I was born and brought up in Northern Ireland. My Dad had arrived on 6 January 1958 as a 27 year old with nothing except a £5 note his brother had put in his pocket before he left India. From this he worked tirelessly and built up a successful business, firstly selling clothes door to door and later running a market stall. My Mum joined him after a year, and threw herself into the business as well, becoming the first Indian woman in Northern Ireland to having a driving licence (or so she tells me!). I was born in 1973 – the youngest of 6, and the only boy – and as a Hindu growing up in the midst of the violence and segregation of 1980’s Northern Ireland, with friends in both communities, I learned a lot about difference, diversity, and the importance of human rights.
I chose to study law because of my belief in the importance of standing up for fundamental rights. The civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and the crushing of the protests at Tiananmen Square, which horrified me as a 16 year old and which remains a visceral memory, inspired me to fight for protection of those freedoms most basic to human dignity – freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of association. I believe it is these freedoms which define us, and I have sought to uphold them throughout my career, in particular in my work defending protestors, from UKUncut to anti-EDL demonstrators.
I believe that providing legal representation for vulnerable members of our society is a critical public service, and when it is required, excellence should not depend on the size of your wallet, but on need. Legal aid was a key pillar of the welfare state when the 1945 Labour Government created a safety net for us all, and it is a vital part of maintaining the rule of law and ensuring we live in a safer, more tolerant and more accountable community.
It is these beliefs, and above all a belief in a strong, diverse, and fair society, which have driven me to where I am today, and which guide me in every day decisions in the various public roles I play in both my local area and on a national stage.