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Abigail Bright

Doughty Street Chambers

Abigail's interest in CALA was spurred in January 2013 as a new tenant when Abigail's appeal against sentence was allowed (five years' replaced by four years' imprisonment) on the basis that a sentencing judge should have placed a cross-border drug mule into a lesser role within a guideline: Mildred Yesenia Terraza De Leon [2013] EWCA Crim 198.  Exceptionally, the Court awarded full funding for counsel and all work done by solicitors for the appeal.  Awarding funding for solicitors, Lord Justice Leveson observed (at [16]) '[T]hat would be extremely unusual, wouldn't it. I can't think of a sentence appeal where we would normally afford a representation both for solicitor and counsel.'  Abigail had advised solicitors to liaise with Médecins sans Frontières in order to obtain the appellant's medical records in Guatemala.

In November 2012, Abigail was led by Edward Fitzgerald KC for a successful appellant whose whole life order for murder was set aside as wrong in principle.  The appeal concerned similar fact evidence of bad character and the lawfulness of a whole life order, listed before a special five-judge constitution of the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division: [2013] Q.B. 979 (Lord Judge Chief Justice, Lady Justice Hallett, Vice-President, Queen's Bench Division, Lord Justice Hughes, Vice President, Court of Appeal Criminal Division, Lord Justice Leveson and Lady Justice Rafferty).  Whilst the imposition of whole life orders under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Sch.21 para.4 did not contravene the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 art.3, it is an order of last resort for a case of the utmost gravity.  Allowing the appellant's appeal (at [86]), the Court reasoned: 'The appellant fell to be sentenced in accordance with the transitional provisions in Schedule 22 to the 2003 Act, as illuminated for guidance purposes by the relevant practice direction. Where the offence was committed after 31 May 2002 and before 18 December 2003, where the offender's culpability is exceptionally high, a starting point of 15/16 years would be appropriate, but to allow for significant aggravating features of the case, a minimum term of 30 years might be appropriate, and indeed in cases of most exceptional gravity, a whole life term could be imposed. [...]'

Abigail is a founding member of the Criminal Law Reform Now Network, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  The Network coordinates academics at Oxford and Cambridge to collaborate with legal practitioners in crime to present papers and hold seminars at the universities and also to respond to various government consultations.

Abigail relishes complex questions to do with jurisdiction, civil and criminal. 

In February 2022, The Times’ Register reported as of major public significance Cleeland v. Criminal Cases Review Commission [2022] 4 WLR 8. Abigail was led by Edward Fitzgerald KC for the claimant. The Court of Appeal, Civil Division, recognised new rights of appeal in judicial review claims of CCRC decisions. In so doing, the Court corrected misstatements of the jurisdiction in a series of cases that judicial review of the CCRC was a ‘criminal cause or matter’.

In August 2021, the Registrar of Criminal Appeals appointed Richard Wormald KC and Abigail to defend B.  B was aged 23 when he collected information, contrary to section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000. B was a mathematics graduate of Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. B had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder.  Granting leave to appeal, and dismissing the appeal, the Vice President of the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, held that a special custodial sentence imposed on an offender of particular concern, of two years' imprisonment with an additional one-year licence period, was appropriate for a young man found in possession of material likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.  B’s Asperger's syndrome had not lessened his culpability and did not mean that he should have received a suspended sentence: Bel (Oliver) v. The Queen [2021] EWCA Crim 1461, 27th August 2021.

In May 2021, Abigail successfully argued that the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015, by means of Rule 50.27, admit exceptional jurisdiction to entertain an application to re-open a Single Judge’s decision to refuse permission: Oleantu-Ursache v. Romania; Majewski v. Poland [2021] A.C.D. 90.  Abigail’s lay client was discharged from extradition proceedings by means of a consequential order before a substantive hearing. 

In August 2020, in the very first extradition case concerning the UK leaving the European Union, Abigail’s lay client, a German national, was granted permission to appeal, relying on Germany’s constitutional non-reciprocity [nationality] bar.  Abigail was led by Edward Fitzgerald KC

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