Times 14th October 2010-10-14
Lawyer of the week David Thomas
David Thomas, a solicitor at Hartnells, a South London firm, acted for tenants of Lambeth Borough Council after it brought possession proceedings against them. The leases of the properties they occupied, provided bya charitable housing trust, had been terminated in 1999.
The House of Lords ruled in 2006 against the tenants, saying that they could not use the right to respect for a private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as their defence against the properties being repossessed. But the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has now ruled that the law lords’ ruling volated the tenants’ right to respect for their private and family life and homes. They were awarded €2,000 each.
What were the main challenges in this case and possible implications? The loss of one’s home is the most extreme form of interference with the right to respect for one’s private and family life and home under Article 8.
In principle, everyone should be able to have a court decide whether it Is necessary and proportionate for them to be evicted. The Strasbourg court has now said several times that our UK courts are not giving sufficient regard to Article 8 in this respect.
The Supreme Court is considering the judgment’s implication.s even now in Manchester City Council v Pinnock, in which its ruling is expected shortly.
What was your worst day as a lawyer? Going bust in my own legal aid practice after 17 years, halfway through this case. The margins In legal aid work are so narrow that one bad decision or piece of bad luck can put you under.
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? lain Robertson, a great actor (under the name lain Anders) and criminal practitioner, who was my business partner and best friend until his death in 1997.
Why did you become a lawyer? It is not that the law is necessarily a force for good, but it can afford a place to stand for those who wish to fight for social justice.
What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law? In my area of the law, these are difficult times. But I would not wish to discourage people who felt strongly that that was what they wanted to do.
If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen and why? To be a teacher, an academic, a computer programmer or a tap dancer. I would have enjoyed any of those.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where I am now. I have the chance to do the sort of work I want to do in a supportive environment and among friends. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.