(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – ACSEAL (The Association of Caribbean Students for Equal Access to the Legal Profession), in its thrust to highlight the unfair admission policies administered by the Law Schools throughout CARICOM, notes with interest the ‘Findings and Recommendations’ contained in the ‘Final Report on Legal Education in CARICOM Member States’ prepared by the IMPACT Justice Project, funded by the Government of Canada.
The broad objectives of the Report were to consider: the status and relevance of the current legal education system; the extent to which it meets the needs of the respective Commonwealth Caribbean societies; and concerns of discrimination in access to legal education and by extension, the legal profession.
The Report culminated in proposing recommendations ultimately designed to improve access to justice for all citizens of the region. ACSEAL and its growing regional partners are impressed by the research and recommendations made in the Report as it is suggestive of positive change regarding the now systemic and institutionalised problem of ‘Discrimination in Legal Education and Access to the Legal Profession’.
This issue continues to directly affect thousands of students throughout CARICOM and impedes the further development of our Legal Systems and society. Some of the noteworthy ‘Findings and Recommendations’ of the Report include: the establishment of the UTech Law School in Jamaica, as well as Law Schools in Guyana and Antigua; the abolition of the preference-based admission policy at the regional Law Schools which presently grants automatic entry exclusively to University of the West Indies (UWI) law graduates; recognition of students’ concerns of the lack of transparency and accountability in the Council of Legal Education (CLE) Annual Entrance Examination; the abolition of the CLE Entrance Examination in its current form; and the reconstitution and reorganisation of the CLE. In addressing the issue at a ‘Live Social Media Interactive Session’ in July 2017, hosted by the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors in Grenada, CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador LaRocque’s tone suggested that he is a progressive leader who is committed to justice and the responsibilities due of his office.
While the Secretary General’s comment that: “…the admission policy of the Council of Legal Education in giving priority to UWI students is discriminatory and ought to be addressed…” is consistent with ACSEAL’s position on the matter, we submit that it is imperative that the matter be addressed by the CARICOM Heads of Government and the CARICOM Secretariat, sooner rather than later.
In our respectful view, this matter remains one of urgent public interest bearing significant Constitutional and Human Rights implications. To this end, we will relentlessly continue our efforts to ensure that all CARICOM citizens have equal opportunity to access legal education and the legal profession.
We remain sensitive to the fact that thousands of students/citizens throughout CARICOM are becoming increasingly agitated and disenfranchised by this injustice, and so it is imperative that our leaders approach this matter with urgency and diligence required for a speedy and sustainable resolution of this matter. We look forward to further dialogue with the Ambassador LaRocque, the Legal Affairs Committee of CARICOM, and all relevant stakeholders with the aim of having this issue raised and duly addressed at the upcoming July 2018 CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Jamaica.