Who? Rebecca Stevens, 37, family law associate at south-west firm Withy King.
Why is she in the news? Acted for more than 100 hours pro bono for the father of child D in a case during which a senior judge said that the state had ‘simply washed its hands of the problem’ and behaved in an ‘unprincipled and unconscionable’ manner.
Family Division president Sir James Munby was giving judgment in the matter of D, where Swindon Borough Council in April of this year placed the child with foster carers against his parents’ wishes. The boy’s father was not eligible for legal aid and could not afford to pay for representation.
Both parents also had learning difficulties, making it difficult for them to appear in court on their own behalf.
Munby said: ‘It is unthinkable that the parents should have to face the local authority’s application (to deprive them permanently of their son) without proper representation… Thus far the state has simply washed its hands of the problem, leaving the solution to the problem which the state itself has created… to the charity of the legal profession. This is, it might be thought, both unprincipled and unconscionable.’
He directed that there should be a further hearing at which he would decide whether the costs are to be paid by the local authority, legal aid fund or another ‘state agency’.
Thoughts on the case: ‘It’s astonishing that the state can sanction a situation where a family’s human rights – articles six and eight, right to a fair trial and right to a private and family life – have been breached. Also, although we acted pro bono, the firm still had to provide an indemnity if a costs order was made against us.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I did a law module at college and found it fascinating. The module required a presentation and my teacher, a solicitor, said that I lit up when speaking about the law and should take it up as a career.’
Career high: ‘Every day I go into court to do the job I love.’
Career low: ‘Crying my heart out in a Swindon car park after the [district] judge in April had refused to grant an injunction stopping D being taken from his parents.’