Annual Bar Conference 2016: Pro Bono award 2016

The winner of the 2016 Pro Bono Award, sponsored by the Bar Council, was announced at the conference. John Collins, of Zenith Chambers, has been at the Bar for six decades. 

In the last five years alone, he has worked on 11 pro bono cases, including Ilott v Mitson [2015] EWCA Civ 797 and Bell v Northumbria Water [2016] EWHC 133. The award also acknowledged his influence and support in encouraging others to take on pro bono cases.

Collins was described by Lord Goldsmith, the Bar Pro Bono Unit President and Chair of the Award judging panel, as a ‘great ambassador’ for our profession. The Chairman of the Bar agreed it was a signal honour to be able to recognise and reward his time, knowledge and energy. Unfortunately, Collins was not able to be present, and the lost opportunity to catch sight of the great man was a disappointment to many in the audience who were craning their necks at this juncture. He did, however, pen some words that were shared with us.

Collins spoke of a time when this award would seem unnecessary, when ‘equality before the law, is not an idealistic declaration’, but something that everyone could access; when a lack of means should not mean that people were ‘prevented from protection, or defending, their rights’. These sobering and inspirational words struck a tangible chord with the audience.

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