By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson yesterday raised concern that three Cabinet ministers were handpicked by Prime Minister Perry Christie to carry the honour of Queen’s Counsel.
Mr Johnson added that he found it “surprising” that only one woman has been appointed by Mr Christie so far, while several women who have been called to the bar stand qualified to have the initials “QC” behind their surnames and enjoy the rights and privileges of the Inner Bar.
He told The Tribune there was an urgent need for QC selections to be left at the discretion of an independent panel.
Until this happens, Mr Johnson said QC appointments in the Bahamas would spark speculation that the honour is mainly bestowed upon staunch political party supporters.
“I’d like to congratulate all of the persons who were made QCs,” he said. “I think it is quite an accomplishment because the office is for those who have distinguished themselves among their colleagues.
“That being said, I would like to echo the sentiments of previous bar presidents in saying there is an urgent need for reform of the process. In that the process has been by political influence and this is not endemic to the Bahamas.
“In the United Kingdom (UK), the system where we adapted this from, in 2003 they stopped giving QC titles because of secret soundings or the appearance that the entire thing seemed to be just an old boys club.
“I think as long as we have the process where the prime minister is solely responsible, there will always be people saying the appointments are for cronies.”
He noted that in the UK it was customary for the attorney general to receive the honour of QC.
Mr Johnson suggested that the government should consider whether the Bahamas should step away from appointing QCs and form its own legal honour system.
On Tuesday, the government announced 11 new QC appointments. They included Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson and State Legal Affairs Minister Damian Gomez.
Lawyers Neville Smith, Wayne Munroe, Anthony McKinney, Elliot Lockhart, Lester Mortimer, Maurice Glinton, FNM Senator Carl Bethel and former PLP Attorney General Alfred Sears were also appointed.
The announcement attracted criticism from Mr Munroe who called for the QC process to be free from “political interference.”
He said: “With the appointment in mind I believe that we need to move to a different system. The prime minister should not drive it. The element of politics needs to be removed completely.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie is expected to select additional QCs in the near future.