Who? Julia Salasky, 33, solicitor and founder of the UK’s first legal crowd funder, the online community action group CrowdJustice.
Why is she in the news? The first case, brought by a Colombian former oil engineer and trade union leader against a multinational oil company, has now launched on her new site.
Gilbert Torres, 52, who was kidnapped and tortured 13 years ago, is using CrowdJustice to raise £5,000 to fund a High Court claim for damages against BP. He alleges that BP funded the paramilitaries who abducted him and was indirectly involved in human rights abuses committed to protect its interests.
The site invites people to pledge money to help Torres ‘speak truth to power’. The funders are donors, not investors, and there is no profit to be made. If the case completes before the funds are exhausted, the remaining money will go to the Access to Charity Foundation.
Salasky expects that most of CrowdJustice’s cases will involve communities coming together to protest against local issues, such as the closure of parks and other amenities.
London firm Deighton Pierce Glynn is taking the case on a conditional fee basis.
A BP spokesman said: ‘While BP deplores what happened to Señor Torres, we categorically refute any allegation that BP had any involvement with or knowledge of the incident or somehow “allowed it to happen”. BP never hired, worked with or encouraged paramilitary activities in Colombia during the time it had operations there.’
Thoughts on CrowdJustice: ‘In today’s difficult legal climate, vulnerable people are finding it ever harder to exercise their legal rights. CrowdJustice aims to channel the energy and resources of communities big and small to secure access to justice.’
Dealing with media: ‘Coverage has been positive. I think journalists are glad to be able to report something good about the law for once.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I’ve long been fascinated by the interplay between law and politics. The law’s power lies in empowering communities.’
Career high: ‘Launching CrowdJustice. It was an exciting milestone too when the first case was funded.’
Career low: ‘Working at a legal aid centre and witnessing how the less affluent were so marginalised compared with the better off.’