Attorney Isat Buchanan’s foul-mouthed comments aimed at Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck have resulted in him being suspended for two years, effective December 5, 2023. Additionally, he has been fined $500,000 by the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council (GLC) which ordered that he pay costs in the amount of $20,000 to the GLC.
The decision was handed down on Tuesday by the committee which described the language used by Buchanan in a YouTube programme as “offensive, profane, vulgar, foul, and obscene”.
In the YouTube programme, called Pawdna Draw TV, Buchanan had quoted from a recording done by convicted killer Adidja Palmer, better known as Vybz Kartel, in which he instructs the DPP to commit a sexual act.
Buchanan, who is representing Kartel in his appeal against his conviction before the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council, resigned as chairman of the People’s National Party’s Human Rights Commission in August after public outrage at his comments.
The GLC said that at the commencement of the hearing before the Disciplinary Committee, Buchanan’s attorney, Valerie Neita-Robertson, KC, had indicated that her client would not be contesting the matter and was prepared to admit to the complaint laid by the complainant, Denise Kitson, KC, who is also chair of the GLC.
Kitson described the language used by Buchanan as profane and his conduct as dishonourable and obscene. She said she had received several written and verbal communication from not only members of the legal profession but also concerned citizens who deplored Buchanan’s conduct.
The GLC said that Buchanan, after being sworn, gave evidence that he was not contesting the complaint and specifically that he was not contesting that he had breached canons I (b) and VIII (b) of the profession.
The GLC said the panel then indicated to Neita-Robertson that her client could give evidence as to sanction; she could make submissions or do both; call other evidence or come back on another occasion. However, Buchanan elected to proceed with a sanction hearing as he wanted the matter behind him.
The GLC reported that Buchanan’s evidence in summary was that:
a) The show is a live show on YouTube and there is a comments section where questions are asked, and he responds to the questions. He is a co-host of the show.
b) On the day of the video, he was medicated.
c) There are certain dates in his life that cause him to be under stress.
d) The show that he was on caters to a certain demographic of Jamaicans, the majority of whom are uneducated people and if he is not animated and not using profanity he cannot bring the point home to these persons.
e) He was quoting from a Vybz Kartel song and he did not know, before the complaint was lodged, that he ought not to quote offensive language.
Buchanan also told the panel that he has no defence, he appreciated that what he said was distasteful, and he was disappointed in himself.
Additionally, he said he has suffered personally as he resigned from the PNP, as well as his teaching position at The University of the West Indies, and was kicked out of his office because of this matter.
He also said he was not a misogynist and wished for guidance from the panel.
Neita-Robertson made submissions in which she indicated that her client was genuinely sorry, had already paid a price, and asked the panel not to suspend him as he has learnt his lesson.
In outlining its decision, the GLC noted that on the YouTube programme Buchanan, in addition to suggesting that the DPP should perform an oral sexual act on a part of the male anatomy, had referred to Minister Chuck as a “constitutional paedophile”, using more profane language in his accusation.
“We are in no doubt that the language used by the attorney in speaking of these matters and persons associated with law and the legal profession would have had a widespread damaging effect on public confidence in the profession and the legal system overall. His behaviour and language are not consistent with the standard of ethical behaviour which society expects from attorneys or which all of us as attorneys expect from each other,” the GLC said.
The committee said it listened to the video recording of the programme “in horror”, as the language used by Buchanan was “offensive, profane, vulgar, foul, and obscene, and it does not detract from the vulgarity by contending that he was merely quoting from a song written by Vybz Kartel. The attorney clearly endorsed the sentiments expressed by Vybz Kartel as it relates to the DPP. He did not separate himself from it/refute it. Indeed, the attorney expressed admiration as he said in describing the song that ‘it is a poetic rendition that has Shakespearean marvel … it is a very poetic song’ and then he repeats the same foul, offensive language again with respect to the DPP, not once but thrice,” the panel noted.
The panel also said that, although it invited Buchanan to offer evidence of his claim that he was medicated at the time of the broadcast, “he called no further evidence either as to character or otherwise”.
It said it regarded the fact that Buchanan did not contest the matter and had apologised to Llewellyn as mitigating factors. However, in arriving at its decision it took into account the fact that he did not explain what form his attempts to apologise to Minister Chuck took.
Additionally, the panel said that notwithstanding that Buchanan was found guilty of professional misconduct in October 2022 in a complaint involving Canon 1 (b) in relation to the DPP, not even a year later, he goes on a public programme and again disparages the same DPP.
“Clearly, he learnt nothing from this first complaint. He did not, as one would have expected, temper his behaviour and become more meticulous with the required standards of the profession… In our view, the attorney’s language and conduct on the programme was intentional when one considers that this conduct again involves the DPP and indirectly Vybz Kartel. Further, his vulgar suggestion to the DPP and his description of what he stated the Minister of Justice was doing to the constitution was not said in the broadcast once, but he appeared to feel constrained to repeat it more than once during the show, undermining the rule of law or legal system and demonstrating a lack of integrity,” the GLC said.
“As members of the legal profession sitting on this panel, we are embarrassed by his language and conduct. He has brought the profession to its lowest in the eyes of the public and the profession.”