Dr Sharon Persaud
Sharon has a BA (Honours) degree in English from Wadham College, Oxford (1988), and then qualified as a solicitor via the Common Professional Examination and Law Society Finals at Nottingham Law School (1991.)
Sharon also has a Masters in Research in Law (2004) and a PhD from London University (2011.) Her research, which took a ‘systems theory’ approach, focused on ‘saviour siblings’ and the law, ethics and regulation of human reproductive technologies based on genetic selection (‘the new genetics’).
Professional life as a lawyer - 1991 to date
Solicitor and partner in private practice
Sharon trained at Bindman & Partners, a leading civil liberties and human rights firm, and stayed on at qualification, becoming a partner and then a consultant in the criminal department. She then left full-time private practice, before returning to it as a consultant for and then partner at Boutique Law LLP.
At Bindmans, her practice was extremely varied and covered every aspect of criminal defence work from the police station to the Court of Appeal, with an emphasis on serious, heavyweight and complex cases and those with a ‘civil liberties’ aspect. At Boutique Law LLP, she has focused predominantly on fraud and financial crime / confiscation, FCA and SFO investigations, regulatory work, and extradition. Many of these cases are complex, high profile or extremely sensitive; many also have an international dimension.
Sharon has had conduct of many murder cases and cases of serious assault, including a successful defence in the first prosecution for causing grievous bodily harm by the transmission of the HIV virus by consensual sex; terrorist cases; public order / ‘protest’ work; ‘heavy’ crime, including armed robbery, drugs importation and the associated money-laundering and confiscation; financial fraud and ‘professionals in trouble’; child abuse and second opinion appellate work.
She also has a particular interest and expertise in active and innovative defence. This has included the successful conduct of positive defences based on ‘battered women syndrome,’ other psychiatric / psychological states and duress, and a very wide range of acquittals as a result of successful legal submissions (admissibility; submissions of ‘no case;’ defective indictments; abuse of process; arguments on disclosure / public interest immunity; pleas in bar.)
Sharon also has considerable experience in criminal cases which cross disciplinary or national boundaries – serious ‘non accidental injury’ cases litigated simultaneously as criminal and care proceedings; national and international child abduction; cases involving parallel allegations of criminal and professional misconduct; criminal proceedings involving asylum seekers, refugees, other foreign nationals and victims of human trafficking; extradition.
Sharon also brings significant appellate and review experience, in both the criminal and non-criminal context. She has considerable expertise in criminal appeals, through appellate work as a practitioner, as an appeals lawyer at the Criminal Appeal Office (2010-2013), and as a former Commissioner at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (2013-2018.) She has been an independent peer reviewer assessing the standard of legal representation by firms undertaking publicly-funded criminal defence (2004-2007.) In 2019, she also conducted a high profile independent review of student disciplinary processes at the University of Warwick, following a highly controversial case which had attracted national media attention. She also undertakes other review work.
Commissioner, Criminal Cases Review Commission
The CCRC is an independent statutory body which investigates potential miscarriages of justice and, where the statutory test is met, refers them back to the appellate courts. Commissioners are public appointees.
Sharon was a Commissioner, responsible for the key investigative and referral decisions within reviews. This included decisions on the lawful and proper use of very broad statutory investigative powers to obtain material, directions to the police to investigate matters on the CCRC’s behalf, and the ultimate decision on whether or not to refer a case back to (usually) the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) for a further appeal.
As a result of her experience and expertise, Sharon dealt with some of the CCRC’s most difficult, long-running and high profile cases. She also took the legal lead on the most legally challenging reviews, including the post-Jogee ‘joint enterprise’ murder cases, asylum and immigration offences and ‘change of law’ cases.
Sharon also had a wider governance and leadership role, sitting on the Board and the research advisory panel, and training internally and externally. She contributed to responses to consultations (joint enterprise; guilty pleas) and regularly represented the CCRC at seminars, conferences, and ‘stakeholder’ events with academics, the senior judiciary, lawyers and campaigners.
Lawyer, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) - Criminal Appeal Office
Sharon worked as a specialist appeals lawyer, preparing digests of relevant facts and law for cases before the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and highly technical advice on unlawful sentences. She also co-ordinated the three ‘special courts,’ convened to provide guideline judgments on ‘whole life’ orders (ie life sentences without parole), ‘new’ life sentences and the criminal responsibility of young defendants who were the victims of trafficking.
Independent expert peer reviewer for the Legal Service Commission / IALS (consultancy)
Independent peer review, carried out in conjunction with the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, was part of the LSC's then strategy to monitor and improve the quality of CDS-funded advice and representation.
After a blind peer review of her own files, Sharon was appointed as an independent expert to assess the quality of advice and representation provided by firms receiving payment by public funds. Her reports were used to monitor the quality of advice and representation given, to suggest remedial measures / further review if required, and, in extreme cases, as a basis for the removal of a legal aid contract. They were also used to formulate ‘best practice’ guidance.
Other activities: teaching, writing, speaking / training
CPD accredited training, including to the Criminal Appeal Lawyers Association (CALA) annual conference and the Law Society of Northern Ireland (2018); regular updates on developments in appellate law to the CCRC (c2014-2018); on defences to immigration offences – joint training with Garden Court Chambers and the CPS (c2017); ‘in house’ to lawyers within the Criminal Appeal Office on various aspects of sentencing (c2012-2013.)
Panel discussant for ‘Reasons to Doubt’ with Professor Carolyn Hoyle
Seminar on the CCRC organised by the Criminal Justice Centre at QMUL (November 2019)
CCRC research advisory committee member (with Professor Cheryl Thomas, Professor David Ormerod and practitioner members) (2018)
Seminar teaching to LLM Human Rights students at UCL (with Professor David Ormerod) (2019) and Law Clinic students at University of Birmingham and University of Westminster (c 2014)
Article: ‘Joint enterprise: a wrong turn in the common law.’
Law Society Gazette (2016)
Part-time visiting lecturer at University of Westminster - Criminal Evidence and Procedure (2004-7)
Sessional lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London (2006-7) - Criminal Law
Contributor to London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association (LCCSA) response to consultation on genetic databases (2007)
Training for Anti-Trafficking Legal Project on ‘victim's rights' in the criminal justice system (2007)
Work with Rights of Women: Contributor to 'From A-Z : a woman's guide to the law' (publication in 2006); CPD-accredited training on sexual offences (2003); contributor to joint conference with UNISON: paper and seminar on the Human Rights Act and women in the criminal justice system (2000)
Contributor to Association of Lawyers for Children conference on the impact of the Human Rights Act on children within the criminal justice system (2003)
Contributor to the ILPA / Discrimination Lawyers publication 'Making Rights Real’ (2000) (chapter on the Human Rights Act and Crime for community groups and lay advisers.)