Who? Anne McMurdie, 52, assistant solicitor at Birmingham firm Public Law Solicitors.

Why is she in the news? Acted in a case that saw the home secretary withdraw at the last moment from an appeal hearing and the government make changes to a bill going through parliament.

In November 2012, police officers at Heathrow Airport detained and questioned McMurdie’s client, Abdelrazag Elosta, under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, which gives police the power arbitrarily to stop, search and question suspects. There is no right to silence and suspects can be arrested for failing to answer questions.

Elosta asked for his solicitor to be present during the questioning and also for a delay until the solicitor could get to the airport. Both requests were refused and he was only allowed to speak to his solicitor by telephone before the interview began.

In November 2013, the High Court found that the police had acted unlawfully and ruled that terror suspects detained at ports and airports should, like other detainees, be entitled to the ‘fundamental protection’ of face-to-face advice from a solicitor.

The home secretary and police sought an expedited appeal against the ruling, but both appellants withdrew shortly before it began on 20 February.

Thoughts on the case: ‘The terrorism threat can make governments get the balance wrong between protecting lives and protecting legal rights. This case demonstrates the importance of procedural safeguards in challenging times.’

Why become a lawyer? ‘I had been working for Shelter and the Terence Higgins Trust, and qualifying as a lawyer – it took five years part-time – gave me greater technical ability to fight for people’s rights.’

Career high: ‘Not a big moment, but all those often low-profile cases where your intervention makes a radical difference to people’s lives.’

Career low: ‘The last 12 months and the assaults on the availability of legal aid and on access to the courts through judicial review. The rights of individuals to stand up to the state are being eroded.’