For this year’s UK Pro Bono Week (6-10 November 2023), The Death Penalty Project (DPP) got in touch with some of the Pro Bono professionals from our network.
We asked those from our network what some of their most memorable pro bono experiences have been working with us at DPP, as well as insight into their own experiences of working pro bono, encapsulating this year’s theme of ‘maximising the impact of pro bono.’
We interviewed Paul Bowen KC, skilled and experienced Barrister at Brick Court Chambers, who we have worked alongside for several years on many pro bono cases:
DPP: What has been your most memorable pro bono case working with The Death Penalty Project?
Paul: There are so many. One that sticks out is being led by Edward Fitzgerald KC, before Lord Bingham, in my first Privy Council appeal at its previous address in Downing Street appealing against the conviction of our client who had been sentenced to death. Struck by the incongruity of it all, when we had abolished the death penalty in England forty years earlier, it felt like I had gone back in time by a couple of centuries.
Another memorable case I worked on with DPP was representing a prisoner on death row with co-founder and co-director of the Project, Parvais, in the two-hundred-year-old Court house in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – sweltering in my wig and gown while chickens wandered in and out of the court room.
Visiting clients on death row in the equally ancient gaol in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and then (much to the horror of local counsel) wandering back through Port of Spain on my own. Speaking with DPP’s co-founder and co-director, Saul, to Indian lawyers and judges in New Delhi when helping deliver the DPP’s training on mental health and the rights of prisoners.
But all the cases have been memorable in their own way.
DPP: What do you enjoy most about working pro bono?
Paul: I started working pro bono as a law student by volunteering at Brixton Law Centre in the early 1990s and began working on death row cases while training as a solicitor at a big city law firm, dreaming of becoming a barrister when I might get to represent these clients in court – which I did, 10 years later. What do I enjoy the most? Of course, using my legal training to benefit those who otherwise would be alone and unrepresented – but I also get so much more out of it: working on cases I’d never otherwise be instructed in; meeting and working with amazing people in the UK and abroad; and developing new skills and experience that I can transfer to the rest of my practice.
DPP: What challenges do professionals face when working pro bono?
Paul: The main challenge is for those professionals who are committed to working for less privileged clients who struggle to make a decent living doing legal aid work. They also tend to be the people who do the most pro bono work, in my experience.
DPP: What advice do you have for those interested in pro bono work?
Paul: Just do it! You’ll never regret it.
We also interviewed Krysta Mason Smith, Managing Partner at Bahamian law firm Murrio D. Ducille & Co, who has worked with us on several cases across the Caribbean. Krysta provided us a short video with her answers to our questions, watch below:
Keep up-to-date with our pro bono work and cases via our social media channels.
UK Pro Bono week – Pro Bono Week, this year 6th to 10th November (2023) offers an opportunity to recognise and support the voluntary contribution made by the legal profession across the UK in giving free legal help to those in need. “Pro bono” refers to when volunteer lawyers provide legal advice or representation free of charge to those unable to afford it. For more information, visit: https://probonoweek.org.uk/
Paul Bowen KC – Paul practises across the spectrum of public and administrative law, often with significant human rights, EU or other international law elements. He acts domestically and internationally including in the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Jersey, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. For more information about Paul and his practice, visit Brick Court Chamber’s website here.
Krysta Mason Smith – Krysta is Managing Partner of the firm Murrio D. Ducille & Co advocating in the High Courts/Appeal Courts of the Caribbean Commonwealth. For more information on Krysta and her practice, visit Murrio D. Ducille & Co’s website here.