KD Knight opts to avoid opening sessions of court
Veteran attorney KD Knight, King's Counsel, leaving the St Andrew Parish Court recently. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Veteran attorney KD Knight is resolutely opposed to declaring any form of allegiance to the monarch at the opening of court sittings.

Knight, who began practising in 1973 and is a member of the inner bar — which gives him the title King's Counsel (KC), formerly Queen's Counsel (QC) — reiterated his position on Monday when the Jamaica Observer asked him if he held firm to the views he had expressed recently in the St Andrew Parish Court during the ongoing trial of two former Petrojam officials.

"God save The King sounds like a prayer. When I pray, I pray earnestly, and the truth is that when I am praying, The King doesn't cross my mind, and I have no particular desire for him to be saved or not saved. I am totally neutral to it. I don't think that if I am not praying earnestly that he be saved, I should do so," Knight said.

Knight, who has held senior Cabinet positions in previous People's National Party administrations, had first voiced the view in a courteous exchange with Parish Judge Maxine Ellis, who is hearing the Petrojam matter.

In keeping with court formalities everyone in the room is instructed to stand when the judge enters. An on-duty cop then announces that the court is in session after which the declaration 'God save The King' is made, everyone gives a court bow then the order to sit is given.

While Knight observed the custom, he asked Justice Ellis for permission to sit during the opening of court, going forward, as he has an issue with the saying "God save The King".

However, Justice Ellis said she would not allow him to do that and reminded that, even though people may have their own beliefs, the court still has to be guided by the rules.

"Your Honour, I will not be in here for the opening of the court at any time," Knight replied.

Ellis indicated that she would prefer that he does that, instead of sitting during the opening.

"The only save I would like God to save him is to allow him and the monarchy to adhere to Christian principles, one of which is 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's', and they have things for us that they need to give. I don't want any money from them," Knight said.

"My race has a right to reparation, and I don't want them to give a million dollars here and a billion dollars there. I want them to give three things. I want them to deal with health, because they suffered badly, my foreparents. I want them to put in place in the country a First World health system which includes buildings, equipment and transportation. I want them to deal with education because they had me on a farm when I should be in school and therefore I want a First World education system. We need a proper rail and transportation system. When we tried to run away, they chased us with dogs, and they had their guns, and we felt insecure," Knight argued.

"If he is being saved, save to help, save to repair," Knight said, then told the judge that at a later date he will explain why he has not yet given up the title King's Counsel.

His comments elicited a response from prosecutor Caroline Hay, KC who recalled a recent visit to the British Museum in London.

"As I was walking through the different sections, I had an increasing sense of horror at the amount of stealing of artefacts of significant value from all over the world. What struck me was that it wasn't the Government in the United Kingdom taking these important things, these were travellers who had such a deep sense of entitlement that they could just go into other people's territory and just take their significant things," she said.

"One of the pieces was a mummy. The story behind it was that it was taken... It struck me with such horror that an ordinary man from an ordinary family could simply go and take away the remains of another ordinary family and that it could be there on display in the British Museum for all to see. It really shook me, the sense of entitlement and the discounting of humanity for other countries of the world in that era," she said.

After the court adjourned, the Observer asked Knight to say why he had not yet given up his King's Counsel title. He explained that there is no other appropriate or acceptable way, at this time, of addressing senior lawyers and said that he would have no problems being referred to as simply senior attorney.

His comments come amidst a move by Jamaica to sever ties with the British monarch and adopt a republican system of Government. A Constitutional Reform Committee appointed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to guide the process has been meeting and taking suggestions from Jamaicans.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter

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