Court to rule on DPP’s right to royal honour

MASERU — The High Court will deliver judgment tomorrow on an application in which the Law Society of Lesotho is challenging the conferment of the title of King’s Counsel (KC) on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane.

Thetsane is one of senior lawyers who were conferred with the title of King’s Counsel by King Letsie III during the king’s birthday on July 17, 2009.

A King’s Counsel is a title prescribed in the Law Society Act.

A King’s Counsel in Lesotho is equivalent to a senior counsel in South Africa and a Queen’s counsel in the United Kingdom.

A King’s Counsel is nominated and recommended by the Chief Justice to the King.

Recipients of this title are allowed to charge higher fees because of their status.

The title is bestowed on a lawyer based on their experience and role in the development of the legal profession in Lesotho.

In its application the Law Society had argued that conferment of the honour of King’s Counsel on Thetsane “be reviewed and set aside”.

The society argued that Thetsane had not been admitted as an advocate and so could not be honoured with that title.

“Until he proves that he is admitted as such the society holds the position he is not an advocate as contemplated by section 7 (1) of the Legal Practitioners Act 1983.”

The Law Society also contends that Thetsane had not rendered “distinguished service in the practice of law in Lesotho”.

On behalf of the society, Advocate Qhalehang Letsika, assisted by Advocate Letuka Molati, argued that under the Legal Practitioners Act, a person must be admitted as an advocate and not a law officer before they are given the title.

Letsika alleged that for the king to have conferred the honour and dignity of the KC on Thetsane “he (king) must have acted on the basis of wrong information”.

“Our contention is that there is a genuine dispute of fact and we request that the matter be referred to oral evidence,” Letsika submitted.

The application also cited Attorney-General T’sokolo Makhethe as a respondent.

On behalf of the DPP, Advocate Guido Penzhorn SC, assisted by Advocate Roland Suhr, argued that at the time of his admission Thetsane was not issued with a certificate of admission and “since then had no reason to obtain such written proof of admission (as an advocate)”.

He said for the past 23 years Thetsane had conducted himself as an advocate of the High Court and no member of the Law Society had ever raised a query.

Penzhorn argued that by bestowing this honour on Thetsane, His Majesty held the view he was indeed a person worthy of this honour.

“There is nothing on the papers which even suggests that His Majesty did not honestly and reasonably hold this view,” Penzhorn argued.

Penzhorn said “as to the king’s reasonableness, he clearly relied on the recommendation made to him by the Chief Justice”.

“Here there is no reason for doubting the second respondent (Chief Justice) when he states that he considered the first respondent to have rendered distinguished services in the law practice in Lesotho making him a deserved candidate for this singular honour,” based on 23 years that the DPP appeared as an advocate.

Court of Appeal Judge Justice Hein Grosskopf reserved judgment until tomorrow.

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