Johnson: Attorneys should not be denied audience with clients
Following the circulation of a video and photos online showing attorney Fred Smith, QC, being removed from the Carmichael Road Detention Center and allegedly being denied an audience with his client, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson charged yesterday that no lawyer should be prevented from seeing their client.
Without wanting to speak specifically to the matter, Johnson said, “I know that I can comment on the constitutional right for anybody to have access to an attorney.
“That is enshrined in our constitution.
“It’s based on the rule of law and it is so essential to it, that the constitution accepts that the court is responsible for the protection of fundamental rights, for the interpretation of all laws.
“And the reasons why the constitution sets up that right for someone to have access to a lawyer is that through that conduit, persons are able to intelligibly bring their complaints of the breach of any rights through a lawyer of their choosing to the courts or advocate for the protection of those rights and that is the basis upon which our democracy is built.”
Johnson said that one’s right to have a lawyer is fundamental and only in extreme reasons should that be curtailed.
“No lawyer in The Bahamas without justifiable cause, should be prevented from seeing their client and to my mind, no client who has expressed a desire to see their lawyer should be prevented without justifiable legal reasons,” he noted.
On Monday, cell phone footage went viral on social media showing Smith being removed from the detention center.
Smith told The Nassau Guardian that he was attempting to see a client when immigration and defense force officers ordered him to leave the compound.
Smith took exception with the request, insisting that he was already cleared through security and his client had a constitutional right to see his lawyer.
After refusing to leave on his own recognizance, defense force officers removed him.
Smith said this wouldn’t happen at any other detention facility.
“I can go to Fox Hill prison, I can go to any police station and lawyers get to see their clients,” he said.
“But apparently immigration is above the law and they are not responsible to allow people to see their clients.
“I call on the attorney general, Carl Bethel, I call on [Minister of Immigration] Brent Symonette, I call on [Director of Immigration] William Pratt, I call on the prime minister, I call on all of you who are responsible in government to bring immigration under control.”
Smith claimed he has been denied seeing clients at the detention center before.
He said he has complained about the matter to officials before but received no answer from anyone.
When reached for comment on the matter, Symonette said, “Mr. Fred Smith wrote to the Department of Immigration about gaining access to the detention center.
“He did not mention, to the best of my knowledge, anything about clients.
“So, therefore, he is not one of the categories of people that is allowed access to the detention center.
“Mr. Fred Smith has access to me at all times, whether it is Facebook or my cell number…and I have never received a request from Fred Smith, that I am aware of, to go to the detention center and see clients.”
Pratt said, “The department does not object to lawyers visiting their clients, however, just through professionalism, give us a courtesy call, and advise us of a time and the name of the client, and we will make sure that the client is made available for the lawyer to interview.
“But he never said anything to us, he never informed us, he just showed up and that is not how we operate.”