Sarah Hannett wins 2013 Bar Pro Bono Award

2 November 2013

Sarah Hannett of Matrix Chambers has won the 17th annual Sydney Elland Goldsmith Bar Pro Bono Award, which will be presented by the Chairman of the Bar, Maura McGowan QC, at the Annual Bar Conference today, Saturday 2 November.

The Award was set up in 1996 to recognise individual barristers or sets of chambers who demonstrate an inspirational commitment to pro bono work. Run by the Bar Pro Bono Unit, this year's panel of judges comprised:

  • Lord Goldsmith QC - Chairman of the Judging Panel

  • Maura McGowan QC - Chairman of the Bar

  • Julie Bishop - Director of the Law Centres Network

  • Melissa Coutinho - Co-Chair of the Employed Barristers' Committee

  • Hannah Kinch - Chairman of the Young Barristers' Committee, and

  • Brian Lee - Chairman of the Institute of Barristers' Clerks. 

Sarah is the founder of the City University Matrix School Exclusion Project, which provides pro bono representation to parents of children who have been permanently excluded from school. Since starting in 2011, the Project has assisted 47 parents whose children face exclusion. Sarah has devoted considerable time and professional skill to driving forward an innovative means of providing important free legal help. She has also used her energy and commitment to harness and inspire other barristers and students to take part.

There are two special commendations this year:

Robert Banks, a sole practitioner and an author. Since 2007, Robert has provided information and advice for prisoners on sentencing, and also writes 'Banks on Sentence'. This year alone, Robert has dealt with over 200 requests for help, often meeting with the prisoners directly.

Rachel Barnes is a member of Three Raymond Buildings. Her pro bono commitment dates back to 2000 when she assisted on a death penalty appeal followed by a three-month consultancy project for the Office of the Prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. For the last three years, Rachel has been representing four individuals, against whom the UN Security Council has applied financial sanctions for alleged associations with Al-Qaida or Al-Qaida related persons. Rachel is also a member of the Fair Trials International Legal Experts Advisory panel and regularly volunteers as a co-ordinator at Hackney Winter Night Shelter.

Lord Goldsmith QC, Chairman of the judging panel, said:

"In another bumper crop of nominations the judges were faced with a difficult choice in which every candidate was entirely deserving of nomination and represented the very best of the Bar. 

"Their choice as to this year's winner was Sarah Hannett for her innovative approach to supporting young people in need. Sarah's City University/Matrix School Exclusion Project extends the value of her own contribution by involving others in her work which is both long lasting in impact and which can make a real difference to a child's chances in life.

"Special mention must also go to Robert Banks and Rachel Barnes who have displayed remarkable dedication and considerable commitment over many years to pro bono clients who would otherwise be without support."

Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar and member of the judging panel, said: 

"The judging panel was amazed by the unprecedented number of nominations for this year's Bar Pro Bono Award. The Bar is extremely proud of the nominees' tireless work to ensure that vulnerable people, who cannot afford representation or cannot access legal aid, have an avenue to justice.

"Sarah's dedication to pro bono work is an inspiring example to others. Her efforts demonstrate the often unacknowledged, positive impact that the legal profession has on society."



Notes to editors


 1.For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 or

2. The full list of nominees can be viewed here

3. The  Bar Pro Bono Unit was established by Lord Goldsmith QC, the Unit's President, in May 1996 to provide pro bono (free) legal advice and representation in deserving cases where public funding (legal aid) is not available or where the applicant is unable to afford legal assistance. Click here to visit the Unit's website.

4. The Bar Pro Bono Award is named after Sydney Elland Goldsmith, the late father of Peter Goldsmith QC, who died in 1995 during Peter Goldsmith's year of tenure as Chairman of the Bar.

5. Details of the Annual Bar Conference 2013 can be found here.

6. The 12th annual National Pro Bono Week runs from 4-9 November. Further details can be found here.

7.  The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.