Category: News

Black History Month: Celebrating Leonard Woodley QC

For this year’s Black History Month, 1MCB celebrates the life and achievements of Leonard Woodley, who served as Head of Chambers between 1988 and 2000.  Leonard (“Len” as he liked to be called) was the first Black Caribbean barrister in the country to become a QC (now KC), a Recorder of the Crown Court and a Bencher of The Inner Temple. An early proponent of “radical lawyering”, Len played a pivotal role in many of the Black communities’ protests and racial justice campaigns.

Born in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Len initially worked as a clerk and then as a commercial administrator. Having long harboured the desire to study law, he chose to leave and sailed to the UK in 1960 to pursue his career ambitions. Following the completion of his legal studies, Len was Called to the Bar by The Inner Temple in 1963. Motivated by the desire to facilitate access to the profession for underrepresented groups, as well as by his own experiences of discrimination, he would later establish the Leonard Woodley scholarship to be awarded to Black students at The Inner Temple.

Len’s career was marked by the tireless pursuit of justice and racial equity. He appeared in some the most significant and ground-breaking Black civil liberties cases, such as the “Mangrove nine” trial, where nine Black protesters demonstrating against discriminatory policing were prosecuted for rioting; all nine would later be acquitted after trial at the Central Criminal Court. He also played a central role in community-based lawyering, working with the Darcus Howe Action Committee, which campaigned vociferously for Darcus Howe’s release following his charge and imprisonment for what were widely believed to be political reasons. It was at one of the Action Committee meetings that Len came up with the legal strategy that would lead to Howe’s success at the Court of Appeal and immediate release.

Len was also an advisor to the Scarman Inquiry into the Brixton Uprisings in 1981, which followed ongoing police brutality the Black community were subjected to and the disproportionate use of ‘stop and search’ powers known as the ‘sus law’ to arrest young Black men. The sweeping powers under section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 which gave police the power to arrest anyone suspected of loitering with the intent to commit an arrestable offence were repealed on 27 August 1981 in the aftermath of the Brixton Uprisings.

As head of chambers, Len marked his support for the struggle against South African Apartheid, an institutionalised system of racial segregation and oppression, by inviting Nelson Mandela to be an honorary Door Tenant. Mandela accepted this honour, whilst serving a life sentence, and his name remained on the door until he became President of South Africa in 1994. Mandela would later say that the support he had received from the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the UK was ‘a source of real inspiration’.

Len’s contributions to Chambers, the profession and society continue to reverberate, and his fierce commitment to civil liberties and racial justice continues to underpin 1MCB’s work and ethos to this day.

Black History Month, Saluting Our Sisters: Celebrating Jocelyn Gibbs

For this year’s Black History Month theme, ‘Saluting our Sisters’, 1MCB celebrates the life and work of Jocelyn Gibbs, whose legacy and commitment to building and advocating for Black communities were immeasurable and felt to this day.

‘Saluting our Sisters’ aims to highlight the critical role that Black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change and building communities. This is a contribution which, all too often, is overlooked or forgotten.

Called to the bar 1972, Jocelyn was a founding member of the Society of Black Lawyers, the oldest organisation of African, Asian and Caribbean lawyers in the UK, established in 1969. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the emergence of a number of local, activist, Black self-help organising centres in Ladbroke Grove. These provided much needed advice and support to residents encountering and confronting the authorities over discrimination in schooling, housing, policing and judicial proceedings. Chief amongst these organisations was ‘Back-a-yard’, which later became the Black People’s Information Centre (BPIC) on Portobello Road.

Joycelyn’s commitment to community self- help and resistance spaces in the UK, meant that on Saturdays she would attend BPIC to provide free legal advice. This led to her building a practice centred on bringing the wider issues the community faced into the courtroom when fighting for justice. This dedication is reflected in her early practice, where she successfully fought “SUS law” cases, representing Black youths targeted by the police.

She was also defence counsel in the 1982 Bradford 12 case, where 12 Asian youths were charged for defending themselves against the National Front and violence in Bradford. Over 500 people stood outside court on the first day of trial, chanting songs in support of the 12 for hours. The trial highlighted ongoing issues of racist violence against immigrant communities and police violence, including the New Cross massacre. The community-focused legal strategy led to the acquittal of all defendants and was a focal moment in legal history.

Jocelyn was also counsel in the Scarman Inquiry into the Brixton Uprisings in 1981 and further chaired an inquiry into allegations of racism and harassment surrounding the death of a ten-year-old boy in Lewisham.

Jocelyn’s life work sat at the direct intersection of law in the service of organising. She understood the problems that Black communities faced at a political and global level due to systemic and interpersonal racism they were subjected to and focused her work on helping communities organise and build enough power to shift the terms on which decisions about their futures are made; she ensured her practice recognised and fought against racial injustice.

1MCB is honoured to recognise, salute and continue in her mantra for change and justice.

Black History Month: Ife Thompson featured in Legal Cheek

1MCB’s Third Six Pupil Ife Thompson was featured in the Legal Cheek on 26 October 2023, celebrating Black women lawyers as part of this year’s Black History Month theme, Saluting Our Sisters.

‘Saluting our Sisters’ aims to highlight the critical role that Black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change and building communities.

 

International Criminal Court: Defence opens case for Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman

On Thursday, 19 October and Friday, 20 October 2023, the team representing Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman will start to present its defence case before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Iain Edwards has been co-counsel for Mr Abd-Al-Rahman since July 2021. His client is alleged to be a former senior leader of the Sudanese Arab militia, commonly called the Janjaweed. He is charged with 31 counts of serious crimes including murder, rape, forcible transfer, persecution and torture as crimes against humanity, and numerous war crimes, between August 2003 and April 2004 in Darfur, Sudan.

The case is unique for a number of reasons. It is the first at the ICC to deal with the conflict in Darfur. It is also the first case to have been referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council in respect of a State that is not a party to the Court’s Statute. Sudan does not recognise the Court’s jurisdiction. Over the last three years, the defence team has struggled to carry out any investigations in Sudan as a result of an almost complete lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government. Moreover, the defence team has never been able to access Darfur. These difficulties have been compounded by the ongoing armed conflict that has been raging in Sudan since 15 April 2023.

The defence will publicly set out in detail the nature of these challenges before presenting the evidence that it has succeeded in gathering through a tenacious and creative investigation strategy.

The next hearing is listed for 13 November 2023.

1MCB members recognised in Chambers Bar Guide 2024

1MCB is delighted to announce that its members have once again been recognised by Chambers and Partners UK Bar Guide 2024 in their respective fields.

Iain Edwards is ranked in Band 1 for International Criminal Law.

Anna Watterson is ranked in Band 4 for Social Housing.

Michael Sprack is ranked as Up and Coming for Social Housing.

 

Michael Sprack contributes to Protect’s Environmental Whistleblowing Toolkit

Michael Sprack contributed to Protect’s groundbreaking Environmental Whistleblowing Toolkit launched on 06 October 2023. The toolkit was designed to protect whistleblowers, reduce the risk of victimisation and increase the effectiveness of reporting environmental concerns.

The Environmental Whistleblowing Toolkit is a practical and legal guide to identifying and raising environmental concerns. Drafted with help from trade unions, lawyers, NGOs and journalists, it offers guidance on whistleblowing in the workplace to help raise concerns safely and with maximum impact.

 

 

1MCB members ranked as Leading Juniors by The Legal 500 UK 2024

1MCB is pleased to announce that six members continue to be recognised as leading juniors in the 2024 edition of  Legal 500, across five practice areas: crime, employment, international criminal law and extradition, immigration and social housing.

Salma Lalani maintains Tier 2 ranking for Crime, described as “a very sound tactician and lawyer. She is very industrious and has a conspicuous ability to develop a rapport with clients. She displays a sound level of confidence and articulacy in her presentation of arguments and in questioning.

Soraya Bauwens also maintains Tier 4 ranking for Crime, described asan exceptional lawyer. She is strategic, diligent and is able to highlight the technical challenges in investigations.”

Michael Sprack is recognised in Tier 4 for Employment, described as “a junior whose advocacy is clear and to the point, and a skillful cross-examiner.

Iain Edwards maintains Tier 1 ranking in International Criminal Law and Extradition, described as an assured presence on any team, and particularly in court, and brings a wide range of experience to international criminal law work, which is deployed to expert effect.

Bernadette Smith maintains Tier 1 ranking in Immigration (including business immigration).

Amritpal Bachu is recognised in Tier 4 for Social Housing, described as “diligent, thorough and very knowledgeable of housing law. He thinks very quickly on his feet and is able to deal with unexpected turns in cases with ease.

Michael Sprack is also recognised in Tier 4 for Social Housing.

To find out more about instructing Salma, Soraya and Iain, please contact Adam Brosnan, Senior Crime and International Crime Clerk.

To find out more about instructing Michael, Bernadette and Amritpal, please contact Tim Markham, Senior Civil and Family Clerk.

UN Human Rights Committee complaint against Türkiye regarding airstrikes on Yazidi civilians in Sinjar

Soraya Bauwens

A complaint has been filed against Türkiye before the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of four Iraqi citizens, all Yazidi, regarding airstrikes carried out by the Turkish airforce against a civilian hospital, the Sikenye Medical Clinic, in Sinjar, Iraq. The airstrikes in August 2021 resulted in the killing of eight civilians and severely injured many others.

The complaint was lodged by the Accountability Unit and Women for Justice, a female-led Yazidi NGO, with the assistance of a team of international lawyers, including Soraya Bauwens of 1MCB Chambers, and Tatyana Eatwell and Aarif Abraham of Doughty Street Chambers.

It is the first complaint of its kind to be brought before an international body on the issue of Turkish airstrikes against the Yazidi, and follows a two-year investigation. There have been no formal investigations into the airstrikes, or accountability for the killing and serious injury to civilians.

Air strikes by the Turkish air force in Sinjar are ongoing, resulting in continuing insecurity in the region and hampering the return of survivors of the Yazidi genocide to their homeland.

News of the complaint has been widely reported on, including in The Guardian and on Radio 4 Today.

More information about the complaint can be found here.

Soraya was a contributing author to the 2022 report launched in the UK Parliament on ‘State Responsibility and the Yazidi Genocide’ by the Yazidi Justice Committee,  available here.

Ranjeet Dulay’s client found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Ranjeet Dulay represented a man found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity following a trial at Warwick Crown Court.

Ranjeet’s client was charged with several offences arising out of a five-day siege of his house in Coventry in 2022, after barricading himself inside his home with his young child and threatening to shoot police who had initially attended to carry out a welfare check.

Specialist officers were called to the scene, including armed response units, to negotiate with him over the course of the five-day stand-off.  Roads, homes, local businesses and amenities were shut off whilst negotiators and armed response units were on the scene for days.

Following trial,  Ranjeet’s client was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, and the judge disposed of the case by way of hospital order.

The common law defence of ‘insanity’ requires expert evidence from at least two medical practitioners and for the jury to reach a ‘special verdict’.

Ranjeet was instructed by  Barry Akilo at Rodman Pearce Solicitor.

The case was widely reported on, including in The Guardian, Sky News and The Coventry Telegraph.

Ignatius Fessal secures acquittal in firearms trial

Ignatius Fessal secured an acquittal for his client following an eight-day trial at Croydon Crown Court, where the defendant faced a 16-count indictment alleging possession of firearms.

Ignatius was instructed by Tahir Ali from Wainwright & Cummins LLP Solicitors.