Jamaica Observer: ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Jamaican attorney-at-law Anthony Armstrong, who is currently Antigua and Barbuda’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has been found guilty of professional misconduct by Jamaica’s General Legal Council (GLC).

Reports from the Eastern Caribbean island indicate that Armstrong has now gone on special leave, pending an appeal of the GLC’s decision, which was handed down on January 28.

The council ruled that Armstrong acted “contrary to the laws of Jamaica when he signed as a witness to a document for someone who was not physically present”, Antigua News Room reported Sunday. 

The matter relates to the sale of three properties for a male complainant. 

Hearings into the matter first commenced on December 14, 2019.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, in confirming that Armstrong has gone on administrative leave, explained that the holder of the office of the DPP has to be above “reproach”.

“Unfortunately, with this judgment, the DPP has to sort himself out. My understanding is that he is going to appeal the judgment, but until such time, I don’t know that it is prudent for him to serve,” Browne told Antigua News Room Sunday. 

An acting DPP is to be appointed temporarily, the prime minister indicated.

In its findings of fact contained in its 32-page decision, a copy of which was obtained by OBSERVER ONLINE, the GLC said that “the complainant was in prison between November 2003 and October 30, 2015, during which time his three properties were sold”.

“The Attorney (Anthony Armstrong) signed the Agreement of Sales and Transfers for the three properties as a witness of the ‘signatures’ of the complainant on the sale of these properties without the complainant signing the documents in his physical presence,” the three-member GLC panel said.

Additionally, the panel said the complainant “never signed the agreement for sale and transfers in the physical presence of the attorney”, but had spoken to the attorney that he wanted to sell the properties. 

However, they concluded that the signatures on the transfer of the three properties are “the authentic signatures of the complainant”.

Armstrong, the GLC said, sold the properties and gave the proceeds to the complainant’s father and a woman the complainant had instructed to handle his matters. 

The GLC pointed that while it was not satisfied “beyond all reasonable doubt that the complainant did not instruct the attorney (Armstrong) to sell his three properties and that the signatures on the transfers do not belong to the complainant”, there was evidence from a witness that the signatures on the transfers to sell the properties “are the same as the transfers, which has the known signatures of the complainant”.

“… We find that the complainant by signing these transfers did authorize the attorney to sell the properties,” the GLC said in its ruling.

 It added: “Accordingly, the attorney did not act contrary to the laws of the land nor commit a criminal offence which would bring the profession into disrepute although he was not prosecuted.”

Notwithstanding that, the council chastised the attorney for admitting that he witnessed the transfers without the complainant being physically present as he relied on family members.

They also pointed out, through Armstrong’s own admission, that he was somewhat familiar with the signature of the complainant as he had represented him in the purchase of one of his apartments a couple years before.

“Witnessing the signature of someone on legal documents without them being present is the height of recklessness and had we found the signature on the transfers were not of the complainant, the consequences could have been graver,” said the GLC. 

“By signing a document in circumstances where the witness does not in fact see the person sign, the attorney is conveying to members of the public that as a lawyer he signed a legal document purporting to give the impression that the person signed in their presence, which is false,” commented the council.

The act committed by Armstrong, the panel said, “is behaviour which may tend to discredit the profession in breach of Canon 1(b), which is an act of professional misconduct”.

“As we found the attorney guilty of professional misconduct, we will give him an opportunity to address us on sanction if he so wishes,” said the GLC panel comprising Daniella Gentles-Silvera, Delrose Campbell and Anna Gracie.

Top Feature Photo: antiguanewsroom.com