Rabinder Singh QC
Our Lawyer of the Month is Rabinder Singh QC. Rabinder attended Bristol Grammar School and then Trinity College, Cambridge where he earned a double first in law in 1985
Between 1985 and 1986 Rabinder spent a year at the University of California at Berkeley studying for his LL.M. It was during his time at Berkeley that he became very interested in constitutional law, particularly the misuse of power and how the law hold those in power to account. This interest was partly fuelled by the late Professor Frank Newman at Berkeley, who was a pioneer in the field of human rights law and partly because of his studies on the American Constitution at Berkeley.
Rabinder returned to England from California in 1986 and was a law lecturer at the University of Nottingham for 2 years. In 1988 he attended the Inns of Court School of Law to do his Bar Finals and was called to the Bar in 1989.
Rabinder did his pupillage at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square where he was made a tenant in 1990. He remained there for over 10 years specialising in public and administrative law, Employment Law, European Community law, human rights law, commercial law and media law. . Soon after he was made a tenant, Cherie Booth QC also joined 4-5 Grays in Square as a tenant from another set. Rabinder, Cherie and 5 other tenants from 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square with 16 barristers from other chambers set up Matrix Chambers in 2000.
Rabinder was named the Barrister of the Year by the Lawyer Magazine in 2001 and was awarded Silk in 2002. He was appointed a Deputy High Court Judge in 2003 and in 2004 he became a Recorder of the Crown Court. Rabinder is one of the youngest QCs and judges at the time of his appointment.
Rabinder was a former member of the 'A' Panel of junior counsel to the Crown. He was also the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance between October 2000 and November 2002. The position was established in 1993 and requires a review of around 1000 randomly chosen entry clearance refusals without a right of appeal and looking at the overall quality of refusal decisions, paying particular attention to fairness, consistency and the procedures used to reach those decisions.
He has been a Visiting Professor of Law at the London School of Economics (LSE) since 2003 and the author of 'The Future of Human Rights in the United Kingdom' published in 1997.
Acknowledged as a Leading Silk in Administrative and Public law; Rabinder is described by Chambers & Partners Legal 500 2006 as being “known for his expertise in cross-disciplinary work” and as “one of the most impressive younger silks” in the area of Administrative and Public laws.
Rabinder won the legal Excellence Award at the Asian Jewel Award in 2003 and in 2004 he was granted an honorary Doctorate of Laws by the LondonMetropolitanUniversity in 2004. He has been the Chair of the Bar Council Equality and Diversity Committee (Race and Religion) for the last 2 years and his term ends at the end of 2006. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is currently vice-chair of the Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association.
Rabinder has acted for the government and organisations such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Liberty in many well-known human rights cases. In the first part of 2006 alone he has appeared four times before the House of Lords with at least three other cases pending before the House Lords before the end of 2006. Some of the well-known cases are widely reported not just in law reports but in the quality newspapers and the tabloids and those cases include:
1. Representing the CND in 2002, when he unsuccessfully sought a declaration against the Prime Minister and others that it would be unlawful for Britain to go to war with Iraq without a fresh resolution from the U.N.’s Security Council.
2. The Belmarsh case in 2004 where Rabinder successfully represented Liberty in the House of Lords against the indefinite detention without charge or trial of non-nationals suspected of terrorist activities.
3. Successfully argued in the case of Ghaidan v Godin-Mendoza in 2004 that discrimination against same-sex partners in respect of inheriting the right to a rent-restricted flat was in violation of the Human Rights Act.
4. Successfully represented Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in 2005 in the case against the government over the refusal of benefits to refugees.
5. Advising and representing the RSPCA in 2006 in their successful claim that the Hunting Act 2004 does not contravene the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights.
6. In 2006 successfully represented the nine Afghan asylum seekers who hijacked a plane at gunpoint to get into Britain that they should have been allowed to remain in the country on human rights grounds.
7. In 2005, successfully represented the Al-Skeini family and other families of civilians killed during the British occupation of South East Iraq, arguing that the Human Rights Act applied extra-territorially.
8. Represented Peter Herbert, the Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers in the Disciplinary Proceedings brought against him by the Bar Council. Peter Herbert had accused the Bar Council of ‘institutionalised racism’. The Bar Council eventually dropped the disciplinary proceedings against him.
Below is part of our interview with Rabinder:
BLD: Why did you choose law as career?
RS: I suppose from an early age it was of interest to me. I liked the thought of being an advocate. I had a vague idea that it is about helping people to assert their rights. It was vague because I didn’t know any lawyers other than from television and books.
BLD: How do you find the time to do so much, including so many high profile House of Lords cases?
RS: You have to have a good sense of time management and keep things in perspective.
BLD: If you were to you choose a profession other than law, what would it be and why?
RS: One thing I would have liked to be is an academic specialising in Greek poetry. I love Greek poetry. I can read Ancient Greek but never had the chance to develop my interest. Another choice is to raise goats which have to be somewhere in Wales or New Zealand. I do love the countryside and nature.
BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
RS: My tutor at Cambridge told me to speak up if I were to be at the Bar, that was indeed the best advice I was given. The worst was that one career advisor told me I would not succeed as a barrister because of discrimination and not to bother. This just fired me on!
BLD: What was the best career advice you will give to other lawyers and budding lawyers?
RS: It is difficult because so much depends on good luck at the Bar but you can make a difference by working hard, being imaginative and think of ways of doing things for yourself. Although there are obstacles, you need to find creative ways of overcoming obstacles rather than treating yourself as a victim.
BLD: The person you most admire (dead or alive)?
RS: Very difficult because I don’t believe in the cult of the personality and no one can meet all criteria. Much more important are the trends and social forces. However, if I have to name one person, it will be William Gladstone, the 19th Century Prime Minister. He was a rare public figure who admitted when he was wrong and unusually became more liberal as he got older.
BLD: Tell us your professional high point(s).
RS: I am very happy with what I have been given in life. If I didn’t do anything again in law I’d be happy with what life has given me so far.
BLD: What was your worst case/worst moment as a lawyer?
RS: When I was doing a case in Strasbourg for the Government, I was detained at Strasbourg airport. No reason was given but I presume that they thought I was a terrorist. This incident happened before 9/11.
BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
RS: I am most proud of the case of Ghaidan v Godin-Mendoza as I was able to help a very specific client. This case illustrates how important the Human Rights Act has been in practice. The House of Lords had to decide the same question in 1999 and came to the opposite conclusion and this case clearly illustrates the practical and beneficial effect of the Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000.
BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
RS: it is back to Greek poetry and goat rearing! For the time being, I love my work. If I can do anything to help people through the law I will do it.
BLD: What are your dislikes?
RS: The abuse of power and the arrogance which that produces.
BLD: Any professional regrets?
RS: No, I have had a very lucky life.
BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
RS: Stop anyone enjoying absolute power or think they are above the law.