Who? Caroline Barrett, associate solicitor, Irwin Mitchell, Cambridge.
Why is she in the news? Acts for a young resident and their family who have applied for a judicial review of Northamptonshire County Council’s plans to close 21 libraries. A spokesman for the council says it will be defending the legal challenges lodged.
Thoughts on the case: ‘While it is recognised that local authorities are under significant financial constraints, it is our client’s view that the extent of these cuts, with 21 out of 36 libraries being closed, goes too far and would cause the council to breach its statutory duties. There would also be a particularly severe impact upon children and other vulnerable groups who use the libraries. All local authorities should make decisions in a lawful manner and in compliance with their statutory duties, and should be held to account if they fail to do so.’
Dealing with the media: ‘There has been a significant amount of media interest in this case, given the extent of Northamptonshire County Council’s financial difficulties and the extensive cuts it has made to many of its services this year. This attention helps to highlight the very real legal consequences that a local authority might face when those cuts are considered to be unlawful, and the rights that citizens have to challenge public bodies when they breach their duties.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘Being a lawyer has always been about helping the most vulnerable people in our society, helping them access justice, and holding those in power to account.’
Career high: ‘Most of my work concerns children and adults with disabilities. Any case where we help those individuals enforce their rights and give them access to justice is highly rewarding and keeps me going for the next fight.’
Career low: ‘The worst part of the job remains hitting legal aid funding hurdles and subsequently being unable to assist in some cases, despite clients being in need of legal assistance.’