Helena Kennedy QC was born and grew up in the South side of Glasgow. She was, at first, going to study English at Glasgow University. However, she changed her mind and studied Law in London at the Council of Legal Education instead. It was this decision that lead to Helena becoming one of the most prominent and important female lawyers of our time.
Over a career spanning four decades, Helena has focused on ensuring those who are most vulnerable have a voice in our legal system. She is a member of the Doughty Street Chambers in London, and specialises in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues. She has acted in a number of high-profile cases that includes – but is not limited to – the Brighton Bombing, the Guildford Four appeal and the bombing of the Israeli embassy. Her current work encompasses cases linked with the rise of terrorism.
In addition, Helena is a patron for numerous charities including Safe Hands (a charity dedicated to helping maternal and infant health in Ethiopia), sits as a Labour member in the House of Lords and served as a Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford from 2011 to 2018. This highlights that Helena is an incredible woman and lawyer, and her copious achievements should be admired by all law students and lawyers alike.
Moreover, Helena has written some of the most important books about women and the British Justice System. This is how I discovered Helena Kennedy. In 1993, Helena wrote a book entitled, “Eve was Framed: Women and British Justice.” This book provided a female perspective on how the law treated women. 25 years later, Helena wrote a second book on the same topic entitled, “Eve was Shamed: How British Justice is Failing Women.” I have read this book, and truly believe it is a must read for everybody. Helena manages to write openly and honestly about a difficult topic, providing a coherent argument throughout about the injustices women still face in the modern day. The book covers every topic, from the disparity of female judges at the top of the legal system to the difference in incarceration rates for men and women facing similar charges. She provides an interesting perspective on sexual abuse cases, condemning the decision not to remove victims’ sexual history from rape trials, and also examines the deep-rooted issues that led to events such as the Rotherham scandal, rather than singularly blaming it on the girls ‘lifestyle choices’. These sections make a particularly interesting read in light of the MeToo movement.
Helena spoke of her sadness at having to write a second book on this topic 25 years after her first, but it’s importance should not be undermined. Although this book provides an in-depth insight into the failings of the justice system for women, it highlights that work has been done since the original publication in 1993. Furthermore, it proves that with continuous work the justice system can work equally for men and women.
Shona Christie, LLB3, GCU Law Clinic Volunteer