Who? Paul Ridge, 46, public law partner at London firm Bindmans.
Why is he in the news? Advised demonstrators opposed to the criminalisation of squatting who had set up camp outside the office of Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green.
The protesters claim that squatting arises from homelessness, poverty and the mismanagement of the housing stock. Declaring it illegal solves nothing, but simply makes criminals of the homeless and poor, they argue.
Freer, one of the architects of the law making squatting in empty residential buildings a criminal offence, accidentally emailed protesters, describing them as ‘numbnuts’ and the Metropolitan police’s advice on how to handle the demonstration as ‘daft’.
Freer opted not to go through the courts to remove the protesters, but instead sent in bailiffs early one morning. Ridge said this was a ‘risky strategy’ and that a court order would have been safer.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Mike Freer may not like what happened, but the police behaved entirely properly during this protest. Police are not there to adjudicate between two parties who disagree, but to uphold the law. The key issue here is the right to protest. The police were clearly satisfied that no criminal offence had been committed.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I volunteered at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau after university and became involved in a case where the council had cut off an old lady’s hot water for six weeks. We issued a small claim and won.’
Career high: ‘Nine hundred protesters in court singing Give Peace a Chance. We lost, but it was a memorable moment.’
Career low: ‘We used to be able to argue that before legal aid cuts, the law was not solely the preserve of the wealthy. That is no longer the case.’