MUHAMMED Sailu BAH
The National Assembly yesterday, Tuesday enacted the Legal Practitioners Bill 2015 and The Gambia Law School Bill 2015.
These bills were introduced by Mama Fatima Singhateh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
Madam Singhateh noted that the bill sets the criteria for a person who can be called and enrolled to legal practice in the Gambia. She explained that in this bill it is stated that after the completion of four years studies in the University one has to go to the Law school for one year and later one will be attached to a Lawyer who has experience of 10 years of services in the common Law jurisdiction, for a period of five years before becoming a fully qualified legal practitioner.
Madam Singhateh argued that the First Legal Practitioners Act was enacted in 1988 and over the years there were many changes that have occurred in the country, such as the Introduction of the Law Faculty of the University of the Gambia and the establishment of the Gambia Law School.
She said, “It goes without saying, that in order to ensure a high standard of legal practice is attained and maintained in the Gambia there is an urgent need to reconfigure the Law governing legal practice in The Gambia hence the presentation of this bill before the national assembly members.”
She added that it also sets out the boundaries for legal practice for non Gambian legal practitioners in the service of the Government of The Gambia.
This Bill was seconded by Hon Seedy Njie a nominated member of the National Assembly.
The Minority Leader Honourable Samba Jallow, made some observations. In the first place he pointed out that the 5 years attachment period for young student Lawyers from the law school is too long. Secondly he said that there should be a provision in the bill that will help protect students from being rejected by practising Lawyers in their Chambers after their completion at the Law school for their attachment period.
He argued that Lawyers might choose people they want to take and others will end up being on the streets.
During the Meeting of the Committee of the whole house it was suggested that the period of attachment be reduced from five years to three years. Deputies then passed the Bill with this amendment.
Upon passing the Legal Practitioners Bill 2015, the Minister of Justice also presented the Gambia Law School Bill 2015 which was also passed as well with few clarifications.
Madam Singhateh revealed that since the establishment of the Law school in 2011, it has been operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, and the General Legal council.
She said with the expansion and the increment of students, her Ministry deemed it necessary to put the affairs of the Law School on more sound Legal footing with the introduction of this Bill.
“With the passing of this Bill, the law school would be weaned from the Ministry of Justice and begin operation as a parastatal in terms of its governance and accountability. It will appoint full time staff, with its own scheme of service and report to the Public Accounts Committee/Public Enterprises Committee of the National Assembly,” she explained.
Madam Singhateh expressed hope that with the enactment of the Bill into Law it will contribute towards the strengthening of the gains made so far by the law school.