The Art of Advocacy: A Barrister's Tale

An interview with

Felicity Gerry is one of UK's high profile barristers with over 19 years experience in serious and complex fatal, sexual and financial offending, appearing in court and advising on appeals and judicial review. She is also a writer & media commentator. Just this week she had successfully prosecuted the rape & killing of a woman in a Wisbech hotel and appeared at Wood Green to defend a rape allegation. On the date of publication of this very interview, Saturday 29th June, she would be speaking at the Integrate Bristol event on female genital mutilation. With such an active professional life, it is our absolute pleasure that Barrister Gerry made time to speak to TheLawMap about some of the issues close to her heart.

TheLawMap: 19 years in sex, murder and fraud, often with an international twist, what makes you so passionate about these complex areas in law?

I really enjoy putting a case together and then presenting it at court. It is particularly rewarding in a circumstantial evidence case where you have to analyse evidence from witnesses, experts, telephone or bank records to prove a crime or to pick an allegation apart when defending. Advocacy is an art and there is nothing better than an effective cross examination or giving a well prepared closing speech whether the case involves domestic rape, gangland shooting or international fraud.

TheLawMap: Sexual offence related cases often tend to generate much intrigue within particular sections of the media adopting a moral tone. Do you think that as a society we become a little more judgemental in relation to such offences?

I think we are far more aware of child abuse and sexual offending than we were in the past, which is a good thing. It has always gone on but now it is out in the open there is more chance to deal with it fairly and effectively. The law has improved but for ordinary people the scale and type of offending is always shocking. As a barrister you have to keep the balance even if others lose theirs

TheLawMap: Does 'the legal process as a mean to resolving conflict' has exactly the same meaning to victims and perpetrators of sexual violence?

Criminal trials rarely resolve conflict but they can be cathartic for a victim. If a perpetrator pleads guilty this can be the first step towards rehabilitation or at least remorse. I often deal with very dangerous offenders who are difficult to handle. The trial process can be a very high octane environment for all concerned. This can be particularly distressing for someone falsely accused.

TheLawMap: Are there areas in law and the legal process where women may still be at a disadvantage in UK?

There are still far too few women at the top of the legal profession. Women will suffer most by proposed legal aid cuts and the effect of imprisonment on women offenders is shocking. I have stuck it out this far in many ways just to prove a point.

TheLawMap: I note that the second edition of your book, 'Sexual Offences Handbook: Law, Practice and Procedure' is out in October this year. What inspired you to write it in the first place?

I think it might be a little later than that as there is so much to update. My co-author Catarina Sjölin and I realised that our area of expertise is perhaps the most complex (aside from chancery). We wanted all the law to be accessible in one place. I like our practical tips best as often criminal cases are about simple and effective solutions rather than complex principles of law.

TheLawMap: In your opinion, what is the likely impact in terms of justice in the wake of cuts to the UK Legal Aid funding?

The impact is already apparent at Crown Courts across the country with collapsing administration, delays, a shortage of quality advocates and litigants in person. If it carries on this way, it is only a matter of time before there will be a shocking miscarriage of justice. The Ministry of Justice seems to have no idea how much the system relied on the goodwill and professional commitment of the Bar. Advocates are disillusioned and exhausted and are doing their best in increasingly impossible circumstances. What we do is a vital public service and it must be protected from the appalling concept of price competitive tendering

TheLawMap: What inspired you to be a barrister?

Going to work for an argument every day. Getting to dress up like a witch. Doing the right thing.

TheLawMap: Internationally speaking, what concerns you the most in the area of women's rights, with reference to sexual offences?

The amount of dead women from domestic and sexual violence across the world is appalling.

TheLawMap: If you had one wish to change something within the legal profession, what would it be?

More women judges. We are so much better at it!

With special thanks to Felicity Gerry for her valuable time.

Barrister Felicity Gerry
Barrister Gerry says that she loves everything about being a barrister and is available to instruct via 36 Bedford Row, London, The Moynahan Law Firm, Connecticut and William Forster Chambers, Darwin. She also maintains an active twitter presence frequently commenting on issues close to her heart.