Eight months on from the inquest into the death in police custody of Sean Rigg, Leslie Thomas gives an inside account of the case and why it is that he has dedicated much of his career to inquest work.
Writing in Counsel magazine, Leslie Thomas explains that while inquest work is “not an area chosen for financial rewards”, it is rewarding , challenging and always interesting. During Leslie’s career at the Bar, one of the greatest changes has been the implementation of the Human Rights Act, which for the first time guaranteed the families of those who died in state custody a full and far-reaching inquest. Prior to that, without public funding available, families were entirely reliant upon lawyers being willing and available to represent them pro bono.
Focusing on last summer’s inquest into the death of Sean Rigg, Leslie goes beyond the facts of the case to describe how practical matters such as the unpredictable length of inquests threatened to derail the process. He also gives praise to the “modal” jury, two of whose members actually re-arranged their holidays and personal lives to finish hearing the case. Their commitment to their civic duty was apparent through their attention to the case and their pertinent questions to witnesses.
For those who think that barristers have to disengage themselves emotionally from their cases and clients, Leslie explains that “getting answers for families who have lost loved ones takes considerable emotional resilience and perseverance”. He goes on to explain “At times I feel like I employ more of the skills of a counsellor than simply the skills of counsel, but I love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”