Paul Bowen QC was recognised on Wednesday evening for his legal aid and pro bono work over the course of his 28-year career with the Outstanding Achievement award at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards (LALYs), the 'Oscars' of the legal aid world.
Paul, who was presented with his award by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, was recognised particularly for his public law and human rights work in cases involving free speech and open justice, mentally disordered and incapacitated individuals, access to justice, inquests and deaths in custody and assisted dying, among others.
There were a number of nominations from judges, barristers, solicitors and clients. Sir James Munby, former President of the Family Division, wrote “It is difficult to think of anyone else who has made as great a contribution as he has to those areas of practice to which he is committed." Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at the House of Lords and former President of the Law Society, said “I don’t think Paul has ever heard about an injustice without trying to see how it could be challenged.” and “Paul’s creativity; commitment to upholding the rights of those without power, money or popularity; and his wholehearted pursuit of justice have not changed, and are as strong now as ever they were." Bindman’s partner John Halford’s nomination read: “If Legal Aid lawyers are to make a difference in cases where the odds are stacked against their clients, they need not only to be as good as, and often better lawyers than their opponents’ representatives, but also imaginative in using that ability. Paul has demonstrated these qualities time and again in cases handled by colleagues and myself at Bindmans."
From among Paul’s clients, Dr. Sara Ryan – whom Paul represented at the inquest into the death of her son, Connor Sparrowhawk, following his death in an NHS hospital – wrote “We will forever be grateful to Paul for his immense skill, knowledge of the law and kindness.” Jane Nicklinson, whose husband Tony Paul represented in his ground-breaking Supreme Court human rights challenge to the prohibition on assisted suicide, said “Paul made Tony’s wish to challenge the law on assisted suicide a reality, something I shall be eternally grateful for. It was a testing time for us all but the dedication and sheer brilliance of Paul made it just a little easier on us all.”
Joint Heads of Chambers, Mark Howard QC and Helen Davies QC, added “We warmly congratulate Paul Bowen QC on the receipt of this award, which is a great achievement. We invited Paul to join Brick Court in 2014 to further strengthen our profile in the types of public law and human rights cases for which Paul is rightly renowned and we are delighted that his significant contributions in important public interest litigation for individuals, charities and other NGOs have been recognised by this award."
The Law Society Gazette report of the awards ceremony can be found here.