Courtenay Griffiths QC

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Courtenay Griffiths QC is a barrister at 25 Bedford Row Chambers. He was formerly at Garden Court Chambers one of the best-known, largest, radical and respected Chambers in the UK. He is also a Recorder.

He has been counsel in some of the most famous trials and inquests in the UK and beyond, the latest being the so-called 'Blood Diamonds' trial, defending former President of Liberia Charles Taylor, in The Hague before the Special Court for Sierra Leone. His client denied charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes and the trial lasted more than four years before the court handed down its judgment on 26 April 2012. During the trial Courtenay's cross-examinations of a supermodel, her former agent and a Hollywood actress made headlines across the world. On 30 May 2012 Taylor was jailed for 50 years. However, the judgement made it clear that he had been found guilty only of aiding and abetting and planning the crimes, rather than active participation.

Courtenay's previous famous cases include the Damilola Taylor murder trial, the PC Blakelock murder trial, the Brighton bombing, the Harrods bombing and the Canary Wharf bombing to name but a few. He reached No 7 in the 2011 Powerlist, which profiles Britain's 100 most influential people of African or African Caribbean heritage, and was named 2012 Powerlist for the third successive year.

Courtenay was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to the UK in 1961 when he was five years old and the second youngest of a family of eight boys and one girl. From a young age his inspiration to become a barrister was Norman Washington Manley MM QC, the grandson of a Jamaican slave who became a fearless advocate for the dispossessed before entering politics and becoming the first Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1955. Shortly before his death in 1969 he was proclaimed a National Hero of Jamaica.

Courtenay graduated from the London School of Economics in 1978 and was called to the Bar in 1980. 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, took silk in 1998 and became a Recorder of the Crown Court the following year. Courtenay has received Honorary Doctorates from both Leeds Metropolitan University and his home town university, Coventry. He is a Bencher of Gray's Inn and has chaired the Public Affairs Committee of the Bar Council, also for several years the Chair of its Race Relations Committee. He has written and lectured extensively on all aspects of the criminal justice system.

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See also The Judiciary section.