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Chief Justice welcomes Gibraltar's new QCs, hints at reform

The Chief Justice, Anthony Dudley, yesterday floated the idea of a reform of the rules for the appointment of Queen's Counsel in Gibraltar, calling for a "measured and constructive debate” on whether changes were appropriate.

Mr Justice Dudley was speaking during the appointment ceremony of Nigel Feetham, QC, and Christian Rocca, QC.

The appointment as a QC is significant for any barrister in their profession and is in recognition of professional integrity and competence in the legal profession.

This was the fourth QC ceremony held in Gibraltar since 2011 and brought the complement up to 24 QCs on the Rock.

At present both litigation and non-litigation lawyers can "take silk", a reference to the QC's gown.

But the guidelines state that no more than 10% of lawyers in private practice can be appointed QC. With 24 lawyers now holding the rank of QC, that quota has now been filled.

Commenting on the appointments yesterday morning, Mr Justice Dudley called for “measured and constructive debate” to be held to see an amendment in the QC appointment guidelines.

“This is a balance which works,” Mr Justice Dudley said, adding: “Although it might be desirable to lessen the number of silks to less than 10%.”

He pointed out, however, that "there are no easy answers".

Louis Triay, QC, the doyen of Gibraltar’s legal community, spoke at the ceremony welcoming Mr Feetham and Mr Rocca to the ranks.

“Becoming a QC is a badge of honour,” Mr Triay told a packed courtroom, and spoke of the credentials of the two men who took silk.

Mr Rocca was described as a “confident litigator” who was appointed as the Director of Public Prosecutions within the Crown Prosecution at the beginning of this year.

Before that he worked as a litigation lawyer and was the managing partner in Isolas.

His journey began when he started working as an usher at the Supreme Court and was inspired to seek a career in law.

Mr Feetham was hailed as an “exceptional case from a non-litigation background” when he was appointed QC.

He became a barrister in 1993 at Hassan’s law firm and soon became partner.

Over his years of working as a lawyer Mr Feetham was involved in the drafting of the Protected Cell Company Act 2001 and often has served as a junior to his brother, Daniel Feetham, QC, who took silk two years ago.

Mr Triay described Mr Feetham as a “pioneer in protected cell companies” and said: “Gibraltar is doing very well out of them and so is Mr Feetham.”

Given that Gibraltar’s QC ranks have increased significantly, Mr Triay repeated his message to local law firms to look at the pool of talent available on the Rock before hiring QCs from the UK for complex cases.

Family members, co-workers and local dignitaries were invited to join in the event at the Supreme Court.

The Governor of Gibraltar, Lt Gen Edward Davis, the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and the Attorney General, Michael Llamas, QC, Puisne Judge Karen Ramagge Prescott, Puisne Judge Christopher Butler and Stipendiary Magistrates Charles Pitto were among those who also attended the ceremony.

Senior QCs were also invited to welcome the two new members to their ranks, and Mr Rocca described them as “the toughest jury” he would ever have to contend with.

In his speech, Mr Rocca said it was an “honour and privilege” to join the ranks of QC.

He said: “It is difficult to explain to those outside the profession what the two additional letters to the end of our names means.”

Speaking on behalf of himself and Mr Feetham, Mr Rocca said the essence of becoming a QC was the “mark of excellence”, adding: “This is something all those who practice law strive from day one to hope to achieve.”

“Nigel and I are proof that very different roads lead to the same destination,” he told the court, adding that they are aware of the “privilege” that comes with being a QC, and accept the appointment with “honour, dignity and exacting standards”.

The ceremony in the Supreme Court was followed by a drinks reception at the Convent hosted by Lt Gen Davis.