City pro bono panel saves lives in death row victory

A PRO bono panel of City firms has collaborated with Jamaican lawyers to win a landmark death row case that will benefit hundreds of prisoners due to be hanged in the Caribbean.

Simons Muirhead & Burton, SJ Berwin, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith and Kingsley Napley each advised one of six convicted murderers in the case heard in London by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

As the final court of appeal for a number of Commonwealth countries, the Privy Council ruled on Tuesday (12 September) that the Jamaican Mercy Committee is not giving death row prisoners a fair hearing. The committee decides whether a condemned prisoner should be hanged, but new procedures will have to be established.

The pro bono panel was formed in the late 1980s, fuelled by concerns about the Caribbean justice system.

SJ Berwin commercial litigation assistant Catherine Bailey advised death row prisoner Neville Lewis. She says: “This is very rewarding work. Obviously, when you get a result it is better than money. It reminds you what law is all about.”