Effect of delay by Attorneys disciplinary body
Law Report by Mark James Morgan, Attorney-at-Law
Before Lords Hope of Craighead, Scott of Foscote, Baroness
Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood &
Sir Swindon Thomas
Appeal 73 of 2001; Wilston Campbell v- Davida Hamlet
(executrix of Simon Alexander)
Judgment dated April 25, 2005
In February 1987, Simon Alexander made a complaint of professional
misconduct to the Attorneys Disciplinary Committee against
Mr Campbell, a lawyer, claiming that he had paid Mr Campbell
$29,400 for the purchase of some land but that the lawyer
had neither conveyed the land nor returned the purchase price
Hearing on preliminary issues began in November 1987 and on
the substantive issue in February 1988. The hearing lasted
ten days stretched over a ten-month period ending on December
6, 1988 when there was a final adjournment for attorneys
Eight years later on October 29, 1996 the committee produced
its findings and records in which it found the allegations
of professional misconduct substantiated and ordered Mr Campbell
to repay Mr Alexander the $29,400 with interest from the date
of the Order together with costs.
His appeal to the Court of Appeal having been dismissed, Mr
Campbell appealed to the Privy Council claiming (for the first
time) that the committees eight-year delay was manifestly
unfair to him and led to deficiencies in its judgment.
The Privy Council indicated that there could be cases where
a delay might so adversely affect the quality of a decision
that it could no longer be allowed to stand, for example where
the judges ability to deal properly with the issues
had been compromised because his recollection of important
matters was no longer sufficiently clear or if his notes had
However in this case the committees ability to decide
the case was not compromised; it had transcripts of all the
evidence and it was well able to provide a reasoned decision
in reliance upon them.
The Privy Council further observed that on the contrary it
was the lawyer who benefitted from the delay since though
the evidence against him was overwhelming and the complaint
was likely to be found proved, he was able to retain and make
use of the disputed monies over the eight-year period.
That the only injustice caused by the committees delay
was to Mr Alexander who never lived to see the money repaid
and whose estate had yet to receive it.
The appeal was accordingly dismissed.
Mr Beharrylal for Mr Campbell.
The Privy Council was harsh in its criticism of the committees
delay in giving the judgment which it described as deplorable,
highly reprehensible and unforgivable.
They were also highly critical of the committees leniency
when judgment was eventually given, indeed, so far from the
appellant being penalised for his professional misconduct,
all that was ordered was that he should at last refund the
respondents monies, with no back interest at all, merely
interest from that day forward until payment.
sanction whatever was imposed upon the appellant despite Parliaments
apparent assumption, implicit in section 39 (1) of the 1986
Act, that an attorney found guilty of professional misconduct
should be fined or reprimanded besides being ordered to pay
costs and any relevant compensation.
The committee is made up only of lawyers.