VETERAN attorney Clive Phelps has declined a long-service award from the Law Association of TT (LATT) citing the association's failure to live up to its responsibility to the public, to obtain redress for prisoners languishing in the Remand Yard prison for decades without trial.
Having received a letter from LATT president Douglas Mendes, SC, in October about the award, set to be given at the association's annual dinner, Phelps replied on Monday outlining the reason for his decision to "humbly" decline the award. A copy of Phelps' letter to Mendes was forwarded to Newsday in which he accused the Law Association and, by extension, the Judiciary of failing to fulfill its mandate.
Phelps wrote, "I am constrained in good conscience, to humbly decline accepting an honour to be bestowed on me by an organisation charged with the responsibility of protecting and assisting members of the public in matters relating to law, promoting good relations between the profession and those concerned with the administration of justice, which has failed miserably in its responsibility to the public to obtain redress for prisoners languishing in the Remand Yard for decades without trial, or to support the administration of justice by pressing for the reform of an outdated prison system."
He also said every attorney should feel regret for the state of the criminal justice system and criticised attorneys for their arrogance.
"It should be a matter of personal regret for every lawyer that our criminal justice system is what it is, that the conduct of our judiciary for the most part is marked by arrogance and a profound misunderstanding of its role to be impartial adjudicators of disputes.
"Our beloved profession’s standards have plummeted to the point where cases are won and lost without any regard to the legal merits or the truth and public confidence in the judiciary falls below that of the TT Police Service."
The letter was copied to Patricia Dindial, vice president of LATT.
When contacted for comment on Tuesday, Mendes told Newsday that he had not seen the letter and would only respond to it once he had read it for himself.
Newsday forwarded the document to Mendes via e-mail who received it and said it was unfortunate that Phelps would be unable to accept the award.
"Since Mr Phelps wrote to me directly I would prefer to respond to him directly. I would say, however, that we are disappointed that we will be deprived of the opportunity of honouring him for his contribution to the development of the legal profession and to the fulfillment of the Association's statutory mandate over these many years."