Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gustave Dodin Ascends to the Supreme Court

In the evening of the 22nd January 2010, SBC TV announced the appointment of Mr Gustave Dodin as a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Seychelles.

Until this appointment, Mr Dodin was serving as the Ombudsman. He also held the position of Chairman of the Human Rights Commission and was practising as an Attorney-at-Law. In the past, he held the position of Registrar General and was a State Counsel at the Attorney General's Office.

He completed his LLB at Kingston University and has an LLM from the University of Malta in Maritime Law. He also completed the Seychelles Bar Exams.

Mr Dodin's appointment means that out of the 5 Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court, 3 are now Seychellois (although one of the judges is in fact only a naturalised Seychellois). His appointment from Ombudsman to Judge also follows the precedent set by the appointment of Judge Bernadin Renaud in 2004, who was appointed as a Judge after serving as the Ombudsman.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Judges, the Registar and State Counsel - What's Up?

There is much talk in the Robing Room (and everywhere else) on who may be appointed to the Supreme Court bench, even the current bench, in open court, has already indicated that there will be new appointments in the next few weeks.

What will be interesting to see are the courtrooms of the new judges, in particular, where will they be located? The Supreme Court Building does not seem to have any more space for courtrooms, or even judges' chambers. Maybe the Magistrates will have to move over? Never mind, I guess the courts are used to being inadequate: Court files are often missing, leading to the frustration of the progress of certain cases; copies of judgments/orders take ages to be typed, and then a little bit more time just to have them printed, and then add a little bit more time just for them to be delivered to the litigants.

To make matters worse, the court has now been without a Registrar since early January. Previously, Mr Melchior Vidot served as Master & Registrar, but he was removed as the Registrar and in came the new Registrar Ms Jenny Adrienne. But she left the post very shortly after taking it up. The Registrar is the person in charge of the day-to-day administration of the courts, but the Registrar also has to tend to certain legal matters. It is therefore imperative that the Registrar has some background in court processes. The Registrar should therefore be someone who has had significant exposure to the courts and its processes.

It will be interesting to see who the new Supreme Court Judge(s) and Registrar will be.

In the meantime, the Attorney General's Office has just lost two more State Counsel and those left are scrambling to cope with their own workload in addition to the workload of those who have left. It is now such a common sight to see a case of the Government or the Republic being called out in court and no one from the Attorney General's Office knows which State Counsel is in charge of the case and what is happening in the case. It is very difficult for the State to seek to convict an accused person of an offence beyond reasonable doubt when they first have to discern, on a balance of probabilities, what is happening in the case. The problem is that so many State Counsel come and go and when one leaves, they are not made to brief remaining State Counsel of their cases and concerns. A system must be put in place and the office will have to get their act together.

Once again, only time will tell how things will pan out.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kishna Labonte sworn in as Magistrate

Mr Kishna Labonte was sworn in as a Magistrate before Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende on the 14th January 2010 (yesterday). He is expected to serve as the new "D" Court Magistrate of Victoria as from Monday, 18th January.

Mr Labonte served as a Police Officer for 28 years, before successfully completing the University of London External LLB with honours and the Seychelles Bar Exams, which he completed in 2007. Thereafter he was sworn in as a State Counsel and has been practising as one until his appointment as a Magistrate yesterday.

Mr Labonte's appointment means that Seychelles now has 4 Magistrates, all of whom are Seychellois. His appointment will help alleviate the backlog of cases in the Magistrates courts.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Demand for Legal Professionals in Seychelles

This morning the University of Seychelles, in a presentation made to various stakeholders, announced that it would be offering a law degree programme come the start of the next academic year, i.e. in October 2010. In particular, it will be offering the London External LLB program. It will offer only the full-time programme come October, but will offer part-time and modular programmes in the coming years.

The University of Seychelles will provide the facilities: the learning environment, lectures, seminars etc, but the course content will be provided for by the University of London and more importantly, at the end of the day, the blood and sweat of the law student will be rewarded with an internationally recognized degree - a University of London LLB.

Attending the presentation were the Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, President of the Court of Appeal Francis MacGregor, Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General and various members of the legal profession, there were also members of the national assembly and many potential law students. Such a varied crowd with many conflicting interests.

Justices of Appeal and legal professionals warned those interested in pursuing the programme that they would be studying English law and not Seychelles law. Justice of Appeal Hodoul pointed out that English Land Law and Law of Trusts are "useless" in Seychelles. A member of the audience who queried about studying the labour/employment law module of the LLB programme was cautioned that she would be studying English labour/employment law and not Seychelles labour/employment law. It might be worth mentioning right now that many individuals interested in obtaining an LLB would perhaps only wish to do so, so that they could work locally with corporate service providers or banks, but be wary, perhaps the one of the most important areas of the law they would need to learn is that of contract law and the Seychelles law of contract has some significant differences from the English law of contract. It was interesting to note though, that a local element to the course was discussed: Maybe summer modules on Seychelles law or the implementation of a Seychelles Bar Finals/Vocational course under the wing of the University of Seychelles.

Perhaps today some people would have understood why legal practioners severely opposed a bill for a new Legal Practitioners Act, that was in circulation in 2009 and has since been put down. If you learned the laws of one country that is all you have learned, you will not know about the laws of another country. That is often why, contracts drafted by foreign entities have to be significantly revised to be applicable in Seychelles.

A key issue put forward by the University of Seychelles' Vice-Chancellor and the presenter of the day, Dr. Rolph Payet is whether there is a great demand for attorneys-at-law in the country. The answer is twofold because there are two issues here. Is there a demand solely for law graduates in Seychelles? The answer is probably not. Someone who has learned the laws of England is not really helpful to anyone here. They will simply end up confusing themselves and everyone around them who doesn't know any better. And it is happening, there are individuals who only possess an LLB from England or Mauritius with no background in Seychelles law dictating what Seychelles law is when they have never studied it, never undergone pupillage and is not a Seychelles lawyer - an Attorney-at-Law. Not to mention that the providing of legal services/advice when one is not an attorney is an offence under Seychelles law punishable with 5 years imprisonment.

Of course, the skills one learns in successfully graduating with a law degree is transferable: analytical thought processes; logic and reasoning; presentation of facts and issues; structured argumentation... these are skills you can take to many jobs in Seychelles.

Now, is there a demand for Seychelles lawyers i.e. the Attorney-at-Law? The answer is Yes. There is a desperate need for more State Counsels at the Attorney General's Chambers. At the presentation, Dr. Payet indicated through a slide show that the country needs at least 8 more State Counsels. Perhaps, we might even need more than that. We are still recruiting foreigners to take up several key positions within the judiciary. We should strive to have an all Seychellois judiciary, and candidates should be hand-picked from the Attorneys-at-Law and/or State Counsels, and take note that it is expected that the number of Supreme Court judges and magistrates are expected to rise in the coming years. There are also many tribunals filled with non-lawyers adjudicating on legal issues, take SIBA as the ITZ Employment Authority and the consequent number of appeals and judicial reviews that take place after it decides on matters... appeals and judicial reviews that would not have been necessary if at least attorneys presided on the Authority's board. It can also be argued that the Registrar General and the Registrar of the Supreme Court should at the very least be qualified attorneys. With regards to demands for more Attorneys-at-Law, there has been a marked increase in litigation, both civil and criminal; and there has been a marked increase in advisory work brought about by the International Business Companies. There is also the potential of growth in legal advisory work in the securities and hedge funds industries but this is presently being stifled by the apparent lack of know-how from those involved to encourage the development of these industries.

But are there law students out there ready to come in and fill the void? Yes there are, but it is doubtful that they can fill up the void and one must also take into account that they may not all eventually qualify as lawyers. Presently, there are around 6 individuals seeking to complete the Seychelles Bar Exams or the UK Bar Vocational Course this year. There are around 9 students studying for their LLB degrees abroad, varying from the first year to the final year. There are also around 5 students presently enrolled in the University of London External LLB programme but they are all embarking on this mission separately from the University of Seychelles.

A potential law student may now realise that in the next few years, we could see a score of new legal practitioners, but this should not discourage them from embarking on this, the noble profession, as indicated above, there is tremendous room for growth.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.