Careers Advice from Terry Munyard- Criminal Barrister at Garden Court Chambers
This week I caught up with Mr Munyard, taking a break from his busy schedule after coming home from two years working on the Hillsborough inquests where he represented the families of three of those who died. He gave me an insight into his legal life!
Terry started off by explaining how he got into law. When asked if he’d always wanted to be a barrister his response was this:
“I never had any intention of practising as a barrister when I did the bar course in 1971. I came from a working class family in a middle class suburb of Liverpool; my siblings and I were the first in our whole extended family to go to university. My plan after my law degree was to work for the UN or other similar body. To that end I applied for and was accepted on a course at the Johns Hopkins Center in Bologna, northern Italy, due to start in the summer that I finished my degree. Just as I graduated, Johns Hopkins contacted me to say they no longer had scholarship funds for that year and I would have to pay my own way. I had no chance of doing that so I looked around for another course to do. My local authority (then Lancashire County Council) paid for me to do the Bar course and gave me a maintenance grant. Its attraction was that I would have the qualification of “barrister” at the end of the course, provided I had joined an Inn of Court and double dined – and paid the fees for joining and for being called to the bar, both of which were generously paid for by my older sister and her husband, who were both then working -“
Openly speaking about how he had no confidence, connections or cash to practice as a barrister in 1972, Terry went travelling and returned to became a sub-editor on Halsbury’s Laws of England where he worked for two years and became very active in the union; the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Here Terry speaks of his involvement in gay rights campaigning and its importance to him:
“I was still a fairly active trade unionist but also had become much more involved in gay rights campaigning. In that capacity I had begun to do some public speaking and was a member of the national executive committee of the NCCL (now named Liberty). In 1977 together with one other man, I set up GLAD (Gay Legal Advice) to give advice on good lawyers and also to give personal support to [initially] gay men going through criminal proceedings which they would not have ever been subjected, to had they been straight. We expanded in time to become Gay and Lesbian Legal Advice (although I had left by then as I was in practice at the bar and did not want to risk being seen as touting for work through the organisation). As a result of both my own experiences and also going to the criminal courts to support other gay men I eventually decided I wanted to get into the arena myself and fight the cases in court. One of the members of the NCCL Gay Rights Committee who was in Wellington Street Chambers (the only ‘socialist collective of barristers’ ever to grace the UK legal scene) told me his chambers was recruiting and advised me to apply to join (he is now in the Court of Appeal, a Lord Justice of Appeal). So my journey into practice was born not out of a desperate desire to be a barrister, but arose from personally experiencing injustice, police lies and seeing the oppression of so many others simply because of their sexuality. I did many criminal cases concerning gay rights, securing acquittals often for men who should never have been prosecuted and whose lives were likely to have been devastated by a conviction. that was extremely gratifying to me. Very early on in my career at the bar I was asked by Jeffrey Dudgeon from Belfast to represent him in his case at the European Court of Human Rights. I initially declined because I was far too inexperienced and because he had an excellent lawyer already representing him. However, Jeff wanted to change his legal team and so I became junior counsel in the case which was now led by Lord Tony Gifford, at my suggestion, and we went on to win the case of Dudgeon v United Kingdom in 1971 which struck down the absolute ban on sex between men in Northern Ireland, and the government was then forced to bring the law into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. I had also been involved, by chance, in bringing the law in Scotland into line with that of England and Wales in 1980“.
When I asked Terry what advice he would have for aspiring lawyers he said this:
“My advice to aspiring advocates; give it a go. It may turn out to be the best risk you’ve ever taken. But if it’s not for you, don’t be afraid to say so and do something else. But life never goes to plan and you may find yourself like me, an accidental advocate. It has been the most rewarding life professionally, personally and also financially”.
Written by Sophie Terrington – OULS Careers Coordinator