Year 13 Law students Charlotte and Alice present excellent write up of Kings College London eventPosted on: 24th Nov
Our Year 13 A Level Law students recently attended (remotely) an event run by the Kings College London Mooting Society about life in criminal law. Students Charlotte K and Alice B worked together to write an excellent report on the event which you can read below.
Life At The Criminal Bar Panel
By Charlotte K and Alice B
The Kings College London recently held a panel where they discussed what life was like at the Criminal Bar. They each had a different path to get to where they are now, and come from a variety of different backgrounds. The speakers are currently all members of the Queen’s Council (QC), which is an elite group of barristers, which focus on the most serious offences, and the most high profile cases.
The first speaker was Eleanor Laws QC, a rather appropriate name considering her occupation, who specialises in representing young and vulnerable victims, and is the go-to Silk (lawyer who sits on the QC) for sexual offences cases. She also sits in the Crown Court as a judge, which is unusual for a barrister, due to the dramatic pay cut. Ms Laws is probably most well known for being the defence barrister to Johnny Depp, in his libel case against the Sun Newspaper for labelling him a “wife-beater”. She remarked that she got ahead in the sexual offences sector due to the fact she was a women, as it is felt that women can handle sexual offences cases with more sensitivity than men can. Male barristers instead get the murder and manslaughter cases, which she said shows the inherent patriarchy in the legal system.
The next speaker was Jo Sidhu QC, who is the Vice-Chairperson of the Criminal Bar Association, and was President of the Society of Asian Lawyers from 2013-2016. Mr Sidhu knew he wanted to go into law, just was not sure whether he wanted to go into court work as a barrister or the client work with solicitors, and ended up choosing to become a barrister in order to help change peoples’ lives. Because of this, he focuses on the more serious cases surrounding murder, terrorism and serious organised crime, rather than smaller cases like fraud. At one point in 2015, several websites advertised a bounty on his head for £1 Million. This was because he was starting a battle exposing corruption in the justice system, which some interpreted as him trying to cover his own tracks – which was not the case, obviously.
After that, Kate Bex QC spoke about her experience to becoming both a defence and prosecution barrister. She stated that she faced the same prejudices as Ms Laws, in that she was given mostly sexual offences cases. Ms Bex realised this when she was counting down the days to her holiday with the number of r*pe cases she had each day. Paired with the Flying Squad (a branch of the serious and organised crime command within the London Metropolitan Police), she dealt with lots of robbery cases with allowed her to become a member of the Queen’s Council, which is known in the law sector as “earning one’s Silk”. Her most high profile case this year was dealing with the GP who was jailed for three life sentences after 90 sexual offences against 24 patients.
The final speaker was Anand Beharrylal QC, who practices in England, Wales, and Trinidad and Tobago. He was called to the Bar in 1997, and received his Silk in 2018. To become a barrister, a person has to undergo a pupillage, which is shadowing a barrister for a year. Unfortunately, these are super exclusive and currently, only 7% or 1 in 14 people can get one, which is difficult considering they are essential to becoming a barrister. Mr Beharrylal did not get a pupillage at first, so opted for pro bono (unpaid) work while doing his master’s degree. When he finally got his pupillage in Lincoln’s Inn, it was all paperwork, and little-to-no real court experience, due to the fact it is Chancery (civil land and business disputes), which was not what he signed up for. In the second half of his pupillage, he changed to common law criminal, which he found suited him much better. He now deals with a variety of criminal cases from murder to drug and human trafficking.
This experience really shows how diverse the legal system is, and hopefully this inspires people to get into the legal sector in the future.