Is fraud a growing area for you?

Yes, especially for defence work. My set is fortunate, not least because of the clerking team, to attract a lot of privately funded work in this field. 

What advice would you give to barristers coming into this field?

Whilst the tightening of public funding hasn’t affected me so far, for junior members of the Bar it is far more difficult to cut their teeth on the smaller Crown Court trials and gain experience of a jury. Less is briefed to the independent Bar now. Opportunities are still there but it’s shrunk. I’d probably done 50 to 100 trials by the time I was two years call. I suspect that’s almost impossible nowadays.  Your standards need to be high and client care is essential. Some people are getting secondments with the respective prosecution agencies and gaining experience by being in-house which also gets them known by instructing solicitors. This is another way to develop a practice.

Was becoming a barrister something you always wanted to do?

It was always at the back of my mind, along with journalism. I’m glad I did an English degree and read literature and poetry whilst I had the opportunity. It helped develop my thought processes and reasoning which could then be applied to law. That said, some of the most instructive experiences I had were when I was working in a particularly rough pub in South Wales at the age of 18 or 19. If you can deal with certain Llanwern steel-workers at closing time on a Friday night, you can deal with an obstreperous witness in cross-examination.

What are the most important traits you need to do your job?

Emotional intelligence for a start. There’s now a direction to deal with prejudice and stereotype in a rape allegation and that’s something I’ve been addressing for years. It’s common for a jury to assume that there will have been an injury and that the complaint should have been made soon after the incident. It’s important to show the jury another way of thinking. As somebody who prosecutes serious sexual allegations and above and beyond that who deals with witnesses with additional vulnerability, I have been asked to advise a working group on how the Bar should deal with vulnerable witnesses, whether it’s learning difficulties, psychiatric difficulties, self-harm, suicidal ideation, or indeed dealing with very young children.  About 90% of this job is preparation and behind the scenes work. For example if you have a vulnerable witness (an intravenous drug-addict or an alcoholic) one has to give thought to enabling that person at least to get to court and give evidence in a coherent way that can be properly assessed by a jury by bringing forward their medical or pharmaceutical appointments for example. That may not involve legal knowledge, but there’s no point in knowing the law backwards if one has no witness. 

You’re involved in the oldest case in criminal history I believe?

Yes, I’m trial counsel for the prosecution in respect of somebody charged with sexual misconduct with the indictment starting in 1949 which has of course involved research of the law pre-dating the 1956 Act which is the Act most people would know. At 62 years, I believe it is the oldest case in criminal history.

How do you want to develop your practice in the future?

I’ve just finished a large scale police corruption case which involved the longest-running criminal cases review commission in history in respect of a well-known police corruption case. The conviction was over ten years ago at Central Criminal Court and the appeal was then dismissed at the Court of Appeal. But following the criminal cases review investigation there was a referral back to the Court of Appeal which held that the conviction was indeed unsafe, quashed it and perhaps unusually, bearing in mind the sentences had been served, ordered a retrial. That was a large case with 50,000 pages of material. It’s an area I’d like to develop in tandem with general serious allegations (perhaps with an emphasis on particularly vulnerable complainants) and with organised crime such as human trafficking with an element of coercion. This last inevitably involves a money-laundering element and confiscation proceedings which dovetails in some situations with my fraud practice. So the different aspects of my practice have more links than might appear at first blush.

You’re frequently instructed as leading junior counsel against counsel of more experience or indeed Queens Counsel. How has that come about?

I was fortunate in that I started as counsel in cases with very serious allegations at around two years call. Last week I was against the Solicitor General dealing with an unduly lenient sentence. I strive to be a swan gliding along the surface with its feet paddling furiously below the surface.

Hanna Llewellyn-Waters was interviewed by Stephen Turvey of LPA Legal