Published: 3 December 2016
Guests: Leslie Thomas
Leslie Thomas is a QC driven by an ethos. His life’s work has been to “fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”
He continues to live this philosophy. Growing up on a council estate in south London during Thatcherism, he was a kid who observed plenty of injustice. Often it was his friends and peers who were mistreated. Seeing this motivated him – at 14 – to become a lawyer.
“I was growing up and I saw kids who were in my class a lot brighter than me be pushed into the criminal justice system never to be seen again.”
Leslie feels his background of rebellion and protest was a positive turn and built his career. Today he is the go-to-man for families of those who have died in custody.
His early years at the bar gave him a both perspective of the justice system – and the more commercial side of law. He decided to join a forward-thinking ‘Erin Brockovich’ style chambers.
It was a chance meeting with Lord Anthony Gifford which was the turning point in Leslie’s career. Clifford’s chambers were filled with young lawyers working for radical and often unpopular clients. They represented the small person taking on the might of the state. They were seen as extreme. They broke all the rules, and for Leslie, it felt like home.
Mark Duggan was one of Leslie’s high-profile cases. We discuss the context of the case and the underlying causes which went on to fuel the UK riots in 2013.
“It’s just too easy to dismiss it as other people and being greedy and engaging in criminality. I think what we as a society if we just dismiss it like that we’re not looking for the true cause or causes of what took place. And that’s to our disadvantage.”
Are there universal traits in cases like Mark Duggan’s that apply elsewhere? Definitely. Leslie shares exactly what he sees as the underpinning of these injustices.
Recently he has re-visited commercial law taking on the famous holiday company Thomas Cook during the inquest into the death of a families two children. The subsequent unlawful killing verdict caused a social media reaction which nearly brought the company down. In Leslie’s view there was there a lack of corporate leadership and a rush just to get the lawyers in so to ‘sort things out’?
“When the lawyers come in I think things are lost. Especially if it’s a small person taken on the might of a large corporation.”
We think Leslie Thomas QC is a renegade barrister and he might just make you think differently about the legal system.
Is the pursuit of happiness even possible? Or does this goal actually make life increasingly miserable and liberty more elusive?