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Mr Courtenay Griffiths QC

Mr Courtenay  Griffiths QC Our Lawyer of the Month is Courtenay Griffiths QC. Courtenay graduated from the London School of Economics, University of London in 1978 and was called to the Bar in 1980. He became a Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 1998 and a Recorder of the Crown Court (a part-time-judge) in 1999. Courtenay has received Honorary Doctor of Laws from both the Leeds Metropolitan University and his home town university the Coventry University. He is a Bencher of Gray’s Inn. His main areas of practice are Crime, Claims against the Police and Public Authorities and Inquests and his criminal cases range from fraud to terrorism, murder and serious public order to drugs. He is the joint head of Chambers (with Owen Davies QC) of one of the best known, radical, largest and respected set of Chambers in the UK, Garden Court Chambers (formerly 2 Garden Court Chambers).   

Courtenay was counsel in some of the most famous trials and inquests in the UK including the Damilola Taylor murder trial, Goswell v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (which for some time was the highest award of damages made by a jury against a police force), R v Silcott & others (The Blakelock murder trial which arose out of the Broadwater Farm Estate riot), The Brighton Bombing, The Harrods Bombing, The Canary Wharf bombing and the ‘M25’ appeal.

He had chaired the Public Affairs committee of the Bar Council, and was for several years the Chair of its Race Relations Committee.  He retains many community interests for which he generously gives his time.

Courtenay has written and lectured extensively on all aspects of the criminal justice system and have spoken on these issues on television and radio, both in the UK and internationally. He did not always remain in the private Bar. Between 1981 and 1986, he was a Legal Assistant to the then Greater London Council’s Police Committee Support Unit and later a Revson Fellow at the City College in New York. He returned to private Practice in 1986.

Courtenay is married with three sons and a daughter, he is a fanatical Liverpool Football Club supporter and he loves cricket but confesses that he would fail the Norman Tebbitt’s test of allegiance as he remains a staunch supporter of the West Indies.

Below is our interview with Courtenay.

BLD: What was your route into the legal profession?

CGQC:  I went straight from school to university. I read Law at London School of Economics and I went straight to the Bar from university.

BLD: If you were to choose a profession other than law, what would it be and why?

CGQC: I would love to be a journalist.  I love the written word and also have a passion for politics.  To be able to combine these two in one job would be great.

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?

CGQC:  My careers teacher at school suggested that I become a policeman.  I always knew I could achieve more than that.

BLD: What is the best career advice you will give to other lawyers?

CGQC:  Do not give up, even when your first application for a training contract, or pupillage fails.  Keep your chin and become even more determined to succeed.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive)?

CGQC:  My hero is Rudy Narayan, he paved the way for minority lawyers today, and he did it with style and fearlessly.

BLD: Your professional high point(s) and why?

CGQC: Many but if I must choose it will have to be the verdict in the Damilola Taylor murder trial.  Recent events have shown that if those boys had been convicted it would have been a miscarriage of justice.

BLD: What was your most famous/interesting case(s) handled to date.

CGQC: There are several but I find appearing in the Court of Appeal the most challenging experience now.  You have to be totally on top of your game.  If you are not then you will be shredded by three very experienced and intelligent judges.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?

CGQC:  My family and Liverpool Football club.

BLD: What are your dislikes?

CGQC:  I hate injustice and inequality. 

BLD: Any professional regrets?

CGQC: I have no regrets.  I think I have been blessed throughout my career.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?

CGQC:  I would cut the United States down to size and force them to take their troops out of foreign countries.

BLD: It is a little known fact that you were to represent the Commission for Racial Equality, CRE during the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry but you had to withdraw. Why?

CGQC:  Illness.

BLD: Do tell us more about your background and family.

CGQC: I was born in Kingston Jamaica in 1955 and we moved to Coventry when I was 5 years old. I have seven brothers and one sister and I am the second youngest of the 9 of us. Growing up in Coventry, an area which was then not used to people of our race was tough and put it this way, criminal law was part of my growing up in Coventry!


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