They may be well known for handling actions against the police, but Hodge Jones & Allen's civil liberties lawyers cover far more than that.
The work of lawyers in Hodge Jones & Allen's civil liberties practice covers human rights issues like forced labour, freedom of speech and prisoners' rights. With regards to the latter, HJA represents prisoners in mistreatment and discrimination cases. The firm's lawyers regularly take on the big boys, and win – holding to account police forces, the Prison Service, the Ministry of Defence and the Crown Prosecution Service, whether that's through judicial review or a civil court. Victims of crime are also catered for, especially if it's felt that not enough has been done to assist them after an incident.
Miscarriages of justice and wrongful imprisonment is another area in which the team excels. Lawyers have pursued compensation claims for a number of wrongly convicted clients who were later acquitted. These include: eleven activists who took part in the G20 protests in 2009 and were imprisoned for 'impersonating police officers' though their uniforms bore little resemblance to the genuine article. After seven years of campaigning, the group were awarded more than £60,000 in damages from the City of London police for false imprisonment, assault and breaches of the Human Rights Act. Lawyers from the firm also represented the 'M25 Three' who had their 1990 conviction for murder and robbery overturned ten years later, as well as 21 cyclists from the group 'Critical Mass,' who were accused of breaching the Public Order Act for going ahead with their monthly gathering on the day of the 2012 Olympic Ceremony in London.
HJA also has a battalion of military specialists. They handle a variety of claims covering employment issues, personal injury matters, inquests and judicial reviews. Once again the firm's work in this area has seen it grab the headlines. Civil liberties maestro Jocelyn Cockburn co-heads a renowned team whose successes include representing the family of private Jason Smith who died from heatstroke in Iraq in August 2003. Though they didn't receive compensation for his death, legal action led to the release of previously withheld information regarding the incident, as well as the implementation of tougher fitness and medical tests for soldiers before they are sent into combat.
More recently, another headline-grabbing matter concerned the Snatch Land Rover, which was widely written about as a damning example of inadequate British army equipment. The vehicles became known as 'mobile coffins' during their deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan – with a related death toll to warrant the nickname. Led by relatives of those killed while riding in the lightly armoured vehicles, HJA's lawyers established in the Supreme Court that UK soldiers fighting overseas still fall within the UK's jurisdiction; that clarification granted the families the right to sue the MOD under the Human Rights Act. HJA subsequently represented the families against the MOD and won. The case involved working with the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, and eventually secured an apology from defence secretary Michael Fallon.
Clinical negligence matters crop up regularly on the team's books as well. Experts in this area have been busy helping patients secure the right to treatment and pursue claims against negligent hospitals and medical manufacturers. In August 2016, they launched proceedings against the government after a young lady committed suicide after developing narcolepsy due to being given the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.
It certainly sounds like fascinating stuff to us. But do trainees actually get a look in on the headline cases? “Absolutely, we've never been kept far away from them,” one source enthused. Another added: “It's so exciting to pick the paper up and see that a case I'm working on has made the front page.”