FOUNDATIONS  OF  LAW;    Brian  Alleyne.    June  2013.

    FAITH  AND  THE  LEGAL  SYSTEM   Divine  law  comes  from  an  all-­‐knowing,  all  seeing  and  inerrant  God.    Human   law  comes  from  sinful,  imperfect,  fallen  man  and  is  inevitably  subject  to   imperfection,  even  error.    The  relationship  between  faith  and  the  legal   system  involves  an  appreciation  of  this  inescapable  fact  and  any  honest   discussion  must  take  this  into  account.     I  suppose  when  Msg.  John  Lewis  asked  me  to  prepare  and  present  this   lecture  he  assumed  it  would  be  a  simple  task  because  of  the  range  of  my  life   experience,  especially  my  experience  in  the  field  of  the  law.    I  practised  as  a   Barrister  and  Solicitor  from  1967  to  1979/1980,  and  for  a  short  period  in   1995.    I  was  a  legislator  (Member  of  Parliament)  from  1979  to  1995,  with  a   short  break  in  the  early  part  of  1980.    I  was  a  member  of  the  executive  as  a   Minister  of  Government  from  1979  to  1995  with  a  short  break  in  1980.    I  was   a  Judge  of  the  Eastern  Caribbean  Supreme  Court    from  1995  to  2008,  serving   as  a  High  Court  judge,  Appeal  Court  Judge  and  acting  Chief  Justice  during  that   period.    I  am  not  sure  that  profile  prepared  me  for  this  challenge.    However,   imprudently,  perhaps  recklessly,  I  accepted  the  challenge  and  offer  my  best   effort  on  the  topic.   I  think  that  any  serious  analysis  of  the  topic  in  our  context  must  make  a   distinction  between  law  in  a  democratic  context  and  law  in  a  theocracy.    I  am   assuming  that  we  all  have  a  basic  understanding  of  what  democratic   governance  entails.    “Theocracy”  is  defined  in  Black’s  Law  Dictionary  as   “government  of  a  state  by  those  who  are  believed  to  be  or  represent  that   they  are  acting  under  the  immediate  direction  of  God  or  some  other  

divinity.”    Perhaps  the  best-­‐known  modern  examples  of  theocracy  are  those   States  which  are  governed  under  Islamic  law.    Constitutionally,  we  are  not  a   theocracy,  although  there  are  some  tendencies  even  in  formally  democratic   states  which  seem  on  occasion  to  behave  like  a  theocracy.    What  is  more,  the   preamble  to  our  Constitution  declares  that  “The  People  of  Dominica  have   affirmed  that  the  Commonwealth  of  Dominica  is  founded  upon  principles  that   acknowledge  the  supremacy  of  God”.    This  does  not,  however,  assert  that   we,  or  our  leaders,  are  God.    I  will  address  the  subject  on  the  basis  that  we   are  constitutionally  a  democratic  country  governed  under  democratic   principles,  as  firmly  asserted  in  the  remainder  of  the  preamble  as  well  as  in   the  substantive  provisions  of  the  Constitution.   Notwithstanding  the  vast  differences  between  the  polity  of  the  United  States   and  that  of  Dominica,  I  have  found  to  be  very  provocative  and  helpful  a   series  of  questions  posed  by  the  U.S.  Bishops’  annual  meeting  several  years   ago.    The  Bishops  posed  the  questions:     “How  do  we  connect  worship  on  Sunday  to  work  on  Monday?”       “How  is  the  Gospel  proclaimed  not  only  in  the  pulpits  of  our  parishes  but  also   in  the  everyday  lives  of  Catholic  people?  “  (In  the  context  of  this  discussion   we  should  say  Christian  people.)       “How  does  the  Church,  gathered  on  the  Sabbath,  act  as  the  people  of  God   scattered  and  active  every  day  of  the  week?”   These  are  questions  we  don’t  often  ask  ourselves,  but  they  are  fundamental   questions  regarding  the  way  we  live,  or  fail  to  live,  our  Christian  mission.    Do   the  demands  on  us  as  Christians  arising  from  these  questions  call  us  to   function  as  in  a  theocracy,  or  do  they  reinforce  the  principles  of  democracy   entrenched  in  our  Constitution?    

Does  our  faith  as  a  Christian  people,  (and  we  are  very  quick  to  claim  that  we   are  a  Christian  people),  impact  our  legal  system?    To  address  this  issue,  we   should  first  define  our  legal  system.    For  the  purposes  of  this  discussion  I   would  suggest  that  our  legal  system  could  be  considered  to  comprise  our   Constitution,  our  Parliament  (legislature),  our  Executive  (Cabinet  and  public   administration),  our  Judiciary  (Court  hierarchy;  Privy  Council  and  /  or   Caribbean  Court  of  Justice,  Eastern  Caribbean  Court  of  Appeal  and  High   Court,    and  the  Magistrates  Court),  and  the  legal  profession.   Our  legal  system  is  based  on  the  British  and  Commonwealth  legal  tradition.     This  means  that  the  sources  of  our  law  are  the  Common  Law  and  statute  law,   as  well  as  International  Law.    Our  history  as  a  former  British  colony  means   that  most  of  the  foundations  of  our  law,  including  Common  Law  principles   and  our  early  legislation  are  based  on  English  law  and  legal  traditions.     Dominica  fell  under  British  control  by  conquest  in  17591,    and  its  status  was   settled  among  the  European  countries  by  the  treaty  of  Paris  in  1763.    The   influence  of  the  original  settlers,  the  Caribs  or  Kalinago  people,  on  our  law   has  been  wiped  out  by  the  dominance  of  the  European  colonisers.     Historically,  therefore,  our  legal  traditions  follow  British  influences,  which   persist  even  today  by  virtue  of  our  Constitution,  which  was  crafted  by  our   local  representatives  and  the  British  authorities  at  a  series  of  Constitutional   conferences  in  the  1960’s  and  ‘70’s.    No  doubt  British  standards,  based  on   their  own  religious  and  moral  traditions,  have  greatly  influenced  the   foundations  of  our  law  and  legal  traditions.    Equally  decisive,  no  doubt,  is  the   fact  that  our  own  religious  and  moral  traditions  have  come  down  from  the   British  and  other  European  sources,  making  the  Christian  faith  the  dominant   faith  tradition  of  our  populace.    Has  that  fact  had  any  appreciable  influence   on  the  development  and  evolution  of  our  laws  and  legal  system?  
                                                                                                                        1  Thomas  Atwood,  History  of  the  Island  of  Dominica.   3    

I  have  come  across  a  series  of  questions  in  a  book  by  a  Catholic  Priest  based   in  Grenada,  Fr.  Sean  Doggett,  titled  FIRM  IN  THE  FAITH,  that  I  think  illustrates   the  way  in  which  our  faith  influences  our  law.    An  example:   “You  are  shopping  in  a  busy  store  going  through  a  bin  full  of  cassette  tapes.   You  find  one  cassette  of  your  favourite  rock  group.    You  could  easily  slip  it   into  your  pocket.    No  sales  clerk  is  anywhere  near  you.    Do  you  pay  for  the   cassette?”    (Theft).   Fr.  Sean  postulates  that  a  “childish”  morality  is  the  attitude  which  tells  me   “someone  out  there”  who  has  power  made  the  rules,  and  if  I  don’t  keep  them   I  will  be  punished.    If  I  do  I  will  get  a  reward.    A  more  “adult”  morality  tells  me   I  am  responsible  for  my  own  actions.    I  have  to  consider  the  consequences  of   my  own  action.    I  have  to  consider  the  rights  of  others,  the  relationships,   commitments  and  moral  principles  involved  and  I  have  to  act  accordingly.”   Law  in  our  tradition  tends  to  take  the  same  “adult”  approaches  and   principles  into  account.    Respect  for  the  rights  of  others,  and  our  own   responsibilities  towards  others  and  to  society  at  large  are  the  foundations  of   many  of  our  laws.    To  that  extent  our  religious  and  moral,  ethical  standards,   and  thus  our  faith,  strongly  influence  our  laws.    However  not  all  law  is  based   on  moral,  still  less  explicitly  religious  or  faith  based  principles.    Much  modern   law  is  of  a  social,  organisational  and  economic  nature,  directed  at  the   structures  of  society,  and  the  perceived  needs  of  specific  sectors,  and  seeks   to  regulate  these  matters  in  such  a  way  as  to  address  the  needs  and  interests   of  these  sectors.     Most  important  to  our  legal  system  is  our  Constitution,  which  entrenches   certain  fundamental  human  rights.    But  does  this  conflict  with  our   religious/moral  foundations?    I  would  argue  that  it  does  not,  but  rather  that   such  laws  seek  to  reflect  and  reinforce  our  Christian  moral  principles.    “Do  

unto  others  as  you  would  have  them  do  unto  you!”    Forgiveness  and   reconciliation  as  illustrated  in  the  parable  of  the  prodigal  son.    The   responsibility  of  the  citizen  to  care  for  those  unable  to  care  for  themselves,   as  in  the  Good  Samaritan  story.    Indeed  we  are  called  to  be  our  brother’s   keeper.   Albert  Fiadjoe,  Professor  of  Public  Law  at  the  University  of  the  West  Indies,  in   his  book  Commonwealth  Caribbean  Public  Law,  points  to  a  definition  of   public  law  as  “All  law  dealing  with  relations  between  an  individual  and  the   state  or  between  states,  and  the  organisation  of  government,  i.e.,  criminal,   administrative,  constitutional  and  international  law”.    Alternatively,  “The  part   of  the  law  which  is  concerned  with  the  state  in  its  sovereign  capacity,   including  international  law  and  criminal  law.”      Professor  Fiadjoe  continues   that  public  law  can  be  more  narrowly  defined  as  “the  combined  rules  of   constitutional  and  administrative  law,  focusing  on  the  relationship  between   the  courts  and  the  executive  and  legislative  branches  of  government.”     Professor  Fiadjoe  posits  that  public  law  can  be  perceived  as  “the  body  of  law   which  deals  with  the  powers  and  duties  of  government  as  such,  but  more   particularly  as  the  area  of  law  which  provides  protection  to  the  citizen  against   the  enormous  power  of  the  state.”    So  public  law,  and  in  particular  our   Constitution,  seeks  to  protect  the  individual  from  the  tendency  of  the   powerful  to  abuse  its  power.    Examples  of  this  are  found  in  Chapter  1  of  the   Constitution  under  the  rubric  PROTECTION  0F  FUNDAMENTAL  RIGHTS  AND   FREEDOMS.   Do  these  definitions  exclude  public  law  from  the  ambit  of  morality  addressed   by  religious  faith?    I  would  suggest  that  in  truth  public  law  more  than  other   areas  of  law  should  be  guided  and  governed  by  our  Christian  faith,  if  we  are   indeed  a  Christian  nation,  as  we  frequently  claim  to  be.    The  American   Bishops  assert  that  “the  church’s  social  mission  is  advanced  by  Christians  who  

stand  up  for  the  values  of  the  Gospel.    This  mission  is  the  task  of  countless   Christians  living  their  faith  without  much  fanfare  or  recognition  who  are   quietly  building  a  better  society  by  their  choices  and  actions  day  by  day.”     They  “live  the  gospel  by  pursuing  justice  and  peace  in  their  everyday  choices   and  commitments”.   Can  we  make  a  difference  by  living  our  faith?    The  Second  Vatican  Council   declared  that  “It  is  the  special  vocation  of  the  laity  (you  and  me)  to  seek  the   kingdom  of  God  by  engaging  in  temporal  affairs  and  directing  them   according  to  God’s  will.    They  live  in  the  world,  in  each  and  every  one  of  the   world’s  occupations  and  callings,  and  in  the  ordinary  circumstances  of  social   and  family  life  which,  as  it  were,  form  the  context  of  their  existence.    There   they  are  called  by  God  to  contribute  to  the  sanctification  of  the  world  within,   like  leaven,  in  the  spirit  of  the  Gospel,  by  fulfilling  their  own  particular  duties.”   It  has  been  well-­‐said  that  the  “split  between  the  faith  which  many  profess   and  their  daily  lives  deserves  to  be  counted  among  the  more  serious  errors   of  our  age.”    That  can  certainly  be  said  of  many  of  us  in  our  society.    What  we   proclaim  and  celebrate  on  Sunday  (or  Saturday)  and  what  we  live  from   Monday  to  Friday  have  no  real  connection.    We  do  not  practise  what  we   preach.    Instead  of  being  instruments  of  God’s  grace  and  creative  power  in   business  and  politics,  factories  and  offices,  homes  and  schools,  and  in  the   ordinary  events  of  everyday  life,  we  live  our  lives  far-­‐removed  from  what  we   proclaim  when  we  go  to  Church  on  Sunday.    We  live  what  the  Second  Vatican   Council  called  the  “split  between  the  faith  which  (we)  profess  and  (our)  daily   lives.”   The   law,   and   in   particular   statute   law   under   our   system   of   governance,   emanates   from   the   political   consciousness   and   from   the   perceived   issues,   problems  and  needs  of  our  society  from  time  to  time.    It  is  subject  to  all  kinds  

of   influences,   historical   realities,   conflicting   interests,   errors   and   prejudices   which   are   an   inescapable   part   of   the   human   condition.     It   also   exists   in   an   ever-­‐changing,   evolving   historical   environment.     What   may   have   been   of   acute   interest   and   relevance   40   years   ago   may   be   of   little   or   no   concern   today   as   society   has   evolved.     A   good   example   may   be   the   so-­‐called   Dread   Act   (The   Prohibited   and   Unlawful   Societies   and   Associations   Act   No.   32   of   1974,   repealed   by   Act   No.   10   of   1981),   which   was   considered   so   necessary   and  desirable  by  some,  and  so  offensive  by  others  at  the  time,  and  which  is   barely  remembered  today.    That  Act  was  a  response  (perhaps,  and  certainly   in   my   view   an   excessive   and   manifestly   non-­‐Christian   response)   to   a   contemporary   situation   of   that   particular   historical   period.     Did   it   have   its   basis  in  faith?    The  Dreads  were  an  offshoot  of  a  (questionably)  religious  cult,   Rastafarianism.     At   that   particular   historical   period   they   took   a   radical   and   extreme,   confrontational   and   by   all   contemporary   standards   unacceptable   stance   against   the   accepted   norms   of   society.     Some   of   them   resorted   to   unprovoked  and  unacceptable  acts  of  violence,  all  of  which  could  have  been   handled   by   the   ordinary   criminal   law.     Instead   they   were   treated   as   “terrorists”   and   legislative   measures,   in   my   view   highly   offensive   to   our   democratic   and   constitutional   traditions   and   framework,   were   enacted   by   the   legislature   and   implemented   by   the   police   and   Defence   Force.     To   my   mind   that   did   little   to   solve   the   problem   but   contributed   to   additional   radicalisation  among  some  youth.    We  experienced  injustice,  not  only  by  the   Dreads   against   the   citizenry,   but   by   officialdom   against   many   young   people   who   had   done   nothing   worse   than   wear   their   hair   in   a   style   that   is   fashionable   today   among   many   of   our   leading   academics,   fashionable   men   and   women   and   even   politicians.       Official   attitudes   to   the   Dreads   led   to   serious   injustice   to   many   innocent   individuals,   on   the   basis   only   of   their   preferred  hairstyle  and  their  assertion  of  their  right  to  adopt  that  decoration.    

The   Dreads   sought   religious   justification   for   their   lifestyle.     Officialdom   was   adamantly   intolerant   of   their   choices.     Much   social   conflict,   individual   and   societal   suffering,   and   injustice,   resulted   from   the   contending   positions.     The   era   of   the   Dreads   was   an   extreme   example   of   the   societal   divisions   and   suffering  that  can  result  from  extremist    attitudes  and  intolerance  on  the  part   of   contending   groups   in   society.     The   Christian   attitude   of   tolerance   on   the   part   of   both   contending   parties   could   have   resulted   in   strengthening   our   society   in   so   many   different   ways.     Instead,   a   spirit   of   intolerance   on   both   sides  resulted  in  social  conflict  of  a  magnitude  that  had  not  been  experienced   since   the   days   of   slavery.     Ironically,   what   was   deemed   so   offensive   and   intolerable   then   is   today   the   height   of   fashion.     Dreadlocks   are   proudly   worn   by   academics,   professionals,   fashion   models,   even   politicians,   with   no   negative  impact  on  society.     Statute   law   is   the   law   enacted   by   Parliament   to   address   particular   contemporary   issues   or   perceived   concerns.     Each   Parliament   will   enact   its   own   legislation   in   response   to   the   unique   situation   in   the   particular   jurisdiction,   and   as   perceived   at   the   particular   time,   although,   obviously,   in   a   political  environment  such  as  the  OECS  States,  there  might  be  commonalities   which   attract   a   unified   approach   and   the   enactment   of   common   legislation   on   a   regional   basis.     A   good   example   is   our   Supreme   Court   legislation   establishing  a  single  High  Court  and  Court  of  Appeal  to  serve  our  8  separate   national   units.     That   particular   institutional   arrangement   may   not   be   perceived  to  be  influenced  by  any  faith-­‐related  considerations,  but  merely  by   the   geographic/political   reality   of   small   states   coming   together   to   solve   a   problem   endemic   in   their   physical   smallness.     However,   the   structures   of   the   institution,  and  more  clearly  the  rules  and  principles  by  which  it  is  governed,   have   their   foundation   and   raison   d’être   in   our   historical   common   law  


traditions,   which   themselves   can   be   considered   to   be   offshoots   of   our   Christian  faith.   THE  COURT  SYSTEM   Our   court   system   is   an   almost   unique   institution   based   on   our   geographic   reality.     Our   small   size   and   minuscule   populations   do   not   permit   us   to   manage   individual,   separate   judicial   systems,   so   we   have   devised   a   multinational  court  system  to  serve  our  needs.    This  multi-­‐level  system,  with   the   Magistrates   Courts,   High   Court   and   Court   of   Appeal,   is   organised   so   as   to   serve   the     needs   of   each   state,   and   of   the   collection   of   states   (OECS)   in   a   practical  and  realistic  manner  given  our  geographic  and  population  realities.     Above  this  system  is  the  Privy  Council,  a  British  institution,  and  the  CCJ,  with   its   original   (treaty)   jurisdiction,   which   does   presently   apply   to   us,   and   its   appellate  jurisdiction,  which  has  not  as  yet  been  extended  to  us.    Our  courts   have,   by   and   large,   served   us   well,   although   as   human   institutions   they   are   not  without  fault,  and  are  frequently  criticised,  at  various  levels  of  society.    I   well   remember   one   occasion   when,   as   a   judge   of   the   Eastern   Caribbean   Supreme   Court   I   made   a   courtesy   call   on   a   Prime   Minister.     He   put   to   me   the   question   whether   we   were   not   both   public   officers,   and   as   such   owed   the   same  duties  arising  from  public  office  to  the  country.    Why  then  did  it  appear   to   him   that   we   could   apparently   never   see   issues   of   public   concern   in   the   same   way?     Why   could   I   apparently   never   agree   with   him  in  the  respective   performance  of  our  public  roles.      That  reflected  a  fundamental  failure  on  the   part  of  that    Prime  Minister  to  appreciate  the  role  of  the  judiciary  vis-­‐  a-­‐  vis   that   of   the   political   directorate.     That   is   a   legal/constitutional   issue   of   the   most   fundamental   importance,   but   is   also   a   faith/integrity   issue   and   an   example   of   the   attitudes   that   raise   questions   about   the   integrity   of   our   judicial   institutions   which   inhibits   our   acceptance   of   the   final   jurisdiction   of   our   own   CCJ   and   widespread   preference   for   the   Privy   Council   as   our   final  

court.     I   see   this   as   a   stark   example   of   the   faith/integrity   issue   that   is   the   subject   of   our   discussion,   but   in   my   13   years   on   the   Court   that   is   the   only   occasion  on  which  a  question  of  that  nature  arose.    I  consider  it  an  aberration   that   is   not   commonplace   and   should   not   be   cited   to   justify   reservations   about   accepting   the   final   jurisdiction   of   the   CCJ.     Although   in   every   human   institution  there  will  be  weaknesses  and  failings  (it  is  the  human  condition),   we   need   to   look   at   the   overall   picture   rather   than   focusing   on   individual   failures,   which   will   be   found   in   every   human   situation,   in   making   our   decisions  on  these  fundamental  issues  which  are  of  long  term  historical  and   national  significance.   FINANCIAL    ACCOUNTABILITY  AND  OPENESS   One   issue   of   current   concern   is   the   issue   of   accountability   and   openness   in   financial   dealings   with   public   funds.   There   have   been   a   number   of   issues   arising  in  the  public  domain  in  this  regard.    There  is  long  and  well  established   legislation   as   well   as   there   are   established   institutional   arrangements   to   deal   with  this  matter.    Prominent  among  these  is:     The   office   of   the   Director   of   Audit,   established   by   section   83   of   the   Constitution   as   an   independent   and   protected   office.     That   office,   and   the   holder  thereof,  is  not  subject  to  the  direction  or  control  of  any  other  person   or   authority   (section   83   of   the   Constitution),   must   at   least   once   in   every   year   audit   and   report   on   the   public   accounts   of   Dominica,   the   accounts   of   all   officers   and   authorities   of   the   Government,   all   courts   of   law   including   the   Court  of  Appeal  or  the  High  Court  maintained  in  Dominica,  the  Parliamentary   Commissioner  (Ombudsman)  and  every  other  Commission  established  by  the   Constitution,  and  of  the  Clerk  of  the  House.    The  Director  shall  have  access  to   all  books,  records,  returns,  reports  and  other  documents  which   in  his  opinion   relate  to  any  of  the  accounts  being  audited.    He  must  submit  his  report  to  the  

Minister   of   Finance,   who   shall,   not   later   than   7   days   after   the   House   first   meets  after  he  has  received  the  report,  lay  it  before  the  House  (Parliament).     If  the  Minister  fails  to  do  so,  the  Director  of  Audit  shall  transmit  copies  to  the   Speaker,   who   shall   as   soon   as   practicable   present   them   to   the   House.     In   regard   to   his   official   functions,   the   Director   of   Audit   shall   not   be   subject   to   the   direction   or   control   of   any   other   person   or   authority.     He   has   a   very   important  public  function,  in  the  exercise  of  which  he  has  a  free  hand  and  is   protected  from  any  interference  or  control.         An   important   adjunct   of   the   Constitution   relating   to   the   oversight   of   public   accounts   and   the   financial   affairs   of   the   government   is   the   Public   Accounts   Committee  of  Parliament,  provided  for  at  order  72  of  the  Standing  Orders  of   the   House   of   Assembly.     The   duty   of   the   Committee   is   to   examine   the   accounts  showing  the  appropriation  of  sums  granted  by  Parliament  to  meet   the   public   expenditure   of   the   State   and   such   other   accounts   as   may   be   referred   by   the   House   or   under   any   law   to   the   Committee,   together   with   the   report   of   the   Director   of   Audit   on   any   such   accounts.     Under   this   mechanism   the   Minister   of   Finance   and   all   other   persons,   including   the   Financial   Secretary,  Ministers  and  Permanent  Secretaries  can  be  called  to  account  by   this   Parliamentary   Committee   and   required   to   justify   expenditures   authorised   by   Parliament   and,   more   importantly,   expenditures   incurred   outside   of   Parliamentary   authorisation.     Unfortunately,   it   appears   that   this   Committee   has   been   non-­‐functional   for   several   years,   and   may   be   considered   to   be   defunct   and   overdue   for   burial.     God   forbid!     In   this   connection   I   feel   urged   to   quote   from   the   book   THE   OVERSEERS;   Public   Account  Committees  and  Public  Spending,  by  David  G.  McGee,  QC,     “The  principle  of  parliamentary  control  of  the  public  purse  is  well  established   among   the   branches   of   the   CPA.     Democracy   entails   accountability   for   the   exercise  of  power.    Accountability  involves  constructing  appropriate  systems  

that   allow   decisions   to   be   taken   in   a   context   that   promotes   honesty   and   productivity.”   What  does  this  have  to  do  with  faith?    Our  government  holds  office  in  trust   for   the   people.     We   the   people   have   a   responsibility   to   demand   accountability   on   the   part   of   the   government.     The   members   of   Parliament   entrusted   with   the   duties   of   the   Public   Accounts   Committee   have   a   responsibility  to  the  citizens  to  oversee  and  enforce  accountability,  honesty   and   probity   in   the   management   of   public   funds.     We   the   citizens   are   under   a   duty  and  responsibility  to  demand  action  by  all  the  institutions;  the  executive   government,   the   oversight   mechanism   of   the   Director   of   Audit,   and   the   Public  Accounts  Committee,  and  our  representatives  in  parliament,  to  ensure   the   proper   and   honest,   accountable   management   of   our   public   funds.     We   are   failing   to   live   our   Christian   faith   to   the   extent   that   we   fail   to   demand   accountability  from  our  public  officials.     HOMOSEXUALITY   A  hotly  debated  topic  at  this  time,  which  is  directly  connected  to  faith  issues,   relates   to   criminal   sanctions   in   relation   to   sex   between   men.     The   discussion,   unfortunately,  seldom  if  ever  refers  to  the  specific  statutory  provision  which   defines   the   crime.     The   provision   can   be   found   in   the   Offences   Against   the   Person   Act,   Chap.   10:31   of   the   Laws   of   Dominica,   at   Part   10,   Unnatural   Offences,  section  59;   “Any  person  who  is  convicted  of  the  abominable  crime  of  buggery,  committed   either   with   mankind   or   with   any   animal,   is   liable   to   imprisonment   for   ten   years,   and   if   the   Court   thinks   it   fit,   the   Court   may   order   that   the   convicted   person  be  admitted  to  a  psychiatric  hospital  for  treatment.”  

The   Act   does   not   define   the   “abominable   crime   of   buggery”.     I   resort   for   a   definition   to   Black’s   Law   Dictionary   Third   Pocket   edition,   which   defines   buggery   as   “sodomy   or   bestiality”   and   sodomy   as   “oral   or   anal   copulation   between   humans,   especially   those   of   the   same   sex”.     The   section   is   very   imprecise,   and   could   incorporate   anal   sex   between   a   man   and   his   wife,   as   well   as   between   two   men,   a   man   and   a   woman,   and,   under   the   definition   which   extends   to   bestiality,   a   man   and   an   animal.     But   for   the   purposes   of   our  discussion,  let  us  limit  the  offence  to  anal  sex  between  two  men.    (I  am   led  to  believe  that  anal  sex  between  a  man  and  a  woman  is  not  uncommon   and   does   not   attract   widespread   condemnation,   although   the   statutory   prohibition  could  be  interpreted  to  include  that  act.)     I   suggest   a   distinction   must   be   made,   in   this   case   as   in   others,   between   immorality  and  illegality.    I  need  not  emphasise  the  fact  that  not  all  immoral   acts   are   illegal,   and   certainly   not   all   attract   criminal   sanctions   of   10   years’     imprisonment.     I   do   not   doubt   that   many   of   those   men   who   argue   so   vehemently   for   the   preservation   of   the   criminal   sanction   against   buggery   engage   in   buggery   with   women,   or   at   least   do   not   frown   on   the   practice   (which   on   a   strict   interpretation   may   be   unlawful   and   could   attract   a   sentence  of  10  years’  imprisonment).    I  insist  on  making  a  distinction,  in  this   case,   between   immorality   and   criminality.     Clearly   in   my   opinion,   buggery,   whether   between   a   man   and   a   woman,   a   man   and   another   man,   or   a   man   and   an   animal,   is   immoral.     What   I   question   is   whether   the   act   between   consenting  adults  in  the  privacy  of  the  bedroom  should  be  criminalised  and   whether  it  should  attract  a  term  of  imprisonment  of  up  to  10  years.   It   is   perhaps   no   coincidence   that   immediately   after   writing   this   part   of   my   presentation  I  was  led  to  read  from  the  Bible  Tobit  2:     “The  neighbours  mocked  me,  saying  to  one  another  


‘He  is  still  not  afraid!   Once  before  he  was  hunted  down  for  execution  because  of  this  very  thing;   Yet  now  that  he  has  scarcely  escaped,   here  he  is  again  burying  the  dead.”     Perhaps  I  am  not  burying  the  dead  but  flogging  a  dead  horse!   Immorality   is   a   fact   of   life.     It   is   not   to   be   condoned,   especially   not   by   people   of   faith,   but   not   all   immorality   attracts   criminal   sanctions.     My   question   is   whether   a   consensual   immoral   act   of   this   nature,   performed   in   private   (usually   in   the   privacy   of   a   bedroom)   should   be   subjected   to   criminal   sanctions   with   the   possibility   of   10   years’   imprisonment.     Should   we   prosecute   a   man   and   a   woman   who   engage   in   anal   sex   (the   abominable   crime   of   buggery)   in   the   privacy   of   a   bedroom?     By   the   same   token,   as   immoral,  even  unnatural  as  it  is,  should  we  prosecute  the  consensual  act  of   two   men   in   the   privacy   of   the   bedroom?     To   say   no   is   not   to   validate   the   act;   it  is  to  respect  the  privacy  of  individuals,  while  retaining  the  condemnation  of   this   immoral   act,   as   we   condemn   all   immoral   acts.     The   problem   is   that   we   are   so   tolerant   of   levels   of   immorality,   even   serious   immorality,   in   other   areas,  even  areas  which  affect  the  public  interest  in  very  serious  ways,  while   vehemently   condemning   other   immoral   acts   which   harm   no-­‐one   except   those  who   voluntarily  engage  in  the  acts.    Is  that  not  a  distortion  of  the  basic   intent  of  criminal  law  which,  in  essence,  seeks  to  punish  acts  which  affect  the   public  welfare,  or  the  involuntary  victims  of  the  acts,  in  contrast  to  wrongful   acts  which  affect  the  private  interests  of  individuals?    


Is  our  faith  a  purely  private  matter  between  ourselves  and  God?    What  is  the   extent  of  the  demands  that  our  faith  makes  on  us?    Does  our  faith  call  us  to   action?   Did   Christ   not   “set   his   face   like   flint”   and   confront   the   demands   of   the  Father  that  he  confront  the  evil  of  the  empire  and  submit  to  his  fate  on   the   cross?     Are   we   called   to   compromise   and   cringe   in   the   face   of   sin   and   injustice?     The   legal   system   is   an   instrument   inspired   by   God   to   fulfil   His   purpose.     It   is   at   the   same   time   a   human   instrument,   susceptible   to   all   the   imperfections   and   failings   of   all   human   instruments.     We   are   called   by   our   faith   to   evaluate   the   legal   system   and   to   be   God’s   hands   and   feet   (He   has   no   hands   but   our   hands,   he   has   no   feet   but   our   feet!)   his   hands   and   feet   in   purifying   it   and   fashioning   it   to   God’s   will   and   His   way.     As   with   all   the   challenges  of  our  Christian  faith,  this  will  not  be  easy,  but  it  is  what  we  are   called  to,  as  followers  of  The  Way.     THE  LEGAL  PROFESSION   Finally,   and   briefly,   I   would   like   to   speak   about   an   issue   relating   to   my   profession,   the   legal   profession,   of   which   I   am   proud   but   in   some   respects   severely   disturbed.     It   used   to   be   referred   to   as   the   honourable   profession.     I   fear  that  in  some  circles  today  it  is  not  considered  to  be  either  honourable  or   professional.     Too   often   we   hear   of   dishonourable   conduct,   in   particular   intermeddling   in   clients’   funds,   by   members   of   the   profession   (one   such   case   is  “too  often”).    There  are  other  complaints  which  I  need  not  go  into  at  this   time,   but   the   profession   is   not   regulated   as   it   ought   to   be.     Some   practitioners  carry  on  in  their  own  merry  way,  clients  complain,  but  receive   no  satisfaction.    It  seems  that  the  conduct  of  a  small  minority  of  practitioners   is  destroying  the  reputation  of  the  entire  profession.  


I  am  not  an  idealist  and  I  do  not  expect  perfection.    I  also  recognise  that  in  a   small   community   like   the   legal   profession   in   Dominica,   self   regulation   is   difficult.     I   have   to   draw   attention   to   the   fact   that   some   20   years   ago,   a   draft   Legal   Profession   Bill   was   circulated   for   comment.     That   Bill   made   provision   for   regulation   of   the   profession,   including   oversight   of   financial   probity   on   the  part  of  practitioners  particularly  in  relation  to  monies  collected  on  behalf   of   and   in   trust   for   clients.     The   Bill   was   circulated   for   comment   by   the   profession  and  others.    It  has  been  enacted  and  is  law  in  most  OECS  states.     For  some  reason,  which  cannot  be  justified,  it  has  not  to  date  been  enacted   in  Dominica.    Intermeddling  by  lawyers  in  their  clients’  trust  funds  has  been   the  subject  of  scandal  for  some  time,  but  nothing  has  been  done.    There  is  no   justification   for   the   present   situation.     In   my   view   both   the   profession   and   the   government   and   Parliament   must   take   the   blame   for   this   scandalous   situation,   which   relates   not   only   to   financial   probity,   but   generally   to   regulation  of  the  profession.    An  issue  of  faith  and  the  legal  system?    Clearly   in  my  view  it  is.     So  there  is  much  work  to  be  done,  by  the  Church,  by  Christians  and  citizens   generally,   if   standards   are   to   be   saved   from   free   fall.     The   legal   system   demands   urgent   attention,   and   we,   who   call   ourselves   Christian,   from   whatever  Christian  faith  tradition,  need  to  address  the  issues  urgently  if  we   hope   to   continue   to   live   in   a   society   that   deserves   the   description   of   a   Christian  society.  


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