Its Saturday – just before 8.00 am street lights still glint through eerie mist – and I climb the bank to Darlington station to take the train to York. For why? For ‘War and Peace’, of course.
When the North Eastern Circuit advertised a ‘War and Peace’ presentation at the Royal York Hotel, I scrambled my brains to work out how I could justify adding its’ 4.5 continuation development points to my meagre annual total. Then, my eyes alighted on the list of contributors. Alex Bates, fellow mediator, who worked in Kosovo as an international prosecutor of war crimes, then on to Cambodia as a prosecutor in the Khmer Rouge trials in Phnom Penh. Alex is skilled in every aspect of dispute resolution, so here was my passport to points. But the trophy list did not stop with Alex. Tim Clayson – with whom as a prosecutor in West Yorkshire, I defended so often in the 1980’s, is now, a circuit judge in Bolton. Tim was to share his experience as a United Nations International Judge in both the District and Supreme Courts of Kosovo. Next, Andrew Hatton, formerly a stalwart and fondly remembered member of the Sheffield bar, now circuit judge in Liverpool came to share his experience as an International Criminal Judge with the EULEX mission in Kosovo. And finally, Terry Munyard, criminal, civil liberties and human rights lawyer at Garden Court, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, was to speak about his five years as defence counsel representing former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor.
The next four and a half hours was to be a prize indeed, less for the points, more from four intensely fascinating human journeys. Whether as judge, prosecutor or advocate, each contributor told a special, personal story – starting with a simple decision to step into unknown territory, and ending with a wealth of experience drawn from lives that elude the circuiteer.
Alex Bates, called to the Bar in 1994, practised in Leeds until 2003, when he became an international prosecutor of war crimes in Kosovo. This was a prelude to his appointment as a prosecutor in the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, dealing with the Khmer Rouge trials, in particular Kang Kek lew who headed the Santebal – the special branch of the Khmer Rouge in charge of internal security and running prison camps including the notorious Tulo Slen prison, from which few escaped alive. The ‘hybrid’ system of justice set up there by treaty comprised both Cambodian and International Judges and prosecutors, presenting a roller-coaster of experience and intrigue. Alex now works as an independent consultant in international criminal law, lecturing and presenting at conferences around the world.
H H Judge Tim Clayson, having cut his teeth on the international stage as lead counsel in the United Nations Special Court of Sierra Leone, was appointed an International Criminal Judge by the United Nations in 2001. He quickly took on the role dealing with the appointment and discipline of all international judges and prosecutors in Kosovo, and went on to chair the Commission of Inquiry into multiple deaths in custody following a fire at the UN administered Dubrava prison in Kosovo. Tim Clayson still maintains a role on the international stage, having participated in the Judicial Standards Enhancement round table meeting in Armenia.
H H Judge Andrew Hatton’s international appointment as a criminal judge was cut short by his appointment as a circuit judge in Liverpool, but he completed one year within the International Criminal Court. Andrew was able to share his experience of the practicalities of making a transition from practitioner to international judge, and back to the circuit bench.
Terry Munyard’s experience arose on the back of a lifetime desire to be an international lawyer. In 2007 he accepted the task of representing the flamoyant Charles Taylor who, after a turbulent five year trial was, on 26 April 2012, convicted of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, enslavement, and conscripting children – and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment.
The tales told as much about the men as they did about their international journeys. Here were practitioners who were prepared to step outside the confines of predictable practice to take on new challenges.
So, just after 2.00 pm, I left York, now in glorious sunshine, to return on the East Coast line to Darlington. What have I learned? That life and practice at the Bar need not revolve around the circuit Crown or County Court list. Perhaps I shall dust off that flak-jacket and search out my passport.