Who? Lydia Dagostino, solicitor and director, Kellys Solicitors, Brighton.
Why is she in the news? Represented Ruth Wood, one of two protesters acquitted in November 2022 of an offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent after calling Iain Duncan Smith ‘Tory scum’ outside the Conservative party conference in 2021.
Thoughts on the case: ‘This is an important case about freedom of speech. If you can’t say “Tory scum” in the context of a well-thought-out speech about the policies of a Conservative government, what can you say? It was a defence to the charge for the defendants to prove that their behaviour was reasonable. The district judge refused to state a case after the defendants were acquitted and the CPS challenged that decision, to the extent of renewing their application for permission when they fell at the first hurdle.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Fortunately, I haven’t had to say much to the media. As is often the case, it is better to let others speak, including the defendants, whose voice in articulating why they did what they did (which in this case wasn’t actually very much) is second to none.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I witnessed first-hand the extent to which the state clamps down on activists in so many ways. I thought it would be a good idea to do a law course at the bottom of the road so that I would understand a bit more about it (CPE fees £99 per year, part-time). A few (!) years later and nothing has changed my views about this. In fact the way in which people can protest peacefully has been significantly curtailed and the extent to which the state now intervenes in campaigns or cases is shockingly worrying.’
Career high: ‘Acting for non-state core participants in the Undercover Policing Inquiry and realising that activists were absolutely right to be paranoid. They were being spied on, and worse. A number of the spies went on to hold very high positions in different branches of the police. We can only hope that the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry exposes the nature and extent of these nefarious operations so that deployments of this nature, into largely left-wing political groups, never happen again.’
Career low: ‘Covid and its impact on an already crushed profession. We have just finished a case involving activists that dated back to 2018. The state is all too quick to forget that defendants are punished in so many other ways and that having a case hanging over you for five years is appalling for everyone involved. Justice delayed is justice denied.’