WINNER

Barrister of the Year

Dr Bridget Dolan - Serjeants' Inn Chambers

Serjeant’s Inn Chambers’ Bridget Dolan took on the mammoth task of acting as counsel on the seven concurrent inquests into the deaths of Britons at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria during a terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda in 2013. The attack was at the time the largest British loss of life in a terrorist attack since 7/7 and the scale and scope of Dolan’s work was colossal, not just in terms of the reams of evidence, witnesses and case history to consider, but also in its ethical and emotional burden.

During the inquests Dolan liaised with the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit and with 250 witnesses, advised the Coroner on the law, marshalled all the evidence, managed vast amounts of documentation, engaged with parallel proceedings in Algeria and assisted the Coroner in drafting his lengthy factual conclusions.

The work, which Dolan undertook entirely alone, also involved dealing with myriad challenges and complexities that arose over months of parallel criminal and civil proceedings involving psychologically sensitive material, traumatised witnesses and global political implications.

Just a week before the inquest started, government disclosure required a judge Coroner to be appointed with high-security clearance, meaning Dolan spent every waking hour getting the new judge up to speed on 70 witnesses, 14 bundles and sorting impossible logistics so the inquest could go ahead. Judges said Dolan’s contribution to this case of international importance was “outstanding and exemplary” and demonstrated “clear commitment over time, broad contribution to the profession” and “a lot of hard work”.

Runner up
  • Jenni Richards QC - 39 Essex Chambers

Jenni Richards QC of 39 Essex Chambers has led teams on a number of noteworthy and inspiring cases in the last 12 months, not least the judicial review into the Government’s policy to ban books being sent to prisoners in England and Wales.

Richards acted entirely pro bono for a prisoner in a test case that challenged the lawfulness of the much-disputed policy, denounced by Britain’s best and brightest authors and poets. She successfully argued the policy breached rationality, human rights and public sector equality duty despite coming up against fierce opposition and the vast resources of the Secretary of State. The judge was so impressed with and convinced by Richards’ oral advocacy that he even ordered costs to be paid by the Government to the Access to Justice Foundation.

Richards has built a prolific career in public law and regulatory practice, also winning a case for a woman’s right to have her deceased husband’s frozen sperm preserved until 2060, enabling the woman to have their child. She also took a lead role on the latest inquests into the Hillsborough disaster. Judges called her work “consistently excellent” and “simply amazing”.

Third place
  • Gerry Boyle - Serjeants' Inn Chambers

In a second placing for Serjeant’s Inn in this category, Gerry Boyle held power to account when he acted as counsel for the Metropolitan Police in high-profile complex proceedings brought against the Met’s own superintendent who leaked material to News International.

Boyle’s work directly contributed to Operation Elveden, the inquiry into corruption brought about following the phone hacking investigation, and was the final nail in the pre-Leveson Inquiry coffin of police officers leaking sensitive material to the press.

Boyle acted entirely alone, taking on a leading police silk and marshalling vast amounts of material including telephone evidence, a timeline with thousands of entries and 250,000 emails. By cleverly triangulating evidence, Boyle was able to point to irrefutable evidence the officer was the source of the information leaked. Judges said his work displayed “impressive achievements from a junior counsel” and said he was “clearly loved by his clients who appreciated his obvious skill and dedication”.

Shortlisted
  • Michael Ford QC - Old Square Chambers
  • Andrew Green QC - Blackstone Chambers
  • Schona Jolly - Cloisters Chambers
  • Hodge Malek QC - 39 Essex Chambers
  • Andrew Ritchie QC - 9 Gough Square