Legal aid winners named

AWARDS: honour for lawyer who advised man wrongly accused of 11 September involvement

Community care specialist Nicola Mackintosh and Richard Egan, the solicitor for Lotfi Raissi - the man wrongly accused of training the 11 September hijackers - were among the winners at the inaugural legal aid lawyer of the year awards last week.

The awards, organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, also recognised Jeffrey Gordon, a consultant at London firm Attridge, with the judges' special award.

Cherie Booth QC chaired the judging panel.

Mr Gordon has been a legal aid lawyer for more than 50 years, whose achievements include 'inventing' the Mackenzie Friend (now known as a litigation friend), and helping to set up the court duty solicitor scheme.

Now 69, he still attends police stations at night and at weekends as a duty solicitor.

The family law award went to Mark Jewels, a partner at Stafford firm JJ Law, who specialises in complex children cases.

The judges noted that he often represents clients personally instead of instructing counsel because he knows the clients feel more comfortable with him.

The trainee award was won by Belinda Greenwood of Hugh James in Merthyr Tydfil, who is already a member of the Law Society's mental health panel.

She was cited for 'showing a dedication to some of the most vulnerable people, and a determination to ensure that their rights are properly respected'.

Ms Mackintosh, a partner at London firm Mackintosh Duncan, won the civil law award.

She established the right of older care home residents not to be moved against their wishes in circumstances in which this could lead to their deaths.

Mr Egan, a solicitor in the London office of Tuckers and winner of the criminal law award, came to the Lotfi Raissi case as a duty solicitor.

The judges found that in the face of world-wide hostile press coverage, and facing the might of the US government, Mr Egan dismantled the extradition case against Mr Raissi until the magistrate released him, completely exonerated.

LAPG director Richard Miller said: 'All of the winners have made a conscious decision to use their professional skills to provide a service of the highest quality to vulnerable and excluded members of society.

This is a trait reflected throughout the legal aid sector.'

The awards were organised in conjunction with the Independent Lawyer and sponsored by Jordans.