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Gwawr is dedicated to promoting human rights and defending civil liberties, and is especially committed to publicly funded practice. She prides herself on her approachable and down to earth manner, her fastidious attention to detail and her tenacity in seeking a just result for those whom she represents.
Gwawr’s practice extends across a number of inter-related areas. This not only allows her to take a holistic approach to any particular case, but also offers continuity of representation to clients whose problems straddle more than one area of law. Accordingly, Gwawr is able to offer a seamless service to criminal clients raising complaints about their treatment in prison or by the police; to defendants who may be facing deportation proceedings upon conviction; and to immigration clients seeking redress for unlawful detention.
In appropriate cases, Gwawr is able to accept instructions directly from members of the public, community organisations and NGOs, through the Bar Council’s Public Access Scheme.
Gwawr’s meticulous attention to detail, approachable manner, sound tactical judgment and engaging jury speeches have earned her a busy defence practice. She represents defendants charged with offences spanning the full range of the criminal spectrum, including allegations of homicide; serious physical and sexual violence; fraud, money laundering and other allegations of dishonesty; large scale public disorder, and offences relating to the importation, production and supply of drugs.
Gwawr’s experience of volunteering with Bristol Youth Offending Team prior to coming to the Bar is especially valuable when representing young defendants. She is regularly instructed to represent youths committed to the Crown Court under the ‘grave crime’ provisions: instructions for trial have included acting for a fourteen year old charged with armed robbery and a fifteen year old facing an allegation of attempted rape against a fourteen year old complainant. In addition, she has particular expertise in handling witnesses who are vulnerable due to age, disability or history of trauma.
Gwawr has a particular interest in cases which overlap the criminal and immigration jurisdictions. Her familiarity with the application process and the technicalities of immigration law, derived from her practice in immigration and asylum law, often gives her a ready advantage. She is also able to offer early advice and continuity of representation to foreign national defendants likely to face deportation upon conviction.
- R v MY (2020, Inner London Crown Court) – Allegation of stranger rape in the street where, unusually, the defence advanced was consent/reasonable belief in consent. The Crown relied on CCTV footage which showed the complainant running out of an alleyway next to the location of the alleged attack; from there, she had gone directly to a nearby hospital, where she reported that she had been dragged to the stairwell of a block of flats and subjected to a series of sexual assaults. The defendant was acquitted of all four counts on the indictment.
- R v HP (2019, Woolwich Crown Court) – Trainee teacher accused of sexually assaulting a seven year old in his care. Gwawr’s cross-examination of the young complainant was commended by the judge as “word perfect”.
- R v DA (2019, Reading Crown Court) – Defendant acquitted of six counts of assault by penetration and one count of controlling or coercive behaviour. The defence case was that the defendant’s wife had fabricated the allegations in order to lay a foundation for an application for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom on the grounds that the relationship had broken down as a result of domestic violence.
- R v SC (2019, Croydon Crown Court) – Leading Mike Hollis, Gwawr represented a mother charged with multiple counts of failing to protect three of her children from serious sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, as well as multiple counts of neglect spanning a nine year period. The prosecution collapsed after three and a half weeks of evidence, after the defence’s persistence in pursuing disclosure led the officer to admit within a voir dire that she had overlooked over 3,000 pages of social services records. The Crown offered no evidence shortly before the anticipated retrial, on the basis of material within those documents which called into question the credibility of the complainants, coupled with important concessions secured by the defence during cross-examination of the three complainants.
- R v LC (2018-2019, Southwark Crown Court) – Led by John Benson QC, Gwawr acted for a defendant alleged to have acted as a ‘drop shipper’ within two conspiracies to supply unauthorised and prescription only medicines spanning many years. The Crown relied on the fruits of two parallel covert operations, one orchestrated by the MHRA and the other by a pharmaceutical company: the trial began with a week long voir dire raising complex issues as to the parameters of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in circumstances where commercial entities’ covert surveillance activities overlap with operations authorised by public bodies. The defendant maintained that he had a longstanding working arrangement with the MHRA and that when he made apparently highly incriminating comments to two sets of undercover officers, he was in fact trying to uncover information to pass on to the MHRA as part of this working arrangement. At the first trial, the defendant was acquitted of four counts, whilst the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining three. He was convicted, by majority, of the remaining counts at the retrial, following the MHRA’s eventual success in accessing the contents of his mobile phone.
- R v RC (2018, Kingston Crown Court) – Allegation of money laundering arising from a ‘Friday afternoon fraud’ in which an experienced solicitor had been tricked into transferring the proceeds of a property sale to fraudsters. The sum defrauded and thereafter laundered was described as being “by a significant margin the greatest liability incurred” by the relevant insurer.
- R v MLS (2018, Woolwich Crown Court) – Gwawr represented one of eight defendants charged with conspiring to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin). The Crown’s case consisted largely of recorded telephone conversations, it being their case that the conspiracy was being orchestrated from within HMP Bronzefield. Following a six week trial, Gwawr’s client was the only defendant acquitted.
- R v JC (2017, Guildford Crown Court) – Gwawr acted for a mother accused of child cruelty. The defendant did not dispute that she had visited a traditional healer in Malawi, who had rubbed herbs into incisions made on her daughter’s back and chest. However, she pointed to her belief that she had acted in the child’s best interests, genuinely believing in witchcraft and the healing powers of traditional African medicine. The prosecution sought to argue that culture was not relevant to the jury’s consideration of whether the defendant had ‘wilfully’ caused harm to her daughter; Gwawr argued that, on the contrary, the cultural and religious context was a highly material factor when the jury came to assess whether she had deliberately caused unnecessary suffering to her daughter: indeed, it would be a breach of Article 9 ECHR if the jury was directed not to take into account the defendant’s genuine belief in witchcraft as part of her circumstances. The defendant was acquitted.
- R v DF (2017, Kingston Crown Court) – Allegation of so-called ‘date rape’. The complainant was sensitively cross-examined as to her capacity to make decisions at the relevant time, and a successful section 41 application was made in respect of flirtatious text messages exchanged between the complainant and the defendant shortly before intercourse took place. The defendant was acquitted in under twenty minutes.
- R v GH (2016, Wood Green Crown Court) – Defendant accused of murder. Complex psychiatric defences against a background of domestic violence. Self-defence was also left to the jury on the basis that inferences that might be drawn from the forensic evidence were sufficient to satisfy the evidential burden, notwithstanding that the defendant maintained that she had no recollection of the incident which led to the death of her partner. Led by Judy Khan QC. To read media coverage of this case, see here.
- R v AN (2016, Harrow Crown Court) – Allegations of historic sexual abuse said to have occurred in the context of an alleged child marriage. The Crown relied on the evidence of an age assessment expert to seek to establish that the complainant had been only thirteen years old at the material time. Complex issues concerning the admissibility of evidence given in family proceedings also arose. Following a five week trial alongside his son (who ran a partially cut throat defence), the defendant was acquitted of all sexual allegations.
- R v KH (2016, Basildon Crown Court) – Defendant charged with causing grievous bodily harm to his 8 week old baby, sentenced by way of a community order notwithstanding that he accepted his culpability only on the eve of trial. The Crown was represented by Queen’s Counsel; Gwawr was sole counsel for the defence.
- R v AJ (2015, Central Criminal Court) – Gwawr represented one of six defendants charged with conspiring to evade over £2 million in excise duty, by illegally importing cigarettes concealed within consignments of frozen chicken. Following a four week trial, Gwawr’s client was acquitted both of the conspiracy and of a linked money laundering charge arising from the seizure of £92,000 in cash found at his home.
- R v SS (2015, Snaresbrook Crown Court) – Gwawr’s client was acquitted of causing grievous bodily harm ‘with intent’, having been accused of facilitating a vicious ‘honour based’ attack in which the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat, culminating in extensive injuries including fractures to his skull, spine and arms. The prosecution relied heavily on telephone and cell site evidence to seek to establish a link between Gwawr’s client and the two co-defendants who had carried out the attack.
- R v GP (2015, Harrow Crown Court) – Successful application to dismiss counts alleging conspiracy to supply class A drugs. Whilst examination of the defendant’s mobile telephone uncovered extensive text message communication referring to the supply of drugs, the court was persuaded by Gwawr’s submission that there was no evidence upon which a jury could properly conclude that these related specifically to class A drugs, in circumstances where the defendant had accepted that he was an established dealer in cannabis.
- R v MA (2015, Isleworth Crown Court) – Defendant charged with conspiring to commit an offence under section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc.) Act 2004, having provided a false passport to his niece to enable her to enter the UK. In conference at court immediately before the preliminary hearing at which her client had been expecting to enter a guilty plea, Gwawr recognised the significance of the fact that his niece was Bidoon, in that this meant that she was excluded from obtaining identity documents in Kuwait; she went on to successfully argue that this afforded her client a defence on the basis that the statutory ‘reasonable excuse’ defence not only applied, but extended to an alleged co-conspirator.
- R v Hunter & Ors  EWCA Crim 631 – Gwawr was led by Queen’s Counsel (Henry Blaxland QC) before a five judge panel of the Court of Appeal, specially constituted to give guidance as to when a defendant with dated or unrelated previous convictions is entitled to be treated as being of ‘effective’ good character. The case is the leading authority on the issue of when a good character direction ought to be given.
- R v MA (2014, Harrow Crown Court) – Gwawr appeared as led junior in complex confiscation proceedings arising from a conspiracy to launder £1.2 million emanating from a mortgage fraud in which a number of members of an organised crime network acted as both the owners and purported purchasers of several high value properties using false identities (Operation Russo).
- R v TS (2014, Guildford Crown Court) – Television celebrity alleged to have perpetrated a series of sophisticated advanced fee frauds via two well-known ‘daily deals’ websites. The defendant was acquitted of one count, whilst the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the other.
- SA v DPP, ex parte City of London Magistrates’ Court (2014, Divisional Court) – Appeal by way of case stated. Appeal allowed after the prosecution eventually conceded that satisfying the requirement that the constable be “for the time being engaged in the regulation of traffic in a road” for the purposes of section 35(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 entailed proving more than merely that the constable was acting in the execution of her duty.
- R v CG (2013, Isleworth Crown Court) – Gwawr represented a mother charged with causing or allowing serious harm to her baby. Despite the gravity of the injuries in question, which included broken ribs and fractures to both arms, sustained over a period of some months, the Court was persuaded to pass a suspended sentence.
- R v JD (2013, Snaresbrook Crown Court) – Defendant acquitted of causing GBH ‘with intent’ to a young child, on the judge’s direction, following Gwawr’s challenge to the reliability of dental impression evidence.
- R v UE (2012, Basildon Crown Court) – Defendant charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm to a police officer, having allegedly struck him with a stick in the course of a chase, causing a laceration to his hand. The defence case was that the allegation had been a racially motivated fabrication. Gwawr’s client was acquitted in under twenty minutes.
- R v LJS (2011, Plymouth Crown Court) – Confiscation proceedings in a matter of trafficking women for sexual exploitation and brothel keeping, in which the benefit figure was alleged to be in excess of £1.6 million.
- R v SO (2011, Kingston Crown Court) – Defendant charged with facilitating unlawful immigration, having sponsored an application for a spouse visa made in a purportedly false name. Gwawr advised that a social anthropologist be instructed to comment on the Ghanaian custom of using ‘house names’, to show that her client had not acted with the requisite guilty knowledge: the Crown offered no evidence on receipt of the report.
Having previously worked at a leading prison law firm, Gwawr has a longstanding interest in the welfare of prisoners and detainees. To that end, she represents prisoners at adjudication and Parole Board hearings, and in civil actions against prison governors and the Ministry of Justice.
Gwawr also undertakes judicial review claims in this area.
Examples of Gwawr’s experience include:
- a challenge to a decision to transfer a prisoner to another establishment, disrupting his rehabilitation, following an unproven allegation of assault in respect of which there was insufficient evidence to bring a charge against prison discipline;
- a challenge to a refusal to recategorise on the basis that a prisoner had not completed a course which the prison had failed to make available to him;
- a claim concerning a failure to safeguard a young prisoner with a history of grievous self-harm and suicide attempts, such as to place him at risk of treatment contrary to Articles 3 and 8 ECHR:
- a challenge to the legality of a decision to continue to hold an immigration detainee in a category B prison at the end of his sentence;
- acting for David Norris in his successful claim for damages arising from the Ministry of Justice’s failure to act on intelligence which suggested that he was at risk of an imminent attack at the hands of other prisoners, whilst on remand awaiting trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. To read press coverage of this case, please see here.
Actions against the police
Gwawr is committed to holding public authorities to account, through civil actions and judicial review. She accepts instructions across the spectrum of actions against the police and other state organs, including claims for damages under the Human Rights Act and in the torts of assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, misfeasance in public office, breach of confidence and negligence, as well as judicial review challenges in relation to matters such as searches of the person and property, cautioning, and determinations of the IOPC.
Her practice before the criminal courts not only ensures that she has a solid understanding of police powers and extensive experience of cross-examining police officers, but also renders her an imaginative and engaging jury advocate.
- secured damages for a claimant who was falsely imprisoned following an arrest for “being concerned in the possession of an offensive weapon” when a knife was found in the driver’s footwell of a car in which she was travelling as a passenger. Gwawr’s in- depth knowledge of criminal law enabled her to quickly identify that “being concerned in the possession of an offensive weapon” is not an offence known to law;
- advised on an action for damages in relation to an incident in which a vulnerable young woman with severe learning difficulties was kept in custody overnight when the police officer authorising her detention failed to appreciate that the arrest warrant was backed for bail;
- successfully acted on behalf of several claimants in actions arising from the unlawful use of tasers, including a claimant who was tasered whilst on the ground suffering an epileptic seizure;
- acted in a misfeasance in public office and Article 9 action, on behalf of a claimant whose hijab was forcibly removed by immigration authorities;
- secured damages for a claimant who was kept in prison for several weeks (in turn causing him to lose his home and most of his personal belongings) because the court clerk had mistakenly recorded that his application for bail had been refused.
Immigration & asylum
Gwawr is passionate about safeguarding the rights of refugees and migrants, and is well respected amongst those who instruct her for her lucid presentation of complex or novel legal arguments, her clear and practical advice, and her sensitivity in dealing with vulnerable or anxious clients, including children and those with mental health difficulties. She provides advice and advocacy to both individuals and organisations across all areas of immigration law, including asylum and human rights; family immigration; EEA matters; deportation (including immigration bail); nationality and citizenship; points based system applications including student, work and entrepreneur visas; entry clearance; business immigration and sponsorship issues.
Gwawr has a particular interest in cases which raise issues of international protection and/or human rights. She has particular experience of representing LGBT clients persecuted on account of their sexual identity, and is frequently instructed in sensitive cases involving victims of sexual violence (including victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation).
In addition, Gwawr regularly acts in appeals against deportation, drawing on her experience of criminal defence and prison law to bring valuable insight into issues surrounding criminal procedure, sentencing and risk assessment. Solicitors and lay clients alike recognise that her experience in the criminal courts renders her especially adept at cross-examining police officers and as such, she has been instructed in a number of cases arising out of Operation Nexus, challenging decisions to detain and deport where the Secretary of State has deemed that a person’s presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good notwithstanding the absence of criminal convictions.
In addition, she has been called upon to advise and act in claims for judicial review before both the Upper Tribunal and the Administrative Court, including:
- R (MV) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1017 (Admin) – judicial review of the Secretary of State’s designation of Bolivia on the ‘white list’, given the prevalence of violence against women and the lack of state protection afforded to victims (led by Benjamin Hawkin);
- a challenge to a decision to certify an asylum claim as ‘clearly unfounded’ and to remove the Claimant to Italy as a purportedly safe ‘third country’ under the Dublin II Regulation, as a breach not only of the Human Rights Act 1998, but also of various fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter;
- a claim challenging the legality of detention where that frustrated the carrying out of a parenting assessment in concurrent family proceedings;
- a challenge to UKVI’s refusal to process an EEA application on grounds that photographs submitted with the application did not comply with the published requirements, where the applicant was detained and accordingly denied access to a camera.
In addition, Gwawr is one of the founding trustees of Project 17, a charity set up to provide advice and advocacy assistance to migrant families with no recourse to public funds (‘NRPF’) seeking to access statutory support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
Public law & judicial review
Gwawr acts for claimants in judicial review challenges across a wide range of public and administrative law contexts, with an emphasis on defending civil liberties, promoting human rights and representing vulnerable client groups.
Her experience encompasses challenges against decisions of the Home Office, entry clearance officers, the Ministry of Justice, the Parole Board, prison governors, police forces, local authorities, the Legal Aid Agency and the First Tier Tribunal in the fields of asylum and immigration, prison law and police law. This breadth of experience enables Gwawr to draw upon an in-depth knowledge of jurisprudence developed in different contexts to further her client’s case; it also makes her especially well-placed to advise on, and act in, cases which straddle multiple areas of law.
Gwawr is astute to public funding issues and costs considerations, and has experience of advising on applications for Protective Costs Orders and other creative ways in which claimants bringing cases in the public interest can limit their costs liability.
International human rights
Gwawr was recently invited to join the Detention ExPEERience Network, a panel of experts established and co-ordinated by the international NGO, Avocats Sans Frontières. The panel comprises lawyers, jurists and social scientists each with particular expertise in international detention law, and has been set up to provide technical assistance to ASF’s projects in Uganda addressing the over use of pre-trial detention. The Network’s activities include monitoring, training, advocacy and strategic litigation both in the domestic courts and before regional and international organs such as the African Commission, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN.
This work builds on Gwawr’s experience as visiting counsel at Kampala-based law firm Onyango & Co. Advocates, in which capacity she worked on a number of important constitutional petitions and public interest cases, including:
- a claim seeking redress for the human rights violations suffered by the indigenous Batwa people, who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral forest lands in order to create the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks and the Echuya forest reserve;
- a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Anti Pornography Act 2014, the enactment of which led to widespread public undressing of women deemed to be inappropriately dressed;
- a class action brought on behalf of 98 women who were abducted from IDP camps and forced to become ‘wives’ to LRA commanders during the conflict in northern Uganda;
- a claim arising from Uganda’s failure to execute the international arrest warrant outstanding against Omar Al-Bashir, when he was on Ugandan soil to attend the 2016 presidential inauguration;
- a challenge to provisions within the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2014 which permit disclosure of HIV test results to third parties;
- a petition challenging the compatibility of provisions of the Public Order Management Act 2013 – giving the police wide powers to disperse public meetings – with the right to freedom of speech.
Together with colleagues at the firm, Gwawr was also tasked with conducting an independent investigation into the break in at Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF)’s premises, during which a security guard was killed. HRAPF had challenged the legality of Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Act 2014 before the East African Court of Justice.
In addition, working with Evolve – Foundation for International Legal Assistance, Gwawr has represented several of the ‘Kigula beneficiaries’ – that is, prisoners who were unlawfully sentenced to death before the Supreme Court ruled the mandatory death penalty to be unconstitutional in the case of Attorney General v Kigula and 417 others (Constitutional Appeal No. 3 of 2oo6), and who were as a result of that judgment brought back before the court to be resentenced. Gwawr also supports Evolve’s access to justice project by working pro bono in partnership with local counsel in appeals against conviction and/or sentence for defendants who have been sentenced to death, both in the civilian and military jurisdictions. As well as taking on casework, Gwawr has assisted in the analysis of data on sentencing patterns following the implementation of the 2013 sentencing guidelines: this research formed the basis of a two day sentencing workshop hosted as part of the Twentieth Annual Judges’ Conference in Kampala, and in turn influenced some of the reforms that were enacted by the Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous (Amendment) Act 2019.
Prior to coming to the Bar, Gwawr interned at the Legal Aid Department in Lilongwe, where she worked primarily on challenging the excessively long pre-trial detention of homicide remandees, many of whom had been awaiting trial for in excess of six years. She also supported advocates representing indigent defendants charged with murder, manslaughter and serious sexual offences by preparing legal opinions addressing issues of evidence and trial strategy.
She subsequently remained in Malawi to take up the post of Legal Officer at the Centre for Legal Assistance. In that capacity, she facilitated workshops in prisons to promote access to justice by empowering prisoners to represent themselves as litigants in person. In addition, she worked on a number of important public interest cases, including:
- test litigation on the obligation to provide antiretrovirals to HIV+ prisoners (in conjunction with International Commission of Jurists);
- monitoring of reception conditions for Zimbabwean nationals deported to Malawi from the UK (in conjunction with Amnesty International UK);
- developing a community-based project to challenge the use of child labour on tea and tobacco plantations.
Since then, Gwawr has retained a strong link with Malawi. For example, she worked with the Bar Human Rights Committee and the Malawi Human Rights Commission on a judicial review claim brought by the Malawi Communications Regulation Authority (MACRA), seeking to challenge legislation allowing the president to ban radio broadcasts on the grounds of purported public interest.
Most recently, she has advised Reprieve on a number of systemic issues arising from the resentencing of those prisoners whose mandatory death sentences were ruled unconstitutional in Kafantayeni & Others v The Attorney General of Malawi (Constitutional Case No. 12 of 2005). Such issues have included how the courts are to approach resentencing in cases where trial records have been lost or destroyed and the legality of reimposing a death sentence in circumstances where the sentence had already been commuted by the President to one of life imprisonment. In addition, acting pro bono in partnership with the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Reprieve and the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, she drafted submissions on behalf of a number of individual prisoners falling to be resentenced, in many cases securing immediate release.
Gwawr is currently working with Reprieve, the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide and the Legal and Human Rights Center on a case before the African Court of Human and People’s Rights which seeks to challenge Tanzania’s retention of the mandatory death penalty.
Gwawr travelled to Colombia as part of the Third International Caravana of Lawyers, joining lawyers and judges from various jurisdictions in a mission to monitor threats to human rights defenders, and to lobby the Colombian authorities to properly investigate these incidents so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
International criminal law
International Criminal Court
Gwawr has been admitted to the List of Assistants to Counsel and is available to represent both defendants and victims before the International Criminal Court.
Gwawr is very familiar with the International Criminal Court’s processes and jurisprudence, having previously worked within the Prosecution Division of the Office of the Prosecutor, where she was assigned to the cases of The Prosecutor v Germain Katanga and The Prosecutor v Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, both cases arising from the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In that role, she drafted submissions on the scope of victims’ participation in the proceedings and on witness protection issues; produced a substantial memorandum (based on extensive comparative research) on the admissibility of hearsay evidence; and conducted disclosure reviews.
As visiting counsel at Onyango & Co. Advocates in Kampala, Gwawr assisted the NGO Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET-U) in bringing a suit against the Attorney General for failing to arrest President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan, in respect of whom there is an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in connection with allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. President Al Bashir travelled to Uganda in May 2016 to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Museveni: the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber found that Uganda had failed to comply with its duty to arrest and surrender him to the Court, in accordance with article 89(1) of the Rome Statute, and referred Uganda to the Assembly of State Parties and the UN Security Council.
- BA (1st class Hons.) History – Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge
- Graduate Diploma in Law – University of the West of England, Bristol
- Bar Vocational Course – BPP Law School, London
- Exhibitioner (Inner Temple)
- Duke of Edinburgh Entrance Award (Inner Temple)
- Internship Award (Inner Temple)
- Bateman Scholarship (Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge)