Leslie Thomas QC

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Speaking passionately on 13 May 2015 as the lawyer representing the family of two young children who died on holiday, Leslie Thomas QC, said that Thomas Cook should "hang its head in shame". This was at the end of the inquest into the death from carbon monoxide poisoning of brother and sister Bobby and Christi Shepherd whilst on half-term holiday with their parents on the Greek island of Corfu. The inquest jury concluded that the children - aged six and seven - were unlawfully killed as a result of criminal negligence by Thomas Cook. The company had contested this and refused to apologise for the deaths for over nine years until days after the jury's decision. 

Leslie, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, has been described as “a star” and a voice for the dead, oppressed or vulnerable and is commended for his empathy and desire to work for the less fortunate in society, in particular representing bereaved families at inquests. His cases are regularly national headline news. Chambers and Partners describes him as: “a fantastic advocate with a great jury style. When necessary, he takes witnesses apart forensically".

Leslie started out as a commercial lawyer representing big corporations, but found his passion and niche in civil liberties, human rights, police and inquest law, with particular expertise on death in police custody caused by restraint, preventing breathing or adequate breathing, known as positional asphyxia.

He has represented many bereaved families at inquests and public inquiries where their loved ones have died in harrowing circumstances, including 11 of the Hillsborough families. In 2013, he achieved legal history by securing the first unlawful killing decision against a serving British police officer at the public inquiry into the shooting of Azelle Rodney. Ex-Metropolitan Police firearms officer Anthony Long will stand trial for murder in June 2015.  The family and loved ones of Mark Duggan - the man whose shooting sparked the 2011 Tottenham riots - also instructed Leslie as lead counsel at the inquest into his death. The incident was a catalyst for rioting across London and also spread to other parts of England.

In addition, Leslie was instructed in the Anthony Grainger police shooting case in Manchester. The police were accused of acting “above the law” when the case collapsed in January 2015. The force had demanded that evidence should be kept secret because it was too sensitive to be heard in court.

In 2012, when he was named Legal Aid Barrister of the Year, it was said: “Leslie has done more for the families of those who die in custody or at the hands of the police than any other single lawyer. This is extremely difficult and not well-funded work which requires extraordinary dedication and persistence and Leslie has all these things as well as enormous empathy with clients.”

Leslie graduated in Law from Kingston University, which awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in 2013 for services to civil rights. He was called to the Bar in 1988 and took silk in 2014. Also in 2014, The Lawyer magazine named him as one of the Hot 100 lawyers of 2013. 

Leslie’s voluntary work includes sitting on the Law Society panel for the reform of inquests. He is an active member of the INQUEST Lawyers Group, a charity which provides free advice on contentious deaths to bereaved families, and served on its Management Committee. Leslie is also a former director of the Civil Liberties Trust and Liberty. He was Chair of the Central London Community Law Centre from 1990 until 2009 and still sits on its Management Committee. He has co-written the 3rd edition of Inquests: a Practitioner Guide for Legal Action Group (LAG), a leading practitioner textbook on the subject.

 

See Also: 
The Legal History and the Bar sections.