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26 years in prison for murder – “good character” enough for entry to the legal profession?

Tim Nesbitt QC in the Privy Council on appeal from a decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in relation to the test of “good character” for entry to the legal profession.

Tim has been appearing today (on instructions from Simons Muirhead & Burton) in the Privy Council on an appeal from a decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, upholding the denial of admission of someone to the Bar of Grenada.

The background to the case, which is very high profile in the Caribbean, is the Grenada Revolution of 1983, and specifically the conviction of 17 Defendants, known as the “Grenada 17” of the murder of the then Prime Minister and nine others in the course of a civil war.

Tim’s client, Ewart Layne, was one of the 17 convicted of the murders and was initially sentenced to death. The convictions have been the subject of huge international controversy and the death sentences were later set aside by the Privy Council in 2007.

Having served 26 years in prison in 2012, Mr Layne was released from prison.

Whilst in prison, he successful took three law degrees, and was a generally exemplary prisoner, and has been recognised as a completely rehabilitated person.

On release, having obtained the academic qualifications to do so, he has sought admission to practice at the Bar of Grenada, but the Supreme Court of Grenada has denied him admission.

The case turns on the question of whether Mr Ewart can now be regarded as a man of “good character”, which is the test for admissibility, and raises fundamental legal questions about the nature of rehabilitation and the expectations of the law in relation to the character of professionals.

The Privy Council (Lord Sumption, Lord Wilson, Lady Black, Lady Arden and Lord Kerr) have reserved judgment.

News 24 Oct, 2018

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