The Government Legal Services Team
The team consists of 14 positions and is structured as follows:
In delivering its various services, GLS’ mission (as set out in its most recent business plan) is to serve the people of the Falkland Islands by:
being trusted advisors to the Governor and colleagues in the Falkland Islands Government in supporting the achievement of objectives set by Members of the Legislative Assembly and wider policy goals;
providing high quality, cost-effective, legal services that meet the needs of Government and command the confidence and respect of the judiciary and the public alike;
being the best we can be, given our size and available resources, and being recognised for this by the people of the Falkland Islands and internationally; and
providing these services with the highest standards of professionalism, respect, integrity and courtesy.
GLS are in effect the Government’s lawyers, and the Attorney General is the Government’s senior legal advisor. The GLS team support him in that role.
GLS do not act for the public in the sense of providing advice to, and assuming duties and responsibilities for particular individuals, companies or businesses. Anyone needing legal advice on a personal or private matter will need to instruct one of the established legal practitioners, or take advice from an overseas firm as appropriate.
The public does, however, derive benefit from the services GLS provides to the Government, and from its efforts in supporting and facilitating Government policies, projects and initiatives for the benefit of the community. GLS also provides some direct services to members of the public: for example, arranging the grant of Crown leases for land or notarising documents.
The Attorney General is also the Attorney General of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (which is a separate British Overseas Territory) and so GLS provides legal advice and support to that Government. The range of work done for SGSSI tends in practice to concentrate on legislation, general contract work, fisheries and litigation.
GLS provides legal support and advice to the Falkland Islands Government on the full range of its activities – this can be very wide-ranging. Our principal activities can be summarised as follows:
1. General legal advice
Contract: GLS play a key role in the management of Government contracts. If the Government is looking to engage a service provider which, under the Financial Instructions, may require a competitive tender process, GLS will be involved in advising on this. GLS will also be instructed where Government is to provide services to a third party.
Property: GLS undertake property work for the Government and play a key role in the management of Government lands and property more generally - advising on the operation of the Commons Ordinance, dealing with Crown grants and leases; and administering the Government’s Lands Committee.
One of three Crown Counsel within GLS specialises in commercial and property work.
Projects: GLS are involved in wider projects, particularly capital projects and general programmes for reform.
GLS are involved in all levels of Government decision-making. The Attorney General attends Executive Council, Legislative Assembly and Corporate Management Team meetings. Other GLS members attend various inter-departmental committees and working groups. GLS provide advice to every part of the Civil Service.
GLS play an important role in promoting good governance and ensuring decision-making by the Falkland Islands Government conforms with the Constitution and all other applicable legal, regulatory and treaty obligations. This invariably involves reviewing all relevant legal requirements to see what is possible. These will be found in the Constitution and the laws of the Falkland Islands – ie, Ordinances made by the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, as supplemented by secondary legislation in the form of local regulations and orders. Also relevant will be English legislation which has direct application to the Falkland Islands, the principles of English common law and equity (judge-made law based on judicial precedent) and international treaty obligations which are binding on the Islands.
Falkland Islands laws (including subsidiary legislation) have now been consolidated and are available online (www.legislation.gov.fk). New laws are posted as and when implemented. This website also contains references to English laws which apply to the Falkland Islands.
Looking at what is possible under the law invariably leads to discussions of what changes might usefully be made. We are not policy advisers as such but we do involve ourselves in the development of Government policy in those areas where the Attorney General has the lead role and in providing legal advice in the context of policies being developed by other Government departments.
While we aim to provide the Falkland Islands Government with as much legal advice as possible in-house, it may be that a particular area of concern requires specialist legal input or is on a scale which exceeds our capacity to deliver. Where it is necessary to engage specialist external lawyers, GLS will be engaged in obtaining and assessing quotations from law firms, selecting legal advisers, settling their terms of engagement, and framing their instructions.
2. Specific areas of responsibility
Adult and child protection: One of our three Crown Counsel specialises in safeguarding work, aimed at protecting children in exposed circumstances and increasingly, following the adoption of a more robust statutory framework in this area, vulnerable adults. This work involves close liaison with the Social Services Department, the conduct of safeguarding proceedings and support for the safeguarding boards for children and latterly for adults.
Prosecution service: We direct and conduct criminal prosecutions. One Crown Counsel acts as the public prosecutor. He reviews cases investigated by the Royal Falkland Islands Police and other departments such as Customs, Immigration and Fisheries. He will carefully analyse each case to determine whether the evidential and public interest tests are satisfied; suggest any further investigations if appropriate; advise on charges; and prosecute those cases which reach that stage. The aim is to prosecute crime and bring actions on behalf of the Crown in a robust and impartial manner, thereby bringing offenders to justice, supporting the reduction of crime and promoting public confidence in the rule of law.
Civil litigation: As well as criminal law matters, we also represent the Government in civil disputes such as, for example, contract disputes, debt recovery actions and claims for judicial review.
We will be involved in cases before all the courts of the Falklands, including the Summary Court, the Magistrate’s Court and the Supreme Court. We will also represent the Government in proceedings before the Court of Appeal and ultimately, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.