes to upholding the laws .Here it is the COI main reason is to see if there is wrongdoing transparency good governance and accountability in government and the Commission itself is engaging in wrongdoing breaking the laws of the land and are allowed to continue? I am not a lawyer or a lawman. I am a layman and ordinary resident of this territory. If i can uphold the law for 31 years every person should have a duty to do the same. Where are the voices of the legal minds in the BVI all you learned council vocal local activist? i find that you are all very quiet on this one. This should not be allowed to just be swept under the rug.
  • New UK Lawyers (02/09/2021, 16:52) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    And the first thing we will look at when we arrive is whether or not elected officials who had not registered their interest with government before holding significant contract can correct their error months after through a special sitting of the House of Assembly? Mines was "corrected" but I will not allow them to correct theirs. Has a precedent been set already? Hmmmm?
  • Out Looking In (02/09/2021, 17:20) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I am for accountability, I favour the probing conducted, but it should have been done in accordance with the law. It's unfortunate, that the Attorney General didn't sanction those violating the territory's laws, but then again, the AG is the Chief Law Giver of the state and is at liberty to prosecute or not prosecute. End of the story, let the matter proceed or appeal the fact that by virtue of the error or noncompliance none of the information received to date is valid. Do not be surprised if you are told, that the English Legal System is not mindful about how the evidence was received, but how it's tendered!
  • seeing clearly (02/09/2021, 18:30) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Despite what the AG says or what the Speaker thinks, a Court - one of three perhaps- will have the final say. The Commissioner - a retired judge - thinks that the lawyers are just assisting him in carrying out his duties and as such need not be registered as legal practitioners in the BVI, Whether he thinks they are in fact practising law in their particular roles or not is uncertain. What is certain however, is that the inquiry will continue to the end - with or withoout
    the same legal assistants - and a report will be submitted. The report will most likely not have nice things to say about us - the current and past two administrations, our politicians and some senior civil servants as well. Apart from
    diminishing the character of our beautiful islands we will pay a price -hopefully not very severe- It's all of our own doings; not those of CoI. As it as said "as you make your bed, so you lie in it" or "who the cap fits let him wear it"

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