Junior Barrington Thomas v The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeMr. Justice R. Rahim
Judgment Date26 October 2023
Neutral CitationTT 2023 HC 337
Docket NumberCV2022-03594
CourtHigh Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
Junior Barrington Thomas
The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago

The Honourable Mr. Justice R. Rahim




Claimant: In person.

Defendant: D. Mendes SC, L. Seebaran-Suite SC and A. Mahabir instructed by V. Khadoo.


This is a claim for judicial review of the decision of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) to make a criminal complaint against the claimant. In essence the claimant alleges that the LATT used information which he supplied to them when making his application to be issued a certificate of fitness for admission to the legal profession to destroy his reputation. He asks for a declaration that the LATT acted with malice and in bad faith, illegally, irrationally, unreasonably and in breach of the rule of natural justice when it took the decision to make the complaint to the police without affording him the right to be heard. He seeks an order quashing the decision and damages.

Facts and law

The claimant is a Minister of Religion and a Talk Show Host on current and political affairs. It is his case that he is known in the public space to be very vocal in his criticism of many institutions including the LATT and its then President Ms. Sophia Chote SC and then executive member Ms. Chrystlyn Moore. In her affidavit of evidence, Ms. Chote has set out that she is unaware of any criticisms of herself and Ms. Moore by the claimant prior to this matter. Further, that Moore was not an executive member of the Council of LATT, was not present therefore at the relevant meetings and took no part in the decision to make the complaint to the police. The claimant is also known by the name “Skippy”.


The LATT is a body corporate established by the Legal Profession Act Chap 90:03 ( LPA) with its remit (see section 5) being;

  • (a) to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and proficiency of the legal profession in Trinidad and Tobago;

  • (b) to represent and protect the interests of the legal profession in Trinidad and Tobago;

  • (c) to protect and assist the public in Trinidad and Tobago in all matters relating to the law;

  • (d) to promote good relations within the profession, between the profession and persons concerned in the administration of justice in Trinidad and Tobago and between the profession and the public generally;

  • (e) to promote good relations between the profession and professional bodies of the legal profession in other countries and to participate in the activities of any international association of lawyers and to become a member thereof;

  • (f) to promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law;

  • (g) to do such other things as are incidental or conducive to the achievement of the purposes set out at (a) to (f).


By section 15 of the LPA, a person who makes application to the High Court and satisfies the Court that he—

is eligible to be admitted by the Court to practise as an Attorney-at-law in Trinidad and Tobago.

  • (a) is a Commonwealth citizen or a CARICOM national

  • (b) is of good character, and either

  • (c) holds the qualifications prescribed by law, or

  • (d) is a person in respect of whom an Order has been made under section 15A,


These are however not the only criteria for admission as Section 15(1A) provides;

(1A) Notwithstanding this Act or any other written law to the contrary, a national of Trinidad and Tobago who—

  • (a) has passed the Bar Finals or the Bar Vocational Course at an institution validated by the general Council of the Bar of England and Wales, has been called to the Bar of England and Wales and has completed pupillage of at least six months and is certified as such;

  • (b) has passed the Law Society Finals or the Legal Practice Course at an institution validated by the Law Society of England and Wales and having undertaken articles or a training contract in accordance with the Training Regulations of the Law Society of England and Wales, has been admitted to the roll of Solicitors of the Supreme Court of England and Wales;

  • (c) has passed the Bar Vocational Course at an institution validated by the general Council of the Bar of England and Wales; or

  • (d) has passed the Legal Practice Course at an institution validated by the Law Society of England and Wales; and

  • (e) in the case of persons referred to in paragraphs (c) and (d) has obtained a certificate from the head of chambers of an Attorney-at-law of not less than ten years standing, practising in Trinidad and Tobago to the effect that the national has undergone an attachment at those chambers for a continuous period of not less than six months doing work relating to the practice of Law, is deemed to hold the qualification prescribed by Law and is entitled, subject to the payment of the prescribed fees, to practice as an Attorney-at-law in Trinidad and Tobago.


Finally, section 15(2) provides;

(2) Before any person is admitted as an Attorney-at-law, the Registrar shall enquire whether the person has fulfilled all the conditions for admission laid down by law, and if the Registrar is satisfied that the person has done so, he shall report accordingly to the High Court.


Essentially therefore there are several qualifying criteria for admission to the Bar. It must be noted that section 15A also provides for admission of Commonwealth citizens for individual matters but this section is of no relevance to this matter. The LATT receives applications for certificates of fitness and as long as it is satisfied that the criteria are met, it issues same which is ultimately filed by the applicant together with his Petition for admission before the High Court. In doing same it provides practical assistance to the Registrar of the Supreme Court in the performance of his function under section 15(2) of the LPA. As has happened in the past, in the case where no such certificate has been issued by the LATT, the applicant is free, nonetheless, to file his Petition and must satisfy the court that he has fulfilled the criteria; as to whether he is admitted, is a matter for the court under section 15.


On April 13, 2022 the claimant applied to the LATT for a Certificate of Fitness (COF). By May 12, 2022, no such certificate having been issued, the claimant filed a Petition in the High Court to be admitted to practice law. The LATT applied and was granted permission to be joined as an interested party. Eventually the Petition was dismissed according to the claimant, he having accepted that the diploma from Colston University was not recognized so as to qualify him for admission under the LPA. The evidence is that this admission was made by his Attorney at Law in open court.

Context of the application for the certificate of fitness

While it is not within the remit of this court to determine the issue of veracity of the information in possession of the LATT at the relevant time, the information is important to this decision as it provides context in relation to the steps taken by the LATT. In examining the documents submitted by the claimant for the purpose of determining whether he met the criteria for the issuance of such a certificate, enquires were made into the issuance of his post graduate diploma in legal practice from Colston University as the LATT was in possession of a list of accredited universities from the Solicitor's Regulatory Authority of the UK but Colston was not listed as one such university. The enquiries revealed the following;

  • a. LATT's records for 2015 to 2017 showed that there were no applications for Certificates of Fitness made whereby a Colston University's Certificate was relied on.

  • b. The Office for Students has an OFS Register and Colston University is not included in the Register.

  • c. Colston University is not on the Prospect Hedd's website which offers the degree.

  • d. Certification dating as far back as 1990 and predating the OFS Register.

  • e. The Chairman of the General Council of the Bar (UK) could not assist in ascertaining the authenticity of Colston University.

  • f. Colston University is not on the Bar Standard's Board's records.

  • g. Colston University did not appear on the List of Authorized Education & Training Providers — Vocational Bar Training.


The LATT was also in possession of information from Richard Jones, Engagement Manager (Wales) of the Law Society, who advised as follows;

  • (a) Upon conducting research on Colston University, having used open-source information at the United Kingdom's Government's Companies House, it was discovered that the records do not contain any details of Colston University, or any charities associated with them.

  • (b) The Twitter page (@ColstonUnivers1) appears on the face of it to be a made-up institution and photographs used on the Twitter page are stock photographs.

  • (c) The Twitter page refers to Coronavirus information issued by the Welsh Government, but Colston University alludes to being based in London.

  • (d) In the United Kingdom, the vast majority of academic institutions use an academic suffix “.ac.uk” for their email addresses and there is no “Colston.ac.uk”.

  • (e) In his opinion, having been a qualified document examiner with the UK Home Office, the certificate that was provided to LATT (albeit a low resolution black and white scan) appears to be counterfeit.


The LATT also reverted to the claimant in processing the application which at that time took approximately ten business days to complete. All pending applications including that of the claimant was placed before the Executive of the LATT for review and approval on May 3, 2022. The then President of the LATT raised a concern over issuing the certificate, given that she was aware that the claimant had previous criminal convictions. Further checks were therefore ordered.


By email dated May 10, 2022, Attorney for the...

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