Call for lawyer to be fully investigated

An English lawyer with ties to Grenada is putting together the final touches to her papers to send to the relevant legal authorities in Grenada to investigate female attorney-at-law, Venescia Francis-Banfield with a view to seeking her dismissal from the profession.

Jacqueline Mc Kenzie confirmed to THE NEW TODAY that an official complaint will definitely be filed with the newly created Legal Council that is expected to deal with complaints from the public about the conduct of lawyers.

“We are putting together a complaint but plan to send it to the Secretariat for the new Legal Council and copy it to the Bar (Association). I understand the Bar (Association) is weak when it comes to tackling its own.  Don’t know if this is true but this is what I am told”, she remarked to this newspaper.

“We will be sending our complaint in the next few days.  This woman (Francis-Banfield) really should not be allowed to continue in practice and I just hope the Legal Council and the Bar Association will investigate properly”, she added.

Checks made by THE NEW TODAY reveal that retired high court judge, Justice Monica Joseph, now the head of the Integrity Commission, was the last person holding the post of Chairperson of the Legal Council.

Mc Kenzie is representing a 21-year old Grenadian now living in the United Kingdom, Nicholas Moller who is the heir to a million dollar house at Westerhall Heights in St. David’s.

The youngster had retained Francis-Banfield to be his attorney in several legal papers.

The local female attorney sold the house valued at close to EC$1 million for the paltry sum of EC$450, 000.00 to a Grenadian shipper in Brooklyn, New York and allegedly tried to pocket most of the funds in legal fees and expenses.

Mc McKenzie sued the local female attorney on behalf of Muller and got high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed to issue a court order demanding Francis-Banfield to hand over an undisputed sum of EC$171, 439.70 by February 11 to Moller while the remainder is subjected to litigation before the court.

The attorney violated the court order and one month after the due date for payment of the funds made a deposit of only EC$86, 000.00 into Moller’s account.

Mc Kenzie who read last week’s issue of the article written in THE NEW TODAY about Francis-Banfield rejected suggestions that she was showing too much leniency to the local lawyer and should have moved at an earlier stage to seek her committal to the Richmond Hill prison for not handing over the money.

She explained that her client at first did not want a committal to prison of the lawyer since he was on friendly terms with two of Francis-Ban field’s children but was only now agreeing to do so because of the behaviour of the local attorney in the matter.

“…I have not shown any leniency in the matter”, she told the newspaper and quickly added, “whoever mentioned the points about leniency does not know the full facts of the case and all the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes.  We are not going to let Banfield get away with this.”

Mc Kenzie said she would like the public to get a much clearer picture of what transpired in the case before jumping too quickly to conclusions.

“We wrote to the Judge, via the acting deputy registrar, Ms  Alana Twum Barimah, seeking that a penal clause be inserted into the order of the 5th February 2014.  We were advised by Ms Twum Barimah that the Judge could not do this and that we should make an application.

“We are reliably informed that the Judge could have done this if she had been properly briefed. I then took my client’s instructions on making an application and he advised that he would like to wait for a few weeks to see what happens before making the application because he knows the Defendant’s daughters and would feel bad sending their mother to prison.

“Moreover, he queried what use her being in prison would be when what he wants is his money. He did not want any further delays which imprisonment would inevitably have caused.  He says that the Defendant’s actions have left him and his family destitute and two weeks ago they had to get food from a local charitable food bank in the UK.

“Further, his plans to study and pay for his brother to study in the UK have been thwarted.  This is not a case of leniency on anyone’s part but one of the Claimant being reasonable and decent and having been very badly let down by a lawyer he put his faith in in Grenada”

According to Mc Kenzie, the current case involving Moller and Francis-Banfield raises a much more fundamental issue than an aggrieved Claimant seeking to commit someone to prison for disobeying the order of a high court judge.

She said: “This case raises bigger issues than those in this particular matter, including the ease with which some lawyers are able to behave with impunity and against the interests of their clients, a matter both the Bar Association and the newly appointed Legal Council must now urgently address so that the public have confidence in instructing those of us privileged enough to be members of this erstwhile profession.

“My client did not want the penal clause but has now agreed to this.  I think the points about his living conditions in the UK are equally important to show the impact of her actions on a young and vulnerable man.  He is only 21 years old.

Mc Kenzie lamented the fact that attorneys in Grenada were reluctant to touch the case against Francis-Banfeld which demonstrated a culture of Grenadian lawyers not wanting to take legal action against each other in the Spice Isle.

“What was interesting to me is that I could not find a law firm in Grenada to take this case because it meant taking action against one of their own and that’s how I ended up having to do it myself”, she said.


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