We are very excited that Catherine Bond has made the Final in the Criminal Defence category of this year’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards. Click here to view shortlist.
It has been a very challenging year in the area of work in which Catherine specialises: advising and representing prisoners. There has been unprecedented interference by the Secretary of State into the workings of the Parole Board and a dizzying array of changes to practice and in the law.
A long-awaited inquiry into IPP prisoners was concluded with the publication of a comprehensive, progressive and thoughtful report from the Justice Select Committee. Almost all of its recommendations were rejected by the Secretary of State.
This was a devastating blow for thousands of prisoners and their families who have been blighted by this indefinite sentence which was abolished over a decade ago, but not for those who were already serving IPP sentences (‘imprisonment for public protection’).
A very significant backlog has developed for parole board hearings and this has resulted in almost all prisoners waiting a long time for the chance to seek their release.
The Secretary of State also decided to exclude prison lawyers from any increase at all in legal aid funding rates. This is the only area of work in the criminal defence category of work which has had no offer of an increase at all.
In these circumstances, it is all the more remarkable that Catherine continues to toil away on behalf of her clients, producing fantastic outcomes and getting incredible feedback for her work. She is an absolute credit to her profession and a wonderful colleague.
Catherine’s fantastic work has been recognised by her clients and colleagues, as well as professionals who have encountered her in the course of her work:
“It is not possible to overstate how highly I regard Catherine, not just for her work in my case but for the humanity she has shown me, not only while I was in prison when I felt like the whole system was against me, or when I was unlawfully recalled and again I was isolated and feeling helpless, literally coming to my rescue and securing my re-release but at other times since in the community when the powers that be were acting in a way that undermined my resettlement and safety, she gave me her time free of charge and without compromise.
Above the fact that she is competent at what she does, is the fact that she shows such compassion and care without judgement for people who are shunned by society and desperately need help.
Catherine is without any question, a shining beacon in the darkest parts of society where hopelessness and fear are normalised, there she gives hope, guidance and shows her exemplary humanity. I cannot thank her enough, or ever repay her kindness, simply put, she is a wonderful human being whom I feel privileged to have had in my corner.”
“I can say without a shadow of doubt that there is a very high probability that I would still be in prison if it was not for Catherine. This is a lady who gave me hope, support and kept me from going down the path of losing my mind and I mean that with very strong emphasis on losing my mind. I have now been out two years now and there have been times when I was struggling but Catherine has still given me support when she didn't have to (this is not paid work). There is a reason I have been out two years and that is a big part due to Catherine's support and her extremely wise advice. I really hope Catherine gets recognised for her outstanding work and the hope she give people. She is a true light for people in dark places.”
“As an independent member of the Parole Board for England & Wales, I had the pleasure of sitting opposite Ms Bond during many oral hearings over a number of years... I would rate Catherine as one of the most able and dependable legal representatives appearing before me over the years – one who epitomises professionalism, appropriate care and concern, and excellent delivery with prowess in handling people well “each side” of the hearing room.”
“Catherine has instructed me a number of times on criminal matters arising from her specialisation in prison law... In every case, Catherine’s representation of those individuals and her dedication to exemplary preparation of their cases has been second to none. A particularly admirable aspect to Catherine’s work is her dedication to a specialism in an area of law which, in my view, does not attract the prominence or accolades it deserves: the representation of convicted prisoners, in particular before the Parole Board. The representation of convicted prisoners, in particular with regard to the lawfulness or otherwise of their continued detention, is a crucial part of the criminal justice system which deserves greater prominence and public understanding. I know from personal experience that such work is often difficult and demanding, in particular dealing with clients who often feel very aggrieved at their conviction and sentence. In my view Catherine is an outstanding candidate for the award of Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year.”
“In all the time I have known Catherine, I have never known her treat a single case as ‘routine’. Rather, she has always gone above and beyond in driving into the detail of her client’s position and providing all with high-quality advice and guidance about how review processes might best be navigated. There have been a number of notable cases that I have worked with Catherine on over the years, many of which initially seemed quite ‘hopeless’ but ultimately did not prove so, primarily because of the determination and earnest hard work that she brought to each and every single one. Overall, Catherine is a ‘class act’ in my opinion, and I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending her to anyone in need of legal representation in a prison law case.”
“It is a pleasure to work collaboratively with Catherine who currently represents two of my patients within His Majesty's Prisons. To see the dedication and genuine compassion she has shown towards men who have lost sight of a life outside of prison, her passion gives my patients hope and has improved their engagement with their own health, as they feel they can believe again in a life after custody. Thank you for the care you have shown my patients.”
The Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards take place on Tuesday 12 July.