At the invitation of the Chief Justice, the Hon. Madame Roxane George-Wiltshire, I made the welcoming presentation on the occasion of the admission of four lawyers to the Inner Bar as Senior Counsel on Friday last. This is what I said:
It is an honour and a privilege to welcome to the Inner Bar the four Senior Counsel whose appointments were announced on December 30, 2017. According to a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency, President David Granger “having considered their high quality of service in the legal profession and with confidence in their knowledge of the law” appointed Kalam Azad Juman Yassin, Josephine Whitehead, Fitz Le Roy Peters and Andrew Mark Fitzgerald Pollard as Senior Counsel with effect from January 1, 2018.
The first appointment of a Queen’s Counsel in England was that of Sir Francis Bacon, made by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1594, for a political purpose. Following the tradition that developed since then, the institution is recognized in most of the Commonwealth countries. When lawyers speak of ‘taking silk,’ they are referring to the time of their preferment by elevation to Senior Counsel, formerly Queen’s Counsel. ‘Taking Silk’ refers to the fact that lawyers who are conferred with the honour wear a differently designed robe made of silk. They also speak of being admitted to the ‘inner bar.’ This refers to the second bar table in the well of the Court where, of lawyers, only Senior Counsel may sit.
There has been no shortage of controversy in the Commonwealth about the continuation of the institution or about its reform. Arguments and public discussions on these issues have been going for decades but, with reforms, the institution has been retained. In England appointments were suspended for several years because of concern about fairness. When they resumed in 1995, solicitors were appointed. In some countries academics are appointed. But one of the main areas of controversy is fairness and transparency, even though in developed countries partisan political considerations in appointments have been largely eliminated.