Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Regulation and Supervision of Lawyers

There is little doubt that the item that is dominating the news is recent events surrounding the law firm of Marrache & Co and the suspension of its two principals Isaac and Benjamin Marrache. It is important to respect the individual rights of both of them and also the companies involved and allow due process to take its course.

It is evident from these recent events, however and irrespective of the outcome of that specific matter, that Gibraltar's legal profession has to be dragged in the field of regulation and supervision into the 21st century . The regulatory and supervisory systems (such as they are) presently in place are antiquated and inadequate. Discipline over the profession is exercised by the Chief Justice. No doubt the right steps will be taken now and improved systems put in place.The danger is that there will be an overreaction that will precipitate the implementation of a system that will undermine the basic principle that the legal profession should be seen to be and be independent of government.

Lawyers are officers of the court and so, not only do they owe a duty to do the best by their clients as instructed (within and subject to carefully developed rules), they also need to take care that justice is done. Overpowering regulation and supervision that is not independent of government will undermine civil rights. This would be a major retrograde that would impede access to a fair system of justice.

Lawyers must remain vigilant, cautious and united to ensure that they safeguard their independence, yet do not do so at the expense of an improved regulatory and supervisory regime.


  1. While I agree with the overall tone of your article, it is certainly regretable that no one has advocated for the Gibraltar Bar Council to be placced in the statute book so as to allow the diciplinary codes of both the law society and the Bar Council of England and Wales to be enforced by an independant body and not the Chief Justice.

  2. In all fairness, putting the Gibraltar Bar Council on a statutory footing has been discussed and mooted for years. David Dumas QC, its Chairman, in his speech at the Ceremonial Opening of the year 2009, made this known publicly.

    Transferring disciplinary power to the Bar Council is not necessary the solution and without that there is no basis for making it a statutory body. The legal profession in Gibraltar may be too small to regulate and supervise itself. The solution should possibly centre around importing external supervision and regulation from the relevant bodies in England and Wales, were they to be agreeable to offering those services (at a cost) to Gibraltar.

  3. Fred says:

    You wrote: "...were they to be agreeable to offering those services (at a cost)...", you should have added "to the lawyers" after the word "cost".

    Gibraltarians are sick to the back teeth of the "barristocracy" that dominates politics and so much else in Gibraltar; the lawyers can pay for their little games and not expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab.

    What really impedes access to a fair system of justice is not only that in Gibraltar the system is dominated by the Executive and the attendant "elites", but also the fact that access is only available to those who can afford it.

    At present we do not know who to hold in greater contempt: lawyers, financiers or property developers.

  4. Of course to the lawyers ... its a matter of self-regulation.