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|Alma mater||Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge|
Barbara Hewson is an Irish barrister with a practice in public law. Hewson specialises in Court of Protection work, human rights, judicial review, and regulatory defence cases. She is interested in reproductive health and the rights of pregnant women, the mentally incapacitated and the mentally ill.
Hewson has appeared in a number of high-profile cases. In the 1990s, she campaigned against court-ordered treatment of pregnant women, claiming that family courts were depriving women of fundamental rights to personal autonomy and to a fair trial.
She was critical of the Court of Appeal's ruling in the case of Jodie and Mary, the Maltese conjoined twins, in 2002, and acted for pro-life campaigner Bruno Quintavalle in an unsuccessful bid to stop the twins' separation.
In 2010, she acted for the family of David Gray at the inquest into Mr Gray's death following an overdose of Diamorphine, administered by locum German doctor Daniel Ubani, who had been recruited by Take Care Now. Coroner William Morris gave a verdict of gross negligence manslaughter, and made 11 Recommendations to the Department of Health to improve out-of-hours GP services. The Times profiled Hewson as its Lawyer of the Week on 11 February 2010.
She was named as a Band 1 Junior for Court of Protection – Health & Welfare in Chambers Legal Directory (2015). The Legal 500 (2014) called her a "leading junior" in the fields of Administrative Law, Civil Liberties, and Disciplinary Law.
She has been a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service since 2007. She was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Westminster in 2012.
Hewson was a founder-member of the Association of Women Barristers (AWB) in 1991. The same year, Hewson was elected to the Bar Council of England & Wales. As Press Officer for the AWB, she became known for commenting on a range of issues concerning women and the law in national media.
Hewson has long been opposed to state paternalism in the field of medical decision-making, and strongly supports patient autonomy. She is a supporter of abortion rights for women, and of women's rights in childbirth. She has argued that abortion should be removed from the criminal law. She is a critic of Operation Yewtree.
Hewson was involved in controversy in 2013, after the NSPCC's Press Officer strongly urged her to remove or reword an article she had written for Spiked Online on 8 May entitled "Yewtree is Destroying the Rule of Law," a few hours after it was published. Her article criticised the role of the NSPCC (which she called a "moral crusader") and the Metropolitan Police in treating complainants as "victims" in the wake of the Savile scandal, and the proliferation of prosecutions of elderly defendants. She had noted that the crimes of Stuart Hall (who had pleaded guilty to numerous charges of indecent assault) constituted misdemeanour offences, as opposed to crimes like rape and murder. She had proposed that there be a statute of limitations for criminal sex offences; that complainant anonymity be removed, and that the age of consent, which was raised by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1885 should be changed back to the previous age of thirteen.
Hewson rejected the NSPCC's demand, citing Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The NSPCC then said it would take this to news desks. The NSPCC proceeded to attack Hewson publicly for her views, calling them "out-dated and simply ill-informed." Hewson then experienced a media storm. On the evening of 8 May 2013, her then chambers Hardwicke issued a statement proclaiming the set "shocked" by her Yewtree article for spiked.
Hewson stood by her article, invoking Voltaire. She received menacing messages via social media, but also many messages of support via e-mail and bloggers, concerned by Operation Yewtree and supporting the principle of free speech. Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked Online, spoke out in Hewson's defence on BBC's Radio 5, saying "I published it because it's a fantastic article."
On 12 May 2013, the Irish Independent's columnist Eilis O'Hanlon commented: "The vehemence of the reaction against Barbara Hewson demonstrates that she was certainly right to compare the public mood around this issue to a witch-hunt, since it is in the nature of witch-hunts to not only shout down opposition, but also to attack what you think someone said, or what you wish they'd said, rather than what they did say."
The sociologist Frank Furedi claimed that Hewson had been "morally lynched" for expressing political opinions, and accused the NSPCC of "moral blackmail." Rod Liddle then criticised the NSPCC and Hardwicke in an article for The Spectator.
Hewson was profiled in The Times' Law Section on 26 September 2013.
On 25 October 2013, Hewson was one of 100 women invited by the BBC to a unique day of debate and discussion about women's role in society.
On 30 October 2013, she debated the proposition "Is Rape Different?" at the LSE with Reader in Law Helen Reece, Professor Jennifer Temkin and Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal, arguing that women should resist special treatment in such cases on equality grounds. Some feminist academics later attacked Hewson's and Reece's role in the debate. Their reaction was criticised by the Law Editor of spiked, who had attended the debate. Hewson then wrote an article for spiked amplifying her views.
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