Attorney Peter McHugh is steadily beating a path to becoming one of the top defense attorneys in Jamaica. This highly self-motivated man has a desire of helping others to seek justice and ensuring that they are treated fairly in the justice system.
McHugh had no intention of being in the field of law but rather in medicine. However, over the years, McHugh has developed a love for the law as he worked first as an assistant clerk and deputy clerk of court and was called to the Bar in 2012 as an attorney.
“The truth is, I never wanted to do law. Even when I was employed within the courts system… I’ve always wanted to do something in natural sciences and become a medical doctor. Probably what I’d say is that the profession chose me rather than me choosing it,” he explained to The Times in an interview.
McHugh has embarked on a new adventure since 2014, as he has now been working as a defense attorney, rather than on the prosecution side where he entered the justice system,
“It was not out of a lack of love why I did not remain with the prosecution, but it had to do with wanting to see what was on the other side and increasing my knowledge and scope,” explained McHugh.
McHugh, who grew up in Bamboo, St Ann, had humble beginnings, but never lost sight of the fact that he had to achieve while he was at Bamboo All Age (now Primary) School. He later passed his Common Entrance Exams and earned a place at Ferncourt High School.
“I’ve always wanted something better for myself and even though I was born in humble situations, my parents always ensured that we went to school and we knew the importance of education and we knew that education would take us out of the tough situations,” McHugh said.
He was the youngest of three children born to Charles and Hyacinth McHugh. His mother is now deceased.
While at Ferncourt High School and later at Brown’s Town Community College, McHugh was active in athletics and became champion athlete for some years. Athletics remains one of his favourite sports.
After leaving high school in 1982, McHugh remained on his quest to pursue a career in medical science and spent two years at Brown’s Town Community College. There he sat GCE subjects in the natural sciences with the hope that he would matriculate to the medical sciences.
CHANGE IN CAREER PATH
“It was out of a lack of financial resources to attend university why I had sent out a general application seeking a job in government. At the time, when I got called to work at the resident magistrate court (now Parish Court) in 1985, I was already working for two weeks at the pension office in Kingston. So I decided to come back to St Ann to take up the job without any knowledge of what the job would entail,” McHugh explained.
McHugh first worked as an assistant clerk in 1985 in St Ann and later passed his qualifying exams that saw him being appointed a deputy clerk of court in 1989.
He also acted as an acting clerk of court on several occasions. His job involved preparing legal documents such as summonses, subpoenas, assisting the clerk of court in court cases, accounting and other duties. He also had the opportunity of moving through the ranks from petty session’s court to children and finally dealing with trials in cases at the resident magistrate court.
McHugh also worked as deputy clerk of courts in St Mary and Trelawny, but he served the greater part of his career in St Ann.
“I thought I would have been able to work and save and to fulfill my desires of becoming a medical doctor, but each time I decided to resign, I was always promoted,” McHugh said.
He explained too that he was surrounded by several people, including judges and attorneys, who thought he was “a natural and had the ability to pursue law…It was something I resisted, but as fate would have it, it caught up with me. I applied to the University of London (in 2004) and where that is concerned, the rest is history,” McHugh declared.
He continued his studies part-time while working and graduated from the University of London with his Bachelor of Laws degree in 2008. He later completed his Certificate of Legal Education (CLE) in 2012 at the Norman Manley Law School and was called to the Bar as an attorney. McHugh admitted that now he has an “affinity” for law and has been enjoying his journey.
In January of 2014, McHugh resigned from his job in the court system after giving 28 years of service to venture into private practice.
“I believe that I have a very good success rate both at the Parish Court and the Circuit Court. My practice mostly entails criminal litigations,” he explained.
His office is in Brown’s Town, St Ann. He started out as a sole practitioner, but he is now forming a partnership with attorney Andrea Silvera-Martin to form a firm called McHugh and Martin.
He explained that many people are seeking fairness and justice and this pushed him also to do law.
“There are many people who are out there helpless and don’t know where to turn to or who to go to. As an attorney, it is the responsibility that you are entrusted with. You have to keep in mind that most clients will come to you with problems and will want you to fix it no matter how bad it is,” McHugh stated.
LIFE AWAY FROM LAW
Peter McHugh still resides in Bamboo, St Ann. He has served for 12-years on the board of the Bamboo Primary and Junior High School. He is also one of the directors of a financial institution in St. Ann.
McHugh explained that he is “desirous of resuming a committee” he had formed a few years ago in his community to assist young people, in particular males, who may have challenges academically.
“I think we are losing our males,” he emphasized, while adding that he would help these males reach a certain level so that they could apply to institutions such as HEART Trust/NTA or the National Youth Service Programme (NYS).
When not busy with law, McHugh enjoys listening to soul music, watching television and lyming with others. He explained that he is a believer in God and he lives by the lines of Desiderata. “You have to always think positive. You must never see the glass as half empty; see it as half full and life is what you make it. It is not for others to make it for you… Do not watch what others may gain and the rate at how they gain it. Stay in your lane and as Desiderata says there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself,” McHugh advised.