The solicitor who for almost two decades has helped families affected by the 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy was honoured at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards last night.
Elkan Abrahamson, partner at Liverpool firm Quality Solicitors Jackson & Canter, received the award for outstanding achievement at the ceremony in London.
Abrahamson, who last year received the Gazette Legal Personality of the Year award, has worked closely with the Hillsborough campaigners for nearly 20 years to discover the truth about what happened on 15 April 1989.
He acts for 19 families of those who died in the tragedy and has provided free legal advice for the late Anne Williams, the mother of one of the victims.
The twelfth annual awards, organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, were presented to lawyers in 11 categories.
Matt Foot, of Birnberg Peirce, who is one of the co-founders of the Justice Alliance which has campaigned against the legal aid cuts, received the award in the new category of legal aid champion. Bill Waddington and Robin Murray, the chair and vice-chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association were also nominated for their work campaigning against the legal aid cuts.
Camilla Graham-Wood of London firm Birnberg Peirce & Partners won legal aid newcomer for her work in actions against the police, challenging unlawful detention and asylum claims, and for promoting social mobility in her role with the Young Legal Aid Lawyers’ group.
Douglas Johnson, from Sheffield CAB and Law Centre received the award for social and welfare lawyer for his work in discrimination cases.
Maud Davis, partner at London firm TV Edwards won the family legal aid lawyer award for her work in complex care cases.
The housing lawyer award went to John Gallagher of Shelter and Mark Scott of London firm Bhatt Murphy won the immigration and asylum award.
S Chelvan of No 5 Chambers won the award for legal aid barrister of the year for his work with asylum seekers, particularly those who are gay or transgender.
Charlotte Haworth Hird of London firm Bindmans received the new award for lawyers working in inquests or actions against the police.
She was the lead solicitor on the judicial review which led to an independent review into the deaths of 18-24 year olds in custody. She also won an investigation into the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, a young man with autism and epilepsy who drowned in the bath while detained at a psychiatric unit.
Mike Schwarz, partner at Bindmans, received the award for criminal defence lawyer of the year, recognising his work in exposing misconduct by undercover police officers and winning a ground-breaking public inquiry into their activities.
Caroline Bowden, of London firm Anthony Gold, won the award for family mediator.
Newcastle firm Ben Hoare Bell received the award for legal aid firm of the year, recognising its commitment to publicly funded work, the skills of its lawyers like Cris McCurley and Simon Garlick and its campaign against the legal aid cuts.
Lord Justice McFarlane chaired the 12-strong judging panel, which included former DPP Keir Starmer QC, legal researcher and former Justice director Roger Smith, founder of the Black Lawyers Network Debo Nwauzu and Nicola Mackintosh QC, principal at south London firm Mackintosh Law.