A Law Unto Themselves

Episodes

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Broadcast
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01Justice Michael Kirby20140729

, the first Australian High Court judge to come out as gay.

The first of a new series of conversations between barrister Helena Kennedy and some of the world's most brilliant and influential lawyers and judges.

Helena's guests have all demonstrated courage. Their willingness to campaign on human rights issues has brought them into conflict with governments and other powerful sections of society.

Her first guest is Justice Michael Kirby, the first Australian High Court judge to come out as gay and who argued forcefully, in the face of considerable opposition, for equal rights for homosexuals.

In a profession most commonly marked by conformity and deference to legal protocol, Michael became known as the "great dissenter", frequently voting against his fellow judges and doing the thing that judges are not supposed to do - expressing his personal views outside of the courtroom.

Other guests in the series include the first chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, given the task of bringing some of the world's worst criminals to justice, and solicitor Gareth Peirce who has spent much of her 30 year career representing Irish and Muslim terror suspects.

Producer: Brian King

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.

02Gareth Peirce20140805

02Gareth Peirce20140805

Helena Kennedy talks to solicitor Gareth Peirce.

02Gareth Peirce20140805

02Gareth Peirce20140805

Helena Kennedy talks to solicitor Gareth Peirce who has been described by one of her own clients as specialising in representing pariahs of society.

During a career spanning nearly 40 years she has been at the heart of many of Britain's fiercest legal controversies. She has helped free convicted Irish bombers such as the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four, secured the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and for years thwarted government attempts to deport the Muslim preacher Abu Qatada.

Opinions about her tend to be polarised. For many she is an indefatigable fighter for human rights, defender of the underdog and campaigner against miscarriages of justice. Others see her actions as a threat to national security - making Britain appear a "safe haven for terrorists".

Her other high profile clients have included Julian Assange and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes who had been shot dead by police at Stockwell tube station.

Gareth Peirce discusses her role in uncovering some of the biggest miscarriages of justice in the country's legal history, and explains why she has devoted her life to defending those whom she believes have no voice in society.

Producer: Brian King

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.

02Gareth Peirce20140805

Helena Kennedy talks to solicitor Gareth Peirce.

Helena Kennedy talks to solicitor Gareth Peirce who has been described by one of her own clients as specialising in representing pariahs of society.

During a career spanning nearly 40 years she has been at the heart of many of Britain's fiercest legal controversies. She has helped free convicted Irish bombers such as the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four, secured the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and for years thwarted government attempts to deport the Muslim preacher Abu Qatada.

Opinions about her tend to be polarised. For many she is an indefatigable fighter for human rights, defender of the underdog and campaigner against miscarriages of justice. Others see her actions as a threat to national security - making Britain appear a "safe haven for terrorists".

Her other high profile clients have included Julian Assange and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes who had been shot dead by police at Stockwell tube station.

Gareth Peirce discusses her role in uncovering some of the biggest miscarriages of justice in the country's legal history, and explains why she has devoted her life to defending those whom she believes have no voice in society.

Producer: Brian King

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.

03Jeremy Hutchinson20140812

Helena Kennedy talks to Jeremy Hutchinson, defence lawyer in the Lady Chatterley trial.

Helena Kennedy talks to the great liberal lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson about a career which ranged from defending Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial, to taking on the might of the British intelligence service in the ABC official secrets trial.

Throughout a long career, his brilliant and stylish advocacy achieved success in cases that looked unwinnable. He was renowned for a certain theatricality in his performance before the jury - perhaps influenced by his first marriage to the great actress Peggy Ashcroft.

Lord Hutchinson, his charm and wit undiminished by his 99 years, explains how early experiences in life drove him to become a thorn in the side of the establishment, always ready to challenge illiberal attitudes within government and the legal world.

He appeared in another famous obscenity trial, when Mary Whitehouse took out a private prosecution against the director of the play The Romans In Britain. Despite having "a bit of a soft spot" for Mrs Whitehouse, it didn't stop him from ridiculing her main witness over whether or not he was able to accurately identify an exposed male organ on stage from the back seat of the theatre.

Among other cases he recalls are his defence of society call girl Christine Keeler and the art thief Kempton Bunton. He says he has always loved his job, seeing it as a privilege to be able to help people from all walks of life at crisis points in their lives.

He says he's been better able to "make a difference" in court than in parliament - as a defence lawyer he has been able to help many people assert their rights and resist oppression.

Producer: Brian King

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.

04 LASTEva Joly20140819

The judge talks about her seven-year-long investigation into a multi-billion euro fraud.

Helena Kennedy talks to the internationally renowned investigative judge Eva Joly who has devoted much of her life to fighting corruption in the upper echelons of French business and political life - relentlessly investigating and prosecuting people whom she believes consider themselves above the law.

The Norwegian-born judge talks about her seven year long investigation into a multi-billion euro fraud involving the state-owned Elf oil company. Thirty people were eventually convicted and senior members of former President Francois Mitterand's government implicated after Eva Joly revealed that company directors had siphoned off billions of francs to pay for bribes and luxurious lifestyles.

She tells Helena Kennedy about how she received death threats and was placed under 24 hour police protection, placing intolerable pressure on her family - eventually resulting in the break-up of her marriage.

The pressures of the investigation only re-enforced her determination to continue with the case, and bring the guilty to justice. She believes the conviction sent out a sign that power and wealth does not bring impunity from the law.

More recently she has switched careers and entered politics, becoming an MEP for the Green Party....but the fight against corruption, not just in France but throughout the world, remains her driving cause. She believes the crimes she has uncovered are merely the tip of an iceberg.

Producer: Matt Willis

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.