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(CMC) – The London-based Privy Council Wednesday reserved judgement in a matter involving a former member of the left-wing Grenada Revolutionary Government (PRG) that ruled Grenada from 1979-83.
Ewart Layne is asking the Privy Council, Grenada’s highest court, to determine whether the Court of Appeal erred in holding that a High Court judge did not wrongly exercise her discretion under section 17(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act 2011 in refusing to admit him to practise as an attorney at law on account of his conviction for murder.
Having acquired the necessary education qualifications prescribed by law, the appellant, pursuant to section 17 of the Legal Profession Act 2011, filed a fixed-date claim in the Supreme Court of Grenada seeking admission to practise as an attorney at law.
The Supreme Court of Grenada considered whether the appellant met the good character requirement and Justice Margaret Pryce-Finlay in December 2013, refused the application on the basis that the appellant’s conviction for murder would damage the public reputation of the legal profession.
The Court of Appeal in June 2015 upheld the decision of the judge.
But the attorneys for Layne, who served as deputy defence minister and operational commander of the PRG, argue that the judge applied the wrong test to determine “good character” which in effect barred Layne from being able to practice law in Grenada.
Layne was among 16 other former PRG members sentenced to jail for the murder of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and seven other members of his cabinet.
While incarcerated, Layne earned both a Bachelor’s and Masters of Law Degrees with honours as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting with first class honours.
After his conviction was overturned and he was released, Layne went on to Hugh Wooding School in Trinidad and Tobago graduating in 2013 with the award for the most outstanding student. He also received the prize from the Grenada Bar Association for being the top performing Grenadian student that year.
Attorney, Edward Fitzgerald, who represented Layne ‘pro bono’ during his submission on Wednesday, also argued that Justice Pryce-Finlay misapplied the law and several authorities. He said she misapplied and misinterpreted the legal principles coming out of precedence cases namely in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Wednesday’s hearing at the Privy Council was presided over by Justices Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lady Black and Lady Arden.
Layne’s legal team included the former president of the OECS Bar Association Ruggles Ferguson and former Attorney General of Grenada Cajeton Hood.
The court session was also attended by former PRG minister, Selwyn Strachan, an attorney, who was among the first of the so-called “Grenada -17” to apply to practice law in Grenada.
His application was turned down, but he appealed to the Privy Council which overturned the ruling of the Grenada court in what was then described as a landmark case and Strachan was later admitted to the local Bar.
In the 2014 ruling the court said “…a failure to appreciate and take into account that the political background to the convictions and the manner in which they were obtained is an integral part of the circumstances that make this case exceptional.”