Amanda Pinto QC
Although my practice is not one that would be described as 'human rights' focussed, I have always been interested in access to justice, fairness and the rule of law. So, for many years, I have been keenly involved in the rule of law and human rights work of the Bar Council. I encourage you to get involved too.
I believe that promoting the rule of law is essential. We cannot overstate its importance or that of its vital partner, access to justice - there is no point having the rule of law, if people cannot implement or enforce their rights under it or if the law is unequally applied. As a barrister with a predominantly criminal practice, I have, of course, relied upon the Human Rights Act and the ECHR in arguing the proper parameters of evidence and trial conduct. But that, in a sense, is peripheral to my broader commitment. I believe support for both the rule of law and access to justice is crucial to society working properly and effectively.
Compared to the conditions with which our colleagues overseas have to contend, our professional life in the UK's imperfect justice system seems simple. Undoubtedly, the prominence of the rule of law here is one reason why the UK's legal and judicial system is held in very high regard overseas. English and Welsh barristers are welcomed and admired abroad. The independence and quality of our justice system is rightly seen as an exemplar of how best to solve litigation and disputes globally. Especially now, we need to cherish our reputation.
Repeatedly, I clearly see the benefit of speaking out to support those whose access to justice is limited and to advocate for the rule of law. In my role as Chair of the International Committee, I mainly highlight problematic situations overseas. The fact that these matters are not central to my daily practice is, I think, important and, actually, a positive. My voice seems to be all the more respected as a disinterested advocate from the Bar of England and Wales. It doesn't matter what your area of practice is, whether it is entirely domestic or does not involve considering human rights, how senior or junior you are, in this area, your influence is vital and strong.
As lawyers, we earn our living from advice and advocacy on the implementation of law and its operation for ordinary people and organisations. Without the fundamentals, we would be in a very different position. The Bar Council supports the rule of law in many ways. The Bar's reputation allows our voice to be heard and considered to enormous effect. To take a few recent examples, the Bar Council has criticised the situation in Turkey in which numerous ordinary judges and lawyers have been removed from office and detained without warning or good reason. We have helped to support our colleagues in jeopardy for doing their job including in Iran, Turkey, Malaysia and Egypt.
We have trained overseas professions and senior judges in many fields: human rights, what the independence of the judiciary looks like in practice, dealing with vulnerable witnesses and experts in court and shared our expertise in arbitration and civil procedure. Such help and support in turn adds to our reputation as one of the best jurisdictions for legal services internationally.
The International Committee's members cover many areas of legal and geographical practice. The Committee's work benefits from the huge range of expertise, experience and specific interests of our members. Our voice, when we speak, has the authority of a wide base of different practices, ages and backgrounds, sending a stronger message to those we aim to influence. The breadth of enquiries and requests for help demonstrate that all of us at the Bar, in whatever practice area, can help support the rule of law overseas. So, do join with us to uphold the rule of law - your help matters, not just to those overseas but to our own professional reputation here and abroad.
Amanda Pinto QC is Chair of the Bar Council's International Committee and has a niche practice in serious and international financial wrongdoing; in particular, corporate crime, fraud, money laundering and corruption cases with an international dimension.