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Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Association defends and supports Cara Shillingford

STATEMENT BY THE ORGANIZATION OF COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN
BAR ASSOCIATIONS (OCCBA).

The Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) takes note
of recent media reports from the Commonwealth of Dominica arising out of the recent
Judgment of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on 22nd April 2024 in the Constitutional claim of BG vs. The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Dominica (et al).

The constitutional claim was filed by two members of the Dominica Bar on behalf of a
member of the LGBTQ community who challenged the laws of buggery in Dominica which
criminalizes homosexual activity. These claims were filed on behalf of the claimant by
Attorneys-at-Law Ms. Cara Shillingford and Mr. Wayne Benjamin Marsh (“the Attorneys”).
In its Judgment, the court felt it important to highlight at the outset that the “…case was
not about whether the actions, choices, lifestyle, or otherwise of the claimant are right or
otherwise but is solely to determine whether certain rights guaranteed to every citizen of
Dominica, by the Constitution of Dominica, has been infringed…” We adopt this preface as
regards this statement as our statement is not to be read as supporting/opposing the actions, choices, lifestyle, or otherwise of the claimant.

Since the delivery of judgment, Ms. Shillingford has been placed in the unfortunate
position of having to defend her decision to represent the claimant. There have even been social media posts imputing improper motives against Ms. Shillingford for filing the constitutional motion.
Ms. Shillingford in a recent radio interview is quoted as saying “…it is her responsibility to represent her clients to the best of her ability and, this is something, that she must do regardless of the client’s race, political opinion, place of origin, nationality, sexual
orientation, and gender…”. Ms. Shillingford further states that “…Now, it would have been
easy for me to say, Oh I am not interested in this case and let another lawyer take it on.
However, the danger of taking on this approach and being a coward, shying away from doing something that I believe is correct is that if every lawyer in Dominica decides not to take on unpopular cases, not to file constitutional challenges, not to challenge those in power or the status quo, then things will simply remain as they are… The Constitution will just be a piece of paper with words. So as an attorney at law, I have a responsibility to do what I think is right even though that decision might be unpopular. I believe that the laws which were recently struck down were unconstitutional and violated the human rights of persons…”.

In the above circumstances, OCCBA strongly supports and lends its collective voice to
the principled stance taken by the Attorneys who were and are undertaking their sworn oath to serve and uphold the justice system. Attorneys in the Caribbean have taken and continue to take cases that are considered to be unpopular but which result in the identification and clarification of high constitutional principles. This is a tradition that these two attorneys have upheld with courage.

Valuable lessons for the Commonwealth Caribbean Attorney and citizenry this case reminds us of the continuing need to sensitize our society, and the public on the Constitution and the rights and obligations falling thereunder. Also, in furtherance of the ethics of the legal profession, that undergirds our profession in the Commonwealth Caribbean, we must remember that the Attorneys must make their legal services fully available and should not lightly decline a proffered retainer.

Further, an Attorney-at-Law shall not be deterred from representing a client owing to
public sentiment or dislike of a claimant or an issue, owing to the rebuke or criticism of public officials including the church or state, or the disapproval of fellow Attorneys-at-Law and the public.
The overarching goal of the Attorneys in this case was the pursuit of justice and the
defense of constitutional rights and human rights for their client. Continue to be vigilant OCCBA further urges other civic bodies to boldly take a stand vigilant in support of the protection of Constitutional rights and the preservation of the Rule of Law. OCCBA commends the Dominica Bar Association (DBA) and their unqualified support of the Attorneys.
OCCBA urges the DBA and other Bar Associations in the region to continue to
jealously protect the constitution, safeguard the rule of law, and speak out on issues impacting human rights and the administration of justice.
Finally, it will serve us all well to remember the famous words (written in a jail cell) of
Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – “… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice
everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment
of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…”.

ORGANIZATION OF COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN BAR ASSOCIATIONS Per:- DONOVAN C. WALKER – PRESIDENT
CONTACT:- dcwalker@hmf.com.jm.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Good education for a certain segment of our population who think that they, and they alone, have a monopoly on “rights.”

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