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The Trial - Biographies

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Brian Barker CBE, judge (retired)

“My headmaster asked me what I wanted to study and I didn’t know so he told me I was studying law,” says Brian. “I did a postgrad in America, came back and studied for the bar, after which I was fortunate and was given a place having done my pupillage in a criminal chambers.”

After being called to the bar by Gray’s Inn in 1969, Brian took silk in 1990 and excelled in both defence and prosecution, serving as Chairman for the Criminal Bar Association. He became an Old Bailey circuit judge in 2000, during which time he presided over a number of major trials including the murders of Jody Dobrowski and Ben Kinsella and the murder case against rapper Crazy Titch. In 2013 he served for two years as Recorder of London and senior judge at the Old Bailey, before retiring in 2015 and receiving a CBE.

He continues to work as a senior legal figure, currently acting as Assistant Surveillance Commissioner and Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee on Protection and Independent Reviewer of National Security Arrangements in Northern Ireland, and chairing last year’s inquest into the death of soldier Cheryl James at Deepcut barracks. His wife, Dame Anne Rafferty, is one of the UK’s few female judges on the Appeal Court.

Max Hill, Lead Counsel for the prosecution

“There was no legal background in my family and neither of my parents went to university,” says Max. “Having initially wanted to read history, I had an idea I wanted to be an advocate. If I was going to do law professionally, it would always be courtroom based, cases that involved people rather than paperwork, so I was drawn through the advocacy side into crime.”

Over 30 years at the bar (nine as a QC), Max has defended and prosecuted in a number of complex cases of homicide, violent crime, terrorism and high value fraud and corporate crime.

In 2014, he was elected chair of the Kalisher Scholarship Trust, a legal charity supporting those who aspire to become criminal barristers regardless of their background or financial means. From 2011 to 12 he served as the chair of the Criminal Bar Association and is current Head of Chambers at Red Lion Court. In February was appointed the government’s new independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, following 15 years of experience in terrorism casework on the prosecution side.

“There have been times in my career when I’ve defended more than I’ve prosecuted,” Max explains, “but because of the security implications of terrorism cases, you can’t chop and change. My new role means I cannot engage in any counter-terrorism trial or advisory work at all for the duration of my time in the post, which will be at least the next three years.”

John Ryder, senior barrister for the defence

After 18 years as a barrister, John became a QC in 2000 and is now rated as one of the best QCs in the country, particularly noted for his speeches and skills in cross-examination.

Explaining his decision exclusively to defend since becoming a QC, he says that “I particularly enjoy dealing with defendants, building a relationship with them, trying to understand them as people, independently of what was implied by the allegation made against them. No two are ever the same, and that’s what keeps it fascinating.”

He has been involved in some of the most high-profile trials of the past decade, ranging from murder to commercial fraud. These include the murders of Damilola Taylor and PC Patrick Dunne, the defence of journalists against recent allegations of misconduct in public office as well as broker and investment banker defendants accused of rigging LIBOR.

The law, however, was never a vocation. “It arose out of my father thinking I was unemployable and that, if I could get called to the bar, it would sound impressive and might influence someone, somewhere, to give me a job,” he says. “I was interested in crime, not least because of the drama of it. It’s human life in the raw. As soon as I began my criminal pupillage, I felt a strong instinctive inclination to practice in that area. The result was it has never felt like going to work.”

Michelle Nelson, junior barrister for the prosecution

Michelle is a senior junior barrister who prosecutes and defends, with a lot of experience in the prosecution of serious offences including high profile murder and terrorism.

“I came to this believing it to be important public service,” she says. “The Criminal Justice System needs to be staffed by people who are willing to go the extra mile, do it properly and be the voice for people who are voiceless.”

Lucy Organ, junior barrister for the defence

“I was obsessed with Ally McBeal,” admits Lucy, so I wanted to be a lawyer. It's obviously not the reality, but when I got here I actually loved it. They’re important things that you’re dealing with and it’s unpredictable."

She is entering her 11th year as a barrister and has both prosecuted and defended extensively. She has defended in the full spectrum of criminal offences including armed robbery, sexual violence and murder.