By Theresa Goodwin
The Attorney General (AG) says he fully supports the legal fraternity’s call for the establishment of a Public Defenders Office in honour of veteran Attorney John Fuller who died on September 28th.
On Sunday, AG Steadroy Benjamin told our newsroom that the government sees the establishment of the department as something that is very critical.
He said the administration wants to ensure that every man or woman who appears before the court has access to good representation in either criminal or civil matters, regardless of their financial capabilities.
Benjamin said the matter was first discussed last year and while it has not yet been implemented, it will be done soonest.
Attorney-at-Law Adlai Smith made the call on Friday during a special sitting held to commemorate the life of the beloved legal luminary.
Fuller’s colleagues have noted that over the years he has sought justice for several of his clients, whether or not they could afford the legal fees.
Smith said Friday, that the set-up of such a department would be a befitting tribute bearing in minds Fuller represented people of all classes.
“Establish a Public Defenders Department to look out for the needs of the poor who have nobody to defend them in this country, especially since we have lost Ralph [Francis] and now John and when we do have the building, name the building in his honour because that is what John Fuller stood for,” Smith said.
Meantime, the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association, who spoke at the same forum, expressed concern about what he has termed a shortage of criminal lawyers in the country.
Lenworth Johnson explained that more professionals are shying away from practicing criminal law, a matter which the body will be looking into.
“We accept that we would have to conduct some sort of study or investigation to formally establish the reasons why newly called and other private attorneys are not taking up the mantle in the criminal field and make practical recommendations to remedy the situation,”
He said the body will do this in memory of John Fuller.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Armstrong also addressed Friday’s special sitting. He said the late Fuller loved life and was also a prankster and a friend to many.
Fuller was laid to rest last Thursday following a virtual funeral service.