Kirsty Brimelow KC elected to join first all-women Bar Council leadership team

Doughty Street silk will serve as 2025 vice chair alongside the next chair, Barbara Mills KC, and treasurer Lucinda Orr

Kirsty Brimelow KC Image courtesy of Mishcon de Reya

Kirsty Brimelow KC, a former chair of the Criminal Bar, has been elected as vice-chair of the Bar Council for 2025.

Brimelow, a criminal and international human rights barrister, will take up the post at the start of 2025, when the current incumbent Barbara Mills KC takes over from Sam Townend KC as chair. Together with treasurer Lucinda Orr, the trio will form the first all-women officer team at the Bar Council in its 130-year history.

Brimelow was elected vice chair after a two-person contested election, having sought office the previous year. The Bar Council declined to name her opponent.

Brimelow was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1991 and took silk in 2011. She practises criminal, international and public law at Doughty Street Chambers, where she is on the management board as co-head of the criminal law team. 

In 2021-23 she led the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) – serving first as vice chair and then chair – during widely supported but politically controversial Criminal Bar actions.

That action saw a rolling campaign of protests in which individual criminal barristers refused to take new instructions alongside refusals to cover other defence barristers’ work, the so-called ‘no returns’ policy.

The strike followed an independent report by former senior competition lawyer Sir Christopher Bellamy, now a government minister. The report called for immediate, long-term, sustainable investment in criminal legal aid due to long-term underfunding.

The CBA supported the implementation of Bellamy’s report, which it said was needed to safeguard the sector’s long-term survival. Former Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab MP strongly opposed this demand but later resigned after an independent report upheld his alleged bullying.

Brimelow then led negotiations with the CBA and the government to settle the dispute with Raab’s successor, Brandon Lewis MP, which increased criminal legal aid. She was the first female chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee (2012-18). She was appointed a Recorder in 2022, a Deputy High Court Judge in 2021 and a Bencher of Gray’s Inn.

Brimelow said: “As we move through the election year, I am committed to taking justice off the political football field and returning it to a properly resourced, accessible and respected pillar of society.” 

She called for “a properly funded public Bar” to prevent court delays and retain junior barristers in such work, adding: “I also will work to change the Bar’s backyard by taking solid steps to eliminate the gender and race pay gaps at the Bar, and I will extend the championing of social mobility and diversity, as well as expand the Bar’s environmental commitment.” 

Brimelow has campaigned against female genital mutilation, which resulted in legislation being drafted to protect women. Other work led to a UN resolution on eliminating harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks. Between 2019 and 2021, she advised the government of Denmark on consent-based sexual offences, leading to legal reforms.

Brimelow is an accredited mediator and acts in conflict resolution, particularly in Colombia, as part of the Colombia Caravana campaign, which works to promote access to justice and uphold the rule of law in the country. She negotiated a historic apology from the former Colombian president to a community of cacao farmers.

In addition, she has undertaken extensive work on international human rights and holds consultancies for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Brimelow will take office in January 2025 alongside current vice chair Barbara Mills KC, elected unopposed as chair of the Bar for 2025, and Lucinda Orr, a partner at Enyo Law, who will take over from Lorinda Long, associate general counsel at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as Treasurer for 2025. Mills, the co-head of chambers of 4 Paper Buildings, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Global Legal Post’s 2024 Women and Diversity in Law Awards in March.

Following a succession of recent female presidents, her team will overlap with the Law Society’s all-male equivalent team of Nick Emmerson, Richard Atkinson and Mark Evans.

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]