Pierce sends CBE back to Number 10

Gareth Pierce, the high-profile solicitor who successfully fought to release the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and battered wife Sara Thornton, has rejected her New Year CBE.

Pierce, a partner at BM Birnberg & Co, was given the award in the New Year Honours. When awards are made, recipients are informed and expected to accept or reject them there and then.

However, it is understood Pierce's gong has only just been sent back to Number 10.

One insider says that the disorganised Pierce did not reject the award initially because she lost the letter from Downing Street.

Pierce told one colleague: “They should have known I would not have wanted it.”

As long ago as 1990, The Guardian put Pierce forward as a worthy candidate for a New Years Honours award for “pursuing the interests of prisoners, famous and obscure”, in a list of people who should, but were unlikely to get one.

Gareth Pierce was unavailable for comment.

She is currently part of the defence team working on behalf of the five Britons being held in Yemen on terrorist charges.