Who? Sanjeev Sharma, 35, public law and human rights partner at Birmingham firm JM Wilson.
Why is he in the news? Acted in the European Court of Human Rights for a Muslim woman in her appeal against a French law that in 2010 made it illegal to wear the niqab, a veil that covers the face, in public.
The appellant, French national SAS, insisted that she wore the niqab out of religious conviction only and that neither her husband nor a family member forced her to do so. She accused the French state of breaching several of her human rights, in particular the article 9 right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The court dismissed her appeal, ruling that banning the niqab was not discriminatory, but was in the interests of ‘living together’ and helping all citizens integrate into society.
Thoughts on the case: ‘The French government is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The ban will have the opposite effect of what it intended, which was to promote social cohesion/integration and protect women who are forced to wear a niqab by their families. Whether a face is covered or not is irrelevant.
‘It is a person’s desire to integrate, not what they wear on their face, that is important.’
Why became a lawyer? ‘To help people challenge state decisions which have breached their fundamental rights.’
Career high? ‘This case. Not only was I able to attend the European Court of Human Rights, the media coverage was also amazing and showed the breadth of interest in the case across Europe.’
Career low? ‘Watching the effects of the legal aid cuts and the barriers to access to justice they are imposing upon vulnerable people suffering genuine hardship from unjust decisions.’