Who? Natasha McDermott, managing partner at London firm Carters.
Why is she in the news? McDermott was part of the team that took the case of Ismail Abdurahman to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
Abdurahman was convicted of terrorism offences in relation to the failed London bombings in 2005. He was interviewed initially as a witness, and then
began to incriminate himself. The police continued to take his witness statement, without informing him that he was a suspect, and failed to give him access to a lawyer.
The European Court of Human Rights concluded that his rights under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) had been breached.
In its ruling, the ECHR stated that the UK government had not demonstrated compelling reasons for these breaches of PACE.
Thoughts on the case: ‘This was a bold decision of the European Court, particularly in the current climate created by terrorist acts.
‘The right to legal advice is fundamental to ensuring transparency of process and preventing any suggestion of coercion.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Even the most liberal media have been less than enthusiastic about the decision. It is a pity that the papers have failed to take this opportunity to focus on the underlying significance of this decision, which reaffirms that individuals cannot be subjected to interview without the benefit of legal advice except in the most exceptional of circumstances.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘As a teenager I wanted to become a lawyer and make a difference in the lives of others. In criminal law, there is immense satisfaction to be gained, although the demise of public funding in recent years has made everything progressively more challenging.’
Career high: ‘This case – it has made legal history. Although I did not have this case from the beginning, it was enlightening to work with a dedicated and committed team, which included the late Mike Fisher, Mike Reilly and Bedford Row’s John King and Anne Faul.’
Career low: ‘When a judge at Blackfriars (who has long since retired) threatened to put me in the cells for contempt, upon discovery that I had successfully obtained High Court bail for a defendant that he had earlier decided to remand in custody. Quaking, I then proceeded to ask him to recuse himself from the case, which angered him further.’