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Attorney Michael J. Fay QC writes to CoI about its lawyers practising illegally in VI

- said arrogance evidenced by failure of CoI lawyers to seek admission to BVI Bar is breath-taking
Former Deputy High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and Queen’s Counsel Mr Michael J. Fay, right, has written a letter of complaint to Secretary to the United Kingdom sponsored Commission of Inquiry in the Virgin Islands, Steven Chandler, left, over its lawyers breaching the Legal Professions Act, 2015. Photo: AgonBVI.com/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
Commissioner of the CoI, Mr Gary R. Hickinbottom had said the CoI lawyers were not required to be admitted to the BVI Bar in order to carry out their duties; however, he directed them to make an application to be admitted. Photo: VINO/File
Commissioner of the CoI, Mr Gary R. Hickinbottom had said the CoI lawyers were not required to be admitted to the BVI Bar in order to carry out their duties; however, he directed them to make an application to be admitted. Photo: VINO/File
House of Assembly Speaker Hon Julian Willock, right, and the Deputy Speaker of the HoA, Hon Neville A. Smith (AL), left, have objected to the applications of the CoI lawyers to be admitted to the BVI Bar on the basis that the Applicants have been practising law in the Virgin Islands since March 2021, in breach of the Legal Profession Act, 2015. Photo: GIS/File
House of Assembly Speaker Hon Julian Willock, right, and the Deputy Speaker of the HoA, Hon Neville A. Smith (AL), left, have objected to the applications of the CoI lawyers to be admitted to the BVI Bar on the basis that the Applicants have been practising law in the Virgin Islands since March 2021, in breach of the Legal Profession Act, 2015. Photo: GIS/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Former Deputy High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and Queen’s Counsel Mr Michael J. Fay is just one of the legal minds in the Virgin Islands (VI) who have declared that the lawyers working with the United Kingdom (UK) sponsored Commission of Inquiry in the VI are doing so illegally, having not been called to the BVI Bar.

Criminal offence

Mr Fay, of ABVI Law, is also of the view that the lawyers should not be made to continue practicing law in the VI, having already breached the Legal Profession Act, 2015, which is a criminal offense and makes them each liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand dollars and to a further fine of one thousand dollars for every day on which the offense continues after the conviction of the person.

The Queen’s Counsel, who was admitted to the BVI Bar since 1996 and is a former Vice-President of the BVI Bar Association, formally lodged a complaint regarding the issues to the CoI via a letter to CoI Secretary Steven Chandler since June 23, 2021.

According to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by our newsroom, the CoI lawyers appear to be practising law in the Virgin Islands and are doing so in breach of sections 15 and 18 of the Legal Profession Act, 2015.

CoI trio ‘wilfully pretending to be legal practitioners’

He said the CoI lawyers, namely Bilal M. Rawat, Andrew King and Rhea Harrikissoon, appear to be willfully pretending to be legal practitioners and that they appear to make use of the words Counsel and Solicitor so as to imply that they are entitled to be recognised or to act as legal practitioners.

When the law firm representing House of Assembly Members who are not ministers, Silk Legal, during a CoI hearing in June 2021, had asked Commissioner of the CoI, Mr Gary R. Hickinbottom, whether his legal team had been admitted to the BVI Bar to practice law in the VI in keeping with Section 18 of the Legal Profession Act, 2015, Hickinbottom said the lawyers were not required to be admitted to the BVI Bar in order to carry out their duties for the CoI.

The Commissioner; however, directed that the three lawyers make an application to be admitted to the BVI Bar. King and Harrikissoon subsequently filed an application to be admitted to the Bar.

Lawyers continued working for CoI despite in breach

In Mr Fay’s letter to the CoI, he highlighted that despite the breach of the Legal Profession Act being notified to the CoI lawyers and the CoI at a hearing on June 14, 2021, all three CoI Lawyers appeared to have continued to practise law in the territory, “to have continued to willfully pretend to be legal practitioners, and/or to have made use of the words Counsel and Solicitor so as to imply that they are entitled to be recognised or to act as legal practitioners.”

He noted that King and Harrikissoon made an urgent application on June 15, 2021, to be admitted to the BVI Bar, but continued to act pending the hearing of the application.

‘Arrogance’ by lawyers ‘breathtaking’- Fay

Further, Mr Fay said he was “very surprised” to learn, that as later as June 24, 2021, the CoI lawyers were not admitted to the BVI Bar.

“I have practised in the Territory since 1996 and have observed innumerable English qualified lawyers come to the Territory to practise – whether on a permanent basis or for the purposes of a single case. On no occasion do I recall such a lawyer attempting to practise here without firstly being admitted. It is unfathomable to me that an English lawyer would come to the Territory and commence practise here without firstly being admitted to the Roll in the Territory.

“The arrogance evidenced by the failure of the CoI lawyers to seek admission to the Roll is breath-taking.”

CoI should treat concerns with ‘urgency’

Mr Fay told the CoI Secretary that he hopes the Commission is as concerned as he is about the facts giving rise to his complaint, and that he will take appropriate steps to ensure that the CoI is no longer tainted by the conduct of the lawyers in breach of the Legal Profession Act.

“You will appreciate that given the likely continuing breach of the LPA, and the consequent likely continuing criminal activity by the CoI lawyers, there is some urgency in dealing with this complaint.

“I trust that you will agree with the learned Judge in Summer Fame that breaches of the LPA [Legal Professions Act] are serious, and that they affect the administration of justice in this Territory. In the particular circumstances of the appointment of the CoI, and the remit of its inquiry, the question of whether its lawyers are in breach of sections 15 and 18 of the LPA is very concerning. No doubt you will consider whether you and/or the Commissioner should be reporting the prima facie breaches to the DPP and/or the Chief of Police,” Mr Fay stated.

CoI resumes hearing Sept 6, 2021

Meanwhile, as soon as the lawyers filed an application to be admitted to the BVI Bar, House of Assembly Speaker Hon Julian Willock and the Deputy Speaker of the HoA, Hon Neville A. Smith (AL) objected to their applications on the basis that the Applicants have been practising law in the Virgin Islands since March 2021, in breach of the Legal Profession Act, 2015.

The CoI, in their arguments against the objection, raised the issue as to whether the Speaker and Deputy Speaker had standing to make an objection; however, the High Court ruled they did have standing and adjourned the matter to October 26, 2021.

The Commission has since announced it will be resuming its hearings on September 6, 2021, but refused to state whether the lawyers in question will continue to work for the CoI.

35 Responses to “Attorney Michael J. Fay QC writes to CoI about its lawyers practising illegally in VI”

  • rattie (30/08/2021, 17:37) Like (26) Dislike (42) Reply
    A set of criminals trying to judge the people of the bvi

    This is enough to shut down the coi
    • @rattie (30/08/2021, 19:00) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
      Isn't that the aim? Just shut it down everything will go away.
    • Rubber Duck (30/08/2021, 20:56) Like (21) Dislike (4) Reply
      It is not illegal to describe your self as Counsel. It is not illegal to describe yourself as a Solicitor. Both words have many meanings outside the legal profession. Neither have I heard any of these people describe themselves as such.

      And many persons carry out legal work without being admitted to the bar of the BVI.
      • @ rubber duck (30/08/2021, 21:24) Like (6) Dislike (21) Reply
        You racist is that your defense?
      • @rubber duck (31/08/2021, 07:15) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
        Perhaps you should read the LPA - there are specific offencesthat prohibits somebody not admitted to the bar from calling themselves a solicitor or a barrister. section 1 and section 18.
      • @ rubber duck (01/09/2021, 06:19) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        So true...classic case in police prosecutors at the magistrate court. Are they called to the bar? What's about the many other legal work done by bailiffs, police officers, law enforcement officers etc, are they called to the bar?
  • NezRez (30/08/2021, 17:38) Like (11) Dislike (25) Reply
    This is more than arrogance. This is illegal and they should be fined with the highest amount possible. When they were sent down here, you mean that the higher ups did not know they had to be registeted here first? Since they are illegally practicing, we do not have
  • IFS (30/08/2021, 17:39) Like (18) Dislike (2) Reply
    If application was made in June, although I don't not know the workings of this organization, however, two and a half months later I think is ample time for the matter to be considered, or are there sinister forces at work here? How often are people admitted to the Bar once a year.
  • NezRez (30/08/2021, 17:41) Like (13) Dislike (14) Reply
    We do not have to answer any of their questions.
    • Drowning (30/08/2021, 20:52) Like (14) Dislike (2) Reply
      He has to do something for his pay. Aint like anything going to change..
  • lodger (30/08/2021, 17:57) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    So why did it take him so long to make a complaint?
    • GTFOH (30/08/2021, 19:25) Like (9) Dislike (21) Reply
      They did complain but the commissioner basically just brushed it off as it he was bigger than BVI law because he from the UK. We have a lot of idiots here that think that white is right. Foreigner is better. People need to pick a side. You cant be against corruption while selectively choosing when to speak out about wrongdoing. What the members of the COI team has done is the equivalent of the same stuff they has shined the spotlight on during the last few months. Imagine if the COI found out that the AG was practicing law without being admitted to the BAR. This wouldn't just be a simple case of applying to the Bar and all is forgotten.
  • They are investigators (30/08/2021, 19:03) Like (26) Dislike (2) Reply
    These men are investigators first: they just happen to be lawyers: get that into your skulls: they are here at the invitation of the Governor. The COI is not a court. When they make their recommendations then their job ends.
  • priest (30/08/2021, 19:04) Like (10) Dislike (2) Reply
    Where were these so-called voices when the BVI needed them? Are they truly interested in the people of this territory? Who or what are they protecting?
  • Me (30/08/2021, 19:08) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    So where does the Attorney General fall in all this? Wasn't she the one to advise the Commissioner of Inquiry Sir Gary on how to proceed? Things that make you go hmmm!!
  • FREE SERVICE (30/08/2021, 19:56) Like (29) Dislike (1) Reply
    We’re getting a FREE audit to better ourselves. Any resistance should be considered highly suspicious!
  • Alterior motive (30/08/2021, 20:06) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
    Watch where Mr Fay goes next.

    While not ideal this really does pale in comparison to the alleged corruption.
    • @ulterior motive (31/08/2021, 16:44) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
      Mr Fay has the best interest of the local community at heart sincerely. Unlike some other people.
  • stop (30/08/2021, 20:23) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Michael J. Fay doesn't have the last say in this matter., What about Andrew Fahie lawyers?
  • one eye (30/08/2021, 21:27) Like (2) Dislike (18) Reply
    So how can you people defend the white man breaking the laws engaging in criminal acts?
  • ta ta (30/08/2021, 22:09) Like (2) Dislike (22) Reply
    There is one rule for whites and the other for blacks this coi cannot be justice

    Let’s March let freedom rain
  • ITS HOLLYWOOD (30/08/2021, 23:11) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
    ALL OVER AGAIN , RIGHT ON OUR OWN BACKYARD ( LIVE AND DIRECT *
  • Beware (31/08/2021, 04:22) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    Malignant narcissists engage in diversionary tactics that distort the reality and deflect responsibility.
  • Young concerned citizen (31/08/2021, 07:17) Like (17) Dislike (0) Reply
    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.
    • josiah'sbay (31/08/2021, 09:23) Like (0) Dislike (4) Reply
      @Young concerned citizen: How did they get to activate the COI. Wasn't it by the use of some archaic law from the pass. They recognize that the law was still on the books and could be legally used? They play dirty but within the bounds of legality. Why shouldn't we given the same opportunity within the legal frame work?
  • Black People Wake Up (31/08/2021, 07:34) Like (3) Dislike (20) Reply
    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.
    • @Black People Wake Up (31/08/2021, 09:11) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      Same-sex marriage is a human rights and equality question. If two consenting adults wish to bind themselves in civil marriage then who are you to pass moral judgment on them? If you believe that such a relationship is against the rule of (your) deity then that god will no doubt take retribution against those persons when judgment day comes. You are a human, are you without sin? Should you cast that first stone? Stay in your lane and focus on your own conduct.

      You realise that the blond-haired blue-eyed Jesus is a myth, that he was ethnically from the middle-east with dark live skin, dark hair, brown eyes? You realise that the Bible was written and re-written and manipulated by men (not Jesus) hundreds of years after Jesus lived? You realise that Christianity was used as a tool to oppress black people, to oppress woman, to oppress Jews, to oppress lesbian and gay people? You should wake up and believe in love as a greater power than hate.
      • Observer (01/09/2021, 06:39) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
        Well said. Not because something is legal means that we have to engage in its behaviour or because it's illegal that it is wrong. Smoking for example is legal but not every one smoke. It's a personal choice.

        Too much hatred and discrimination for and against the LBGT community but a lot of 'other sins' goes unnoticed.
  • @Black people wake up or something like that (31/08/2021, 08:08) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    Are you human!
  • Arrogance (31/08/2021, 11:09) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
    I’d say the reason they were so arrogant is because they’re condescending of the VI, it’s people and it’s laws. They came to attack and so why should they be the ones jumping through hoops. I hope the court deals with them accordingly without favoritism.

    The time for being nice is over when someone threatens you with unfair practices.
  • pt109 (31/08/2021, 13:12) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    @Black People Wake Up , All of this energy to write crap you must be on the payroll.
  • captain flint (31/08/2021, 15:38) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Sounds like sour grapes to me that he was not hired as the lawyer.
  • Lillian (01/09/2021, 15:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    so many things ilegal in this place really haahahhaaa


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