Lawyer Nigel Morrison was recently found guilty for the death of a local motorcycle rider in The Supreme Court and was convicted and handed a 6-month sentence of imprisonment, wholly suspended.
Those who were at the Court for the sentencing state that ‘Morrison used his long term membership and seat on the Law Council’ as a reason why the Court should reduce the sentence, referring to the work he has done as a member and the long-standing membership to the Law Council as a mitigating factor reducing the sentence.
One of the practitioners said he was a hopeless member, was self-serving in his role and never stood up for the rank and file Ni Van Lawyers on the Law Council, especially when they were applying for admission of which the Law Council is responsible for.
It was also said that his so-called training and professional development courses he relied on and put to the Supreme Court as putting himself forward in a good light, were only started after he was charged and once again were self-serving to be used in his case as he ultimately did.
It appears now he using that same membership to avoid being struck off the Roll of Legal Practitioners.
YTS recently interviewed some senior Vanuatu Legal Practitioners about the situation and they were completely mystified that Morrison was still able to practice law and it seems to be business as usual for him.
Yet Ni Van Lawyers are being suspended and disciplined for much less.
One practitioner informed YTS that the Act states Morrison’s name is automatically & immediately struck off after conviction and sentence to imprisonment.
Amazingly, it appears that step lay in the hands of Mr. Morrison as a member of the Law Council.
It is the talk amongst Lawyers and others as to how this can happen and be allowed to happen.
John Timakata and other Ni Van Lawyers have been suspended recently more than once and seriously disciplined, affecting their right to earn a living for conduct which is much less serious.
They complain of the obvious double standards being applied here.
The decision is one of the Law Council. Yes, the Law Council that Morrison is a member of.
The removal of Morrison’s name from the roll is automatic under s1M of the Legal Practitioners Act and says that once he is convicted and a sentence of imprisonment imposed, his name is to be removed from the roll.
It was further explained to YTS by a senior practitioner that In 2018, Joe Natuman Supreme Court case squarely raised the issue of if a suspended sentence was a sentence of imprisonment.
Judge Fatiaki Found that yes a suspended sentence is still a sentence of imprisonment in such situations.
This view was upheld and approved by the Full Court of Appeal.