Family, colleagues say farewell to lawyer Neil Byam

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Family and friends of Duncan Byam view his body during his funeral service at the St. Finbar’s RC Church, Diego Martin. 2023.02.23 – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

FAMILY, friends and fellow members of the legal fraternity gathered on Thursday at a packed St Finbar’s RC Church in Diego Martin to say farewell to former deputy solicitor general Duncan Neil Byam.

Byam collapsed and died on February 10 in the Court of Appeal, where he was representing the Ministry of Energy as an attorney in private practice.

He was lovingly remembered as the husband of Charlene Byam, father of Madeleine Byam, and brother of James and Iain Byam.

Attorney Neil Byam, left, and a former colleague in the Solicitor General’s Department Sanjeev Lalla in an undated photo. 

The funeral was officiated by Fr Urban Hudlin, with the eulogy delivered by Iain Byam.

Iain said his brother’s sudden death had been a great shock to the family, who were still trying to process what had happened. The family had been very touched by the many kind words of well-wishers since Neil’s death, Iain said.

He remembered his brother as a “very human and approachable person” and “a fair-minded individual.”

Iain said, “He left a considerable legacy. That gives us some comfort, although we wished we had more time.”

Hudlin said he had struck up a friendship with Neil, whom he described as a gem and as “very kind and witty.”

Karel Douglas, executive officer of legal and enforcement at the Telecommunications Authority (TATT), described Byam as “an extraordinary and helpful person.”

Douglas recalled, “He never turned away anybody. He was always willing to assist you.

“He was a very humble individual.”

Appeal Court judge Geoffrey Henderson told Newsday Byam had been an old classmate from QRC.

“We were in form one together, and Neil had remained the same way throughout his life – honest, very private to himself, funny and bright. Sadly, he was not, I think, rewarded as best as he could have been. He was a really decent man.”

Appeal Court judge Gillian Lucky told Newsday, “As a former state prosecutor, and knowing that when you make your career something within the service, what Neil Byam did showed that he was fully committed to the cause, somebody who was prepared to work his entire career, until recently, to work with the State, and he made a career out of working with the State.”

She praised him for having mentored, motivated and inspired young attorneys in the state sector. Lucky said Byam gave these young professionals the encouragement to minister justice and to know that whatever the workload, complaints, and modest state salaries and terms and conditions, there was a benefit to knowing they had done their best and had worked for the interest of justice.

“Neil, to me, proved that you could be that gentle giant, going into a courtroom not in any animated style, making very powerful submissions and engaging the court and those on the other side to dig deep and really determine not only where the truth lies, but also the context in which facts are placed in terms of the law.

Relaties of attorney Duncan Byam look on as Fr. Urban Hudlin pray over the coffin during his funeral service at the St. Finbar’s RC Church, Diego Martin. 2023.02.23 – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

So for that we truly commend him – somebody who literally worked for the interest of justice.”

Also among the mourners were Justice Carol Gobin, Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, and attorneys Larry Lalla and Gerald Ramdeen.

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, paid tribute to Byam in a statement.

“I knew Neil Byam as a colleague and a friend and share the grief and sense of loss of his wife, Mrs Charlene Byam, his family and his colleagues of the Solicitor General’s and Chief State Solicitor’s Departments.”

He said he deeply regretted being unable to attend the funeral, as did his wife Elizabeth Solomon, who had been at university with Byam’s brother Dr James Byam.

“I have asked Honourable Minister Senator Sagramsingh-Sooklal to represent me at his funeral. In that regard I have spoken with and offered my apologies to Mrs Byam for my unavoidable absence from today’s service, as I am attending Cabinet at the same time.”