Who? Duncan Burtwell, 42, solicitor in the police and public authorities department of London firm GT Stewart.
Why is he in the news? Won undisclosed compensation and legal costs for a Sikh lawyer who had sued the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for religious discrimination after being refused entry to a prison – to visit a client – because pins held his turban together.
GT Stewart criminal defence solicitor Amrik Bilkhu, who had been wearing his turban that way for 24 years, had never previously been stopped because of the potential danger posed by the pins.
Proceedings were issued in the county court, with a trial date of 14 May. The MoJ was going to defend the claim on the basis that Bilkhu had not been refused entry, but had elected not to proceed with the visit rather than allow his turban to be searched. The MoJ, however, settled the case on 15 January.
Thoughts on the case: ‘The whole incident was a disgrace and it defies belief that the MoJ would set out to defend the claim on the implied basis that Mr Bilkhu was lying. It is difficult enough for us to conduct publicly funded criminal defence work in the present climate without encountering obstacles of this kind. It was partly for this reason that we felt it important to pursue the claim.’
Why become a solicitor? ‘The son of a Church of England minister and a nurse, I grew up in a culture of public service, where treatment of everyone as equals was sacred.’
Career high: ‘Typically, my clients are poor, vulnerable and the victims of the worst kind of abuse of state power. Securing significant, potentially life-changing sums of money for them and giving them a sense that, contrary to what life has taught them thus far, everyone is equal before the law, is always satisfying.’