AG says COI attorneys must be admitted to practise regulation 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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