15 New Bridge St barrister fights for justice in Trinidad

Anand Beharrylal, a barrister of Trinidadian parentage who practises at specialist criminal set 15 New Bridge Street, is considering a possible forthcoming instruction.

“It involves a woman who brought an action for unfair dismissal,” he says. “The court took 15 years to deliver judgment, by which time the company which employed her was defunct and the judgment was ordering her reinstatement. Such a result would be inconceivable if it were to happen in England.”

Beharrylal has been acting for clients from Trinidad and Tobago and helping to prepare their cases as they come before the Privy Council, often on a pro bono basis. “Cases like this do the country little credit, because it isn’t poor, although it has people who are of modest means,” he says. “There’s no excuse for it.”

The barrister lived in Trinidad for six years when he was a teenager and his father is an attorney who still practises in the country. Beharrylal often works with Anand Ramlogan, a lawyer and civil rights activist based in Trinidad and Tobago. “We’re contemporaries and I admire a lot of the work he does,” the barrister says. “He’s a one-man army in Trinidad and Tobago, taking on cases which are of general public importance. He’s also been fighting against racism aimed at Indians in the Caribbean and in Trinidad and Tobago. He’s prepared to speak out on matters which he considers to be unfair, and it breaks the tradition, because a lot of people aren’t prepared to speak out.”

The barrister points out that many of the cases are prepared for extensively in the Caribbean because they are argued there before the Court of Appeal. “When it comes to the Privy Council, there’s a real desire to make sure that every point should be taken, because it’s the last appeal and the last step in the legal process,” he continues. “If the issues aren’t raised there, they aren’t dealt with.”

Beharrylal has advised on four such cases this year, including Ramsarran v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago. The Privy Council in that case considered whether, when a person was arrested or detained, they had a legal right to retain and instruct without delay a lawyer of their choice. The lawyer explains that the state was saying someone arrested on a warrant of commitment did not have the right to instruct a lawyer. The Privy Council disagreed.

“It’s a rather basic proposition in law, but when you look at the way the law has developed in Trinidad, there hasn’t been the progress you might expect,” says Beharrylal. “It’s only when you get to the Privy Council that decisions like that are upheld and the law is defined to protect the citizens.”

Beharrylal, who qualified to practise in the Caribbean in 2001, hopes to take time out of his London practice to work there. “The reason being is that very many people with good cases aren’t able to afford to retain a lawyer,” he says.