Lawyers to fight requirement to report financial crimes
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
The Jamaican Bar Association (JBA) has filed a claim in the Supreme Court challenging the amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act, which compels lawyers to report instances of financial crimes in dealings with clients.
Next week Friday, the JBA will apply for an injunction to stop the implementation of the requirements under the act until its case has been heard by the Constitutional Court.
The JBA has raised strong objections to the order in the amended Financial Investigation Division Act and the Proceeds of Crime Act.
In its claim, the JBA contends that the new requirements will damage the rights of the citizens of Jamaica to an independent legal profession and impact adversely on fundamental principles of justice.
The JBA claims that the requirement for lawyers to store and provide information on clients is a threat to the independence of the Bar and, ultimately, the judiciary.
JBA President Donovan Walker has said that any threat can lead to the unravelling of any system of justice resulting in anarchy, tyranny and a breach of democracy.
In an email updating JBA members of the challenge on Wednesday, Walker noted that the entitlement for government authorities to examine attorneys' files facilitates state access to information, which breaches attorney-client confidentiality.
Walker said the destruction and damage to legal professional privilege through requirements such as forcing lawyers to store and secure information is not proportionate to what he calls the mischief that the law is aimed at getting rid of. He has given the assurance that the JBA will vigorously defend the rights of citizens and the legal profession to ensure its independence.
An 11-member legal team headed by Queen's Counsel R.N.A. Henriques is representing the JBA.
The defendants are the attorney general and the General Legal Council.
Other professions affected by the new requirements under the act include public accountants and real-estate dealers, as well as casino and gaming machine operators.