Who? Richard Gifford, 69, consultant at Clifford Chance.
Why is he in the news? He is asking the Supreme Court, for the first time in its history, to overturn a judgment of the House of Lords.
The case is the latest step in a 40-year legal battle to give 1,500 residents of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean the right to return to the homes they were forcibly removed from by the UK government in 1971 to enable construction of the US Air Force base at Diego Garcia.
In 2008, the House of Lords ruled that the orders used to evict the islanders were legal.
Thoughts on the case: ‘The law has evolved a hell of a lot over 40 years, but even then the House of Lords went against us by a margin of three to two in 2008. We were very surprised to have lost.
‘We are challenging the ruling partly on the basis of the government’s feasibility study [into the possibility of resettlement]. We were denied access to underlying papers in the feasibility study and were never able to challenge that. We wanted to see the working papers and were told they didn’t exist.
‘We applied to set aside the decision of the Lords on the basis of a breach of duty of candour. I’m more than usually optimistic about the outcome. The FCO case was really rather muted.’
Dealing with the media? ‘The media are absolutely central to the whole Chagos resettlement campaign. It’s a political matter as well as a legal one. There’s widespread press interest – nobody knew about the Chagos when we started off. The press have been marvellous.’
Why choose law? ‘I would have been very happy as a carpenter, but law struck me as a very practical way to make a living. I wouldn’t say I’m a lawyer’s lawyer by any means. It has to have a personal interest. I should have retired years ago, but for this case.’
Career high? ‘The 2000 High Court case [backing the right of return]. A friend in Hong Kong told me it was flashed across the news throughout the Republic of China.’
Career low? ‘Losing a group litigation in 2003. It was a massive case. We enrolled 5,000 Chagossians individually and the government defended it tooth and nail.’