Leslie Thomas and Marc Willers appointed as Queen's Counsel

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Garden Court Chambers is delighted to announce that Dr Leslie Thomas and Marc Willers have been appointed Queen's Counsel. Both Leslie and Marc have long been acknowledged as leading advocates and experts in their areas of specialism, and both are past winners of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards.

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Garden Court Chambers is delighted to announce that Dr Leslie Thomas and Marc Willers have been appointed Queen's Counsel. Both Leslie and Marc have long been acknowledged as leading advocates and experts in their areas of specialism, and both are past winners of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards.

Leslie Thomas is recognised as one of the nation's leading lawyers in inquests and civil actions against the state. In the past year he was leading counsel representing the family at the public inquiry into the police shooting of Azelle Rodney. He also acted as lead counsel on behalf of the loved ones of Mark Duggan in the inquest into the shooting of Mr Duggan by police officers in 2011. Leslie won the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in 2012 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law by Kingston University in 2013 for services to civil rights.

Marc Willers is recognised as a leading barrister in the fields of public law, planning and human rights, largely for his expertise in representing Gypsies, Travellers and Roma and his commitment to defending their rights and tackling the discrimination that they face in all walks of life. The majority of Marc's work is in the Administrative Court, where he is instructed to challenge local authority decisions to evict Gypsies and Travellers from their encampments and to challenge planning and enforcement decisions relating to site provision. In 2011 Marc acted as leading counsel on behalf of the Irish Travellers living on the Dale Farm site in their judicial review of Basildon Borough Council's decision to evict them from their homes. In the same year Marc won the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award.

Speaking on his appointment, Leslie said:
"I'm a South London boy from 'the wrong side of the tracks' who has got this far. The pity is that the government's recent changes in university tuition fees, ever-increasing vocational course fees and decreasing numbers of pupillages and tenancies available, means that today someone like me from a humble working class background would struggle to even make it into this profession. I fear the doors of opportunity are closing on whole sections of society, excluding lots of hidden and untapped talent. That's a tragedy.

Further my clients are predominantly those without voices, status, power or money who suffer abuses or infringements of their rights and freedoms by the state or government institutions. The recent attacks on legal aid impact on their civil rights the most. This is nothing short of an outrage, and even more so if we stand back and watch in silence and do nothing. This affects us all. Action not inaction is what is needed in these dark days of cuts which affect all of our fundamental rights and freedoms."

Speaking on his appointment, Marc said:
"I am delighted to have been made a QC and would like to thank my colleagues clerks and all the staff at Garden Court Chambers for all the support they have given me in the last 10 years. I would also like to thank and pay tribute to my instructing solicitors who do a fantastic job for little reward and deserve far greater credit than they receive for the excellent service they provide. That they continue to do so in spite of the swingeing cuts to Legal Aid is nothing short of a miracle and a testament to their commitment to social justice. I am also grateful to the planning consultants that have instructed me over the years and to the staff of a number of NGOs with whom I have worked throughout my career at the Bar. Finally, I would like to praise my Gypsy and Traveller clients. Their dignity in the face of inequality and prejudice never ceases to amaze me and if I can use my position as a QC to improve their equality of opportunity then I will have achieved something worthwhile."

Phil Bampfylde, Senior Clerk to the Civil Team said:
"This is my proudest moment in my 27 years as a barristers' clerk. Both Leslie and Marc have spent their entire careers representing the socially vulnerable or those that need a voice and fully deserve this prestigious accolade. The clerking role is not an easy one, particularly in today's battle to secure legal aid for those that desperately need it but both Leslie and Marc are a pleasure to clerk and are icons in their respective fields. This is a momentous day for Garden Court Chambers."

Leslie and Marc are two of just 100 advocates to receive this prestigious appointment this year. They officially take silk on 14 April 2014 at a ceremony before the Lord Chancellor.

As has been the case for several years, the appointments are made by the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Justice on the advice of an independent panel, unconnected to the government or the Bar Council.

To read more about Leslie Thomas's and Marc Willers' work, visit their profiles.

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