Head of civil liberties, Hodge Jones & Allen, London
After university (I studied philosophy) I worked for a legal aid law firm. I was impressed by what could be achieved for clients, so I studied the law conversion course (Graduate Diploma in Law) at the University of Westminster and my LPC at the College of Law.
My legal training at Hodge Jones & Allen was an excellent preparation, with hands-on training in crime, family, employment, personal injury and civil liberties.
I lived in Zambia as a child, while apartheid was still in force in South Africa. I found it abhorrent that a state could use its power to enact laws that discriminated against particular sections of society. This imbued in me a lifelong commitment to challenge any state oppression, no matter what the scale. It’s not just about high-profile cases, it’s about ordinary people who suffer injustices at the hands of the state.
Dealing with bereaved clients, whatever you achieve, cannot compensate for the loss of their loved ones. And victims of miscarriage of justice can never be compensated for the years lost as a result of their false imprisonment.
Taking a miscarriage of justice compensation case all the way to the House of Lords – R (Hickey & Ors) v Independent Assessor – has been my most exciting career moment so far.
LASPO is my least favourite law as it has greatly restricted access to justice. Section 175 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, moreover, essentially means that victims of miscarriage of justice must prove their innocence to the criminal standard of proof to be eligible for compensation.
Lost in the changes I have seen over my professional life are funding and the ex-gratia scheme for compensation for miscarriage of justice. Funding has become so time-consuming and such a pressing issue, that the time to influence policy and campaign on important issues has diminished.
The Human Rights Act has been a gain for the profession, because it enshrines the fundamental rights of individuals in law. It goes some way towards balancing the rights of individuals against those of the state and ensuring state accountability, particularly in imposing investigative obligations and in the policing of protest.
Specialists have a deeper knowledge of their clients’ specific problems and remedies, allowing cases to be dealt with more efficiently.
My hopes for the future include better mechanisms to hold the state to account; that LASPO is amended to extend QOCS to civil liberties cases and thus increase access to justice; that the Human Rights Act remains on the statute books; that section 329 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 is repealed; and that there is a just test for compensation for miscarriage of justice.