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Lord Speaker's Corner: Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws

19 May 2023

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Hear leading human rights lawyer, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws KC, discuss human rights, social media and access to justice with Lord McFall of Alcluith in the latest episode of Lord Speaker's Corner.

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'I was challenging the state, and often taking on the state, because of abuses by arms of the state, by police, by immigration authorities… And that is the purpose of law. That is what the rule of law is all about.'

In this new episode, campaigning barrister Helena Kennedy KC talks about her early career, plus work on international cases of human rights abuses, such as the mistreatment of Uighurs, Russia’s kidnap of Ukrainian children and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. She also explains her work in the House of Lords to contribute to and improve the law.

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Lord Speaker:

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws - or otherwise Helena, my friend. Welcome to this Lord Speaker's Podcast. Both of us come from the west of Scotland. So could you give me a flavour of your background and what has driven you to where you are?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, I was brought up in the Southside of Glasgow, a Catholic family, working class. My dad worked in the newspapers. He was a dispatch hand, where the newspapers would come off the presses and they would bundle them up and put the newspapers into vans to distribute all around Scotland. And that was what he did. He was a trade unionist and he ended up being what was called the "father of the chapel," the person who was a representative of the people doing that job. And so, in our household there was a certain political understanding that life could be tough for ordinary folk, and getting the law to ... For example, when people had industrial injuries and so on, my father would be trying to get them compensation. And so, the idea that law was not something that came easily and comfortably to ordinary people was something that we were well aware of at home.

My mother was an incredible woman. She was a real person. She did a lot of work in the church, but she did a lot of work in our community and she was really turned to for advice and for help. So, I think that the values that they had were very compelling. So I was brought up in a household where the idea that you had responsibilities to other people was part of how we lived our lives. And then, I loved school. I was good at school. There were four girls in our family. And I was the first to go on to higher education. And I came down to London to study law. It was a strange thing to think of doing, because-

Lord Speaker:

Well, actually was going to say that. You're from the west of Scotland. You would think-

Baroness Kennedy:

A working-class family.

Lord Speaker:

Well, first of all, working-class family, aspiration. The percentage of people going to university-

Baroness Kennedy:

Was that small.

Lord Speaker:

Eight, 10% maybe at the most, the very most. But, not following the normal path of saying going to Glasgow University. You decided to go to the bar. And I believe that when you told people you were going to London to the bar, they thought you were going to work in a pub.

Baroness Kennedy:

A lot of my relatives had no notion of what this all meant. And talking about the Inns of Court and so on seemed so strange to them. But, I had a wonderful teacher. I mean, I had a whole set of wonderful teachers at the Catholic school that I went to.

Lord Speaker:

That was Holyrood, was it?

Baroness Kennedy:

That was Holyrood on the Southside. And, I was very good at Latin and we had a great Latin master. And he encouraged me to do Greek as well. And that meant that I got real one-to-one tuition from him. And he was the person who also ran the debating society. And debating, as you know John, was a great thing in Scotland. We were all encouraged to take part in debating, and I became one of the debaters. And that notion that you had to slip your feet into the shoes of somebody else was very important.

I remember the death penalty. We were going to have a debate on the death penalty, it was the '60s. And John Lavell, who was the teacher saying to me, "Well, Helena. You'll be in favour of the death penalty. And you, Charlie will be against the death penalty." And I meant, "No. No. I can't be in favour of the death penalty. I'm not in favour of the death penalty." And my parents were not in favour of it. And he said, "No. No. No. That's not debating. Debating is about putting your feet into the shoes of the person who is in favour of it and trying to understand what the arguments are for that." And so, I became quite good at debating. And I think he must have been the person who put the suggestion into my mind of doing law, because I'm told by teachers that I'm still in contact with, who are now well into retirement, that they remember the issue of law coming up. But I don't remember that particularly.

But I do remember I had a summer job in London when I was probably in the fifth form. I came down, because one of my sisters was living down in London. And that gave me this desire to somehow come and spread my wings and study somewhere else. And I got to know some people who were students at London School of Economics. I thought that maybe I'd go there. I don't know if you remember, there was a member of the House of Lords, Lord Wedderburn?

Lord Speaker:

Yes.

Baroness Kennedy:

He was a great trade union lawyer. And so, I thought I might do trade union law. And that was what really drew me to the idea of coming down to London and studying law, because I got to know some people who were law students. And then it all turned out in a different way and I didn't become a trade union lawyer. I became a criminal practitioner at the Bar. At the Bar, which was, at that time, had only 5% women practitioners and all very much channelled into doing family law. And so, I was resistant to that and I did my pupillage with a very great criminal lawyer. And so, I ended up going down that path. So, that was how it all started.

Lord Speaker:

I suppose coming from the west of Scotland, I would say a disputational environment, and being a bit aggressive, that it was natural. So I think we always get engaged in the verbal jousting?

Baroness Kennedy:

Yeah. Absolutely-

Lord Speaker:

Which probably helped you.

Baroness Kennedy:

And being quite adversarial, in any event. Certainly. I suppose debating was a way of trying to channel that, when we were young. But I was brought up in the tenements of the Southside. And then eventually my parents were on the Glasgow Corporation waiting list for a council house for 16 years. So, I'm afraid that the getting of the council house happened rather late in the day. But that was where we were brought up. But my parents were really fine people and I can honestly say that.

Lord Speaker:

So, you've continued their values?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, I wouldn't like to pretend to myself that I was being a ... I try to be good and I try to do things that will make a difference to other people's lives.

Lord Speaker:

Mm-hmm. And coming to London and doing the Bar then, the type of work that you have undertaken, it would seem as if for your lifetime, you've been fighting the establishment.

Baroness Kennedy:

I have. I mean, what happened was that it became very clear to me that law was about power. I mean, who gets to make the law? And it's the most powerful in any land. And so, I quite early on, had a very clear sense that law was the product of the establishment. And that certainly women had very little part in the making of law, because law came through Parliament, or through the senior judiciary. And there were not very many women in either. I mean, there were no women in the senior judiciary when I went into the law. There were no women in the highest courts at all.

I mean, Rose Heilbron became a QC and was a rare bird at that. There was Lizzie Lane. Elizabeth Lane became a judge in the high court, but that was in the '60s. It was rare to have women in those senior positions. And it became clear to me that law was a male product. It was made by men. And so, I started sort of scrutinising the way in which law failed women and I saw it in my practice. I went to court with women who were really poor women, or women who were coerced into criminal conduct, because they were in abusive relationships with men. And who were the people who handled stolen goods, but only because that was a method of survival in an environment where they were left with kids and often didn't have other ways of making ends meet.

And so, I started seeing how law failed women. But, I mean, women make up a small percentage of the population of people who come through the courts. I did a lot of civil liberties work. I was very interested in the ways in which ... That was in the '70s. I was called to the Bar in 1972. And so it was early days for ... I mean, there were not many women, and not many women in my field. And I was very interested in the ways in which communities that were poor suffered. And, at that time, we started seeing, of course, quite a lot of racism. There really was a lot of discrimination against racial minorities. And I acted often for those who were having a bad time. It was also a terrible time for gay men. Gay men were arrested and regularly pursued. There was a vice squad that was given the role of picking up men in public lavatories and coming out of gay pubs and things.

And they really were often framed. There were agent provocateurs amongst the police, who basically encouraged them to make advances on them, and then they would arrest them. Of course, it was also time when there was a growth in the use of drugs. So, often, I was acting for people who were up on drug offenses, but marijuana, nothing particularly serious. And I started seeing the ways in which people's civil liberties were being abused. And I joined and became a member of the National Council of Civil Liberties. I did cases for them. I did a lot of cases relating to ... I mean, ways in which people were generally not being treated well by the courts. And so, that was how it started. Then, of course, the Irish Troubles came. They'd started in the late '60s but accelerated through the '70s. And a point came when I started being instructed in doing some of the major Irish cases.

And so, racism, horrible sexism and the persecution of the gay community, people arrested on demonstrations. All of that was the fodder of a young lawyer. But then, as I went on, I was doing more and more serious crime, and terrorism became part of it. Homicides, women who after years of being battered and abused would perhaps kill their husbands. I think I used to always say that when judges saw me at a social gathering and I was talking to their wives, they would get very worried indeed.

But it was a very interesting life, and certainly I was challenging the state. And often taking on the state, because of abuses by arms of the state, by police, by immigration authorities. And ways in which people suffered the consequences of that. And that is the purpose of law, is that the rule of law is all about - we have to have a judiciary, which should be much more representative. And I started arguing for that early on, that we needed to see more women having pathways into it, and being encouraged to step forward, that we needed to nurture minority communities and bring them into the law to make sure that they too could be part of the judiciary. So, the rule of law ... I mean, by and large, if you don't keep an eye on it, it can very easily be eroded.

Lord Speaker:

Yeah. It must've been a bit of a lonely journey. I think I remember you saying that one of the judges to prove his credentials told you that it he'd voted to allow women into the Kennel Club.

Baroness Kennedy:

He did. He did. I mean, there was a period, John, when in the early '70s when really, the judges at the Old Bailey were absolutely terrors. I mean, they terrorised the barristers who came in front of them. And they were fairly uniform in their view of the world and in what their purpose was, which was to hold a tight rein on the criminal classes. And I think that we have a very different judiciary now. And I think that's a positive thing.

Lord Speaker:

But you would be part of that group that helped change that culture?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, I mean I did things like I was one of the barristers in the Guildford Four appeal. I mean, there were miscarriages of justice around that time. Of course, I'm old enough to remember it and a lot of the younger generations don't. But, really there were times when, because there was a willingness to believe everything that police officers said, and there was a culture within the police often too ... If their gut told them that somebody was guilty, to somehow manufacture the evidence, or manoeuvre the evidence to make it look as though people were guilty. There were also forced confessions. I mean, bad things went on in police stations when people were being interrogated. And unlike now, where things are videoed, where things are recorded and the possibilities of doing that is very difficult now, back in the day they just used to concoct statements and get people to sign them. And so, yeah. I saw a lot of bad stuff in my time. And I think that exposing that was really important, and being prepared to speak publicly about it has been very important, I think, in improving what goes on.

Lord Speaker:

Maybe I could take you to the invitation you had to join the House of Lords? We know it's different, but the image of the House of Lords, it can be remote, outdated. It represents the establishment. But here, you who've fought against that establishment and fought for change, and coming into the House of Lords. How do you explain that to young people that are looking at this interview?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, I mean, it's a process. I believe in law. And I believe in the rule of law. And I believe that you have to have an independent judiciary, and you have to have an independent legal profession. And so, when people say to me things like, "How could you represent these terrible people? And there must be times when you represent them and you must know that they're guilty." But that's not my role, to decide whether people are guilty or not. That's for judges and juries. But, my role is to make sure that people are well defended, that they're represented. And I'm doing that for my own protection and my children's protection and for your children's protection, because that's how you keep a good legal system going.

And, that is an important value in a democracy. We've got to protect the rule of law. And so for me it is ... I mean, I don't think I ever sounded irrational in what I was saying. What I was saying was, if we want to have good outcomes and we want to have a decent society, you have to have due process. You have to have fair trials. And fairness matters. The law is about more than just written law, it is about injecting it with fairness and justice. And nowadays, the rule of law really does mean protecting human rights too. And the moment ... I mean, I became a Queen's Counsel when I was 40. That was 1991. I was born in 1950, so I was not quite 41. And that, of course, gave me the position where it was recognised that I was one of the senior lawyers who was rated as a good lawyer. And ethical, because I mean, one of the things they're measuring are you fly-by-night, or not?

But I was a serious person. And so, it gave me the opportunity then to write books about what I'd seen and my experience, and for it to have value. I couldn't be marginalised in what I was describing in the failure of law for women, for example. And then, in the years after I had become a Queen's Counsel, I did quite a lot of work in ... I was on a commission on education, the National Commission on Education. I chaired a commission that looked at further education as a way of delivering opportunities like the ones that I'd had for young people, giving people second chances.

 And the other thing that I did was, I chaired Charter 88. And Charter 88 was all about reform of our constitution. I was very interested in wanting our constitution changed. I wanted to see the European Convention on Human Rights introduced into the law of our land, because we'd often ... I'd had to take cases to Europe. And it took six years to get there. Cases around prisoners' rights, cases around the use of inhumane treatment in Northern Ireland and in dealing with terrorism. So, those lessons taught me that you had to have a better constitutional set of arrangements. And the Charter 88's whole range of options, which was devolution, the introduction of the Human Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act. All those areas of reform were in Charter 88 and we started persuading the Labour Party, which looked as though it might come into government in the '90s to adopt that as part of its manifesto. And it did become Labour's manifesto.

And so, that was how I ended up in the House of Lords. It was because I had actually worked quite closely with the establishment in saying, "If you want to be a modern democracy, then you have to be protecting human rights. You have to give people opportunities to make decisions closer to home, the Assemblies and the Parliament in Scotland. And that you have to also have much greater access to information and to get rid of some of the lack of transparency that there was."

Lord Speaker:

And social activism was a big issue there, wasn't it? I mean, I remember Lord Woodley telling me that he was involved in Charter 88. So, give us an idea of that social activism and how it led to these changes.

Baroness Kennedy:

The sort of cases that I had done over the years where I was acting, whether ... Let's talk about gay rights. It was very obvious the ways ... I saw it up close. The ways in which people suffered the consequences of being fearful of anybody finding out about their sexuality. And I acted for so many men in those cases. And cases where they really were in fear of losing their jobs and so on, if they were discovered. Even though we had made it legal to be a homosexual, if you were in a consensual relationship, people were still being harassed and given a bad time. Men coming out of pubs that were gay pubs and so forth. And then there was the whole business of Section 28, where teachers were frightened to even compassionately advise young people.

It was a cruel time. And so, some of those things, it was activism that changed them. It was activism that changed a whole set of things around women's rights, the ways in which women were demanding that domestic violence was dealt with in a more serious way. When I started, it was all six of one and half a dozen of the other. And courts didn't take it seriously. It wasn't dealt with as if it was real crime, and it blighted women's lives. And so, those areas were really important. And racism. That business where if you were a Black woman and you were experiencing domestic violence or you'd been raped, getting justice was even more difficult. And so, the ways in which those things intersect was also part of it. So, activism was really important alongside the business of the cases that I was doing in the courtroom. And often the change came about because of an amalgam of real activism getting law changed, and then seeing what the bigger need was around having a Human Rights Act.

Lord Speaker:

Now, I'd ask you to look at the House of Lords, the case for a second House. But also, how the House of Lords has benefited you and your work? And what you've done to show what the House of Lords really does?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, there's no doubt that being in the House of Lords, first of all, has given me a platform to raise issues around matters of law that I'm particularly interested in, which is really about social justice. I don't think you can ever have justice in the courts without social justice and an understanding of the ways in which our society itself is not necessarily just. And bringing together those things, so that I found that the House of Lords gave me an opportunity to contribute to law and the improvement on law, and putting in amendments to legislation and so on. But, it also gave me a platform, because it meant that I would be invited to come and speak about my expertise in an area.

And so, coming in here has meant that I've been able, I think, to contribute particularly around human rights debates. Now, my work has changed, John, because I had an interregnum where I stepped out of practice, in order to head up an Oxford College, and to create at Oxford an Institute of Human Rights, which was really important to do. And I've always loved being with the young anyway and being involved in education, which I have done for the last 30 years. I want people to have the opportunities that I had, to change their lives.

But, I now feel that there's no doubt that being in a place where legislation is being created, being able to contribute to refining that legislation, reviewing it, contributing to some of that, has been important. But it's giving a platform to talking about human rights more generally. I came back into practice and I now head up an Institute of Human Rights for the International Bar Association. I'm doing a lot of international criminal law now. And that also means that I come with another layer of expertise into the debates that take place in this chamber.

Do I think the House of Lords has a role? Absolutely. I'm a firm believer in the bicameral system. I think that reviewing legislation is vitally important. I think it's regrettable that when I first came in, I think that there was much more reverence for the way in which the House of Lords can make a contribution. And, at the moment, something has happened to our political system, whereby there's such a large majority in the House of Commons that listening to what the House of Lords is saying happens very rarely, at the moment. And I hope that that can be recovered at some point soon.

Now, part of the recovery of that, I do believe, has to be about reforming the House of Lords. How do I want to see it reformed? I'm actually somebody who's quite interested in a hybrid house, because I do think that the expertise that comes from certain people, some of our former judges, people who are scientists, people who are ... I mean, today we had a question time in which a very, very brilliant doctor advised the House and said to the House, making these changes around inoculation is vitally important, but explained some of the difficulties that could arise, because of the nature of the chemicals involved and how for children, there are particular vulnerabilities.

But, he was talking as an expert, a believer and somebody who knows about why inoculation is so vitally important, at a time when it's sometimes ... We've got anti-vax people going against it. Having expertise in here is wonderful. And I don't know that in the ordinary way, that would happen, if we just had an elections here they have in the Senate in the United States. I also think you can get gridlock and I've watched it in America. So, I think that having a House that was mixed, but also where you had representation clearly from the different regions of the United Kingdom is a useful thing. But I think the House has become much too big.

Lord Speaker:

When I'm asked about it, particularly when I talk to school audiences, whatever. I say that the House of Lords is a different composition from the House of Commons, and that's very important. But it also assists democracy in complementing the work of the House of Commons. And, you have been involved in that engagement with the House of Commons, particularly on the Joint Committee on Human Rights. What's the House of Lords brought to that?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, I mean, it is a marvellous committee, because you have representatives of both-

Lord Speaker:

And joint committee, meaning House of Commons and House of Lords.

Baroness Kennedy:

Is a joint committee of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. And they're members of both and of all the different parties. And so, the diversity of it, it really makes a very enriched committee. And I've been on quite a number of committees of this House, I was very involved in. I've been involved in other justice and home affairs and so on here in this House. But I'm back again in the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I was on once before. And I do think that there's something rather wonderful about bringing together such different sets of experience.

The business of being somebody who's ... The people from the Commons remind us that they have to win... the constituents and the general public have to be supporting of some of the recommendations that one might be making. And they bring that business of ... On a weekly basis, going back to their surgeries and sitting in their constituencies and hearing what the concerns of ordinary people are. That matters, because law can't be completely out of touch with the concerns of the public. But you also get people on the committee coming from the House of Lords, who really bring other kinds of expertise. And I just think that perhaps there should be more joint committees of both Houses. But it certainly works on the Human Rights Committee.

Lord Speaker:

So, if I interpret it right, you are saying that good law is a foundation of a stable society? And that the scrutiny of that is essential, which the House of Lords performs very well?

Baroness Kennedy:

I really love the debates that take place in committee stage in this house. I mean, we're having it just now, in relation to the Public Order Act. And here we are, we've just had a report, a wonderful report that came from one of the members of this House about the Metropolitan Police. And one of the things that's in that report has been expressions of concern and evidence-based, about the failure of policing with regard to women and the offenses that women particularly suffer, sexual offenses and domestic violence, but also the ways in which the police ... There's evidence of serious racism within the police, as well as homophobia. And in addressing that immediately today in the Public Order Act, there's an amendment going in, which is calling into question whether the use of stop and search being too readily against the minority communities? How that really feeds distrust in a vital part of the justice system, which is our policing.

And so, it's so interesting to see how this House really has the time and puts the effort into looking at legislation in a much more careful way. And it's not to criticise the House of Commons, it's just that the pressure on the House of Commons is of a different kind. And they often don't have the opportunity of that kind of expertise being applied by people who have been in the police forces, people who have been practitioner lawyers, people like Shami Chakrabarti, who ran the National Council of Civil Liberties. But many different experiences coming to bear on a piece of legislation. But law matters, and we have to get it right.

Lord Speaker:

And I've had Baroness Louise Casey in my office chatting away about a number of issues, but particularly the eloquent report on the Met. And she made the point to me that the police force, again, like social activism ... There has to be an engagement with society in taking people along with it. And, one of our other members, Baroness O'Loan has an article in the papers, in the Financial Times saying that the Met could learn from the police reforms in Northern Ireland.

Baroness Kennedy:

Northern Ireland? Absolutely. I agree with Baroness O'Loan about that. I mean, I think that there's no doubt that policing in Northern Ireland was very distrusted by a whole section of the community, as we know. The Catholic community was very distrustful of the RUC. And the reforms that took place meant an opening up of the police to many people who ... Catholic officers joined, and also much more connection with the community and interaction with the community. And that's how trust is built. And it's about being transparent, it's about openness and it's about having much better links between parts of the community that just were so alienated from policing. And that's going to have to happen here in London. But other parts of the United Kingdom can learn from it too. I did a report recently in Scotland into misogyny and-

Lord Speaker:

For The Scottish Parliament?

Baroness Kennedy:

For the Scottish Parliament.

Lord Speaker:

Yeah. Yeah.

Baroness Kennedy:

And it was very interesting, because part of that also involved having evidence from police. And women police officers asked for anonymity, so that they could talk about the misogyny that they too experienced as police officers in Scotland. So, it's not confined to the Met. These are problems throughout the land. And they're social problems and they exist in all of our societies, but we have to seek ways to address them. And I do think that the quality of debate in this House is really exemplary.

I wanted just tell you, because I vacation regularly in the United States, and I'm very friendly with a woman who's a political scientist at Harvard. And, her work is on parliaments around the world. And she does a very complex study across a matrix of what produces the best quality of debate, and the research that goes into the speeches that people make, and the reliance on statistics and on good evidence rather than simply rhetoric. And the House of Lords comes out best of any parliamentary chamber in the world.

Lord Speaker:

Oh, get me that report. [Laughter]

Baroness Kennedy:

I'll have to get you that report.

Lord Speaker:

But I wanted to take you onto social media, because here we have global companies going across national borders. And there's a huge issue to tackle there. Now, Baroness Kidron has been involved in that, and Baroness Morgan of Cotes has been involved in that. You have been involved in that area. What can we as a House of Lords do to progress that, albeit some progress has been made?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, as far as I'm concerned, this is about regulation. There really has to be regulation of those platforms that really social media rely upon. And they have to be regulated. And there has to be consequences, and it has to be serious consequences financially, but also in terms of what the meaning of breaches will be for those who run those companies. There has to be a sense that law will come down heavily on those companies, but also the people who run them. And so, I was quite in favour of the idea that some of the people who run them might have to bear the consequences, and may even face imprisonment, if they're inflicting pornography on our children, without in any way attempting to restrain that. Most of these platforms ... I'm sure that Baroness Kidron would've said this. But most of these platforms were not made with children in mind, of course.

And, of course, monetising them, making them financially viable, has meant the use of algorithms, which mean that all of us now have been turned into product-producing people for the companies that are going to benefit from the advertising and from the targeting of their materials on certain parts of our population. And that has serious consequences. But it not only has serious consequences for the wellbeing of our children, and indeed even for adults, but also on our democracy, because we know that those algorithms are now being used to basically pound us with information, which is not always truthful or honest. And, which is attempting to affect outcomes in elections.

So, the consequences of all of this is very real. And I think the only way is that law has to get with the program. And we're often lagging behind in it. And I think that it will be challenging, but we have to regulate it. And, unfortunately, we're living in a time when a lot of our political class are agin regulation. They don't like the idea of regulation when it enters into the commercial or into the market. And I'm afraid that the marketplace and its invisible hand is not working very well in this arena.

Lord Speaker:

Listening to you, I feel that the soft power of the House of Lords has a global reach. For example, with your campaign for the Uyghurs in China, for which you were censored by China. And also your work now on the Ukraine war crimes inquiry.

Baroness Kennedy:

Yes. Most of my work now is international. And, I mean, for example, the United Nations, the rapporteur on extra judicial killing Agnès Callamard investigated the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Do you remember the journalist? Saudi Arabian journalist, who was murdered in the most atrocious way inside an embassy building in Turkey? And, I was invited to go with her, as part of her legal team, because of my criminal law experience, to meet with the intelligence agencies in Turkey and with the prosecuting authorities in Turkey, to see the evidence that they had, that crime had taken place, that a man had been murdered there, and that people should be held responsible. And, it was a shocking case. And, I'm sure as a result of that, I'm never going to be a welcome person in Saudi Arabia, because we were very clear in our criticism of the authorities and the ruling authorities in Saudi Arabia, who had undoubtedly, in my view commissioned that killing.

And so, sometimes doing one's work makes one a target for countries, which are now ... The long arm of countries is reaching out beyond even what they do inside their own jurisdictions. And it's one of the things that's concerning us as international lawyers. The business of China targeting some of our parliamentarians here, and sanctioning us so that I can't go to Hong Kong, I can't go to ... Certainly, I can't travel in China. But I'm also experiencing all sorts of interference with my own technology. So, for example, I have never had a Twitter account that I've used. And suddenly I find myself having a Twitter account. And it's telling the world how wonderful China is. And Helena Kennedy and my Twitter handle is clearly a product of the long arm of China. But, my colleagues in my chambers who are acting, for example, in cases involving Hong Kong acting for Jimmy Lai, the-

Lord Speaker:

The billionaire.

Baroness Kennedy:

Who's a British citizen, let it be said. But who ran a media organization in Hong Kong. He's now in prison. He's facing serious charges under the national security law that China has introduced into Hong Kong. And, the lawyers who are in my chambers who are acting for them, have all been targeted by China. They receive death threats from people in China. They received threats of rape, the women. And threats to their children. And so, some of this is terrible. I'm being described now inside Chinese newspapers as an enemy of the people. But I think it is a source of concern to us all, that there are countries who are ... They don't confine their ways of harassing people. And they don't confine it to their own borders. The Uyghur inside China, John, are being subjected to serious atrocity crimes. And the women are being forced into sterilisation and abortion. The torture of people in those concentration camps, forced labour. The evidence is very clear.

Destruction of mosques and burial grounds. We know that from aerial photography and we hear the evidence, because there are people who've managed to escape and the accounts that they give, particularly coming from female relatives of people describing what's happening, is really terrible. So, being able to stand up in the House and to inform the House, and part of our Parliament, of what's going on is important. The business of just now in Ukraine. Only last week I met with a woman who was one of the midwives, who was in Mariupol for the-

Lord Speaker:

Destroyed.

Baroness Kennedy:

... delivering babies and was totally destroyed. And this midwife, she delivered 27 babies during that bombardment. And she was in the hospital delivering these babies. And afterwards many, many people were killed. She was put onto a bus with many children, and she was transported into Russia. And in fact, she had a mobile phone and was able secretly to phone her husband. And so, efforts were made by the Ukrainian government to get to exchange her. So she got out. She's now in Estonia. But she was able to testify to the fact that children were taken out of there. They had no documentation or anything, and she was then parted from them. We're talking about children who just happened to be put into the bus that she was on. And those children have disappeared into Russia.

We were involved in giving evidence of all of that to the UN's investigation and to the International Criminal Court. I mean, some of this stuff that's going on is really appalling. And so, the warrants that have just been issued by the International Criminal Court, we've known about this, the taking of children for over a year now. And it's shocking, because often the mothers have been killed. There are fathers on the front line, who are ... The demoralisation of knowing that your children are missing, where you're not hearing from them. Grandparents looking for those children. We're talking about serious numbers of children who've disappeared into Russia.

Lord Speaker:

So, could I conclude then, that the House of Lords gives you a channel to ensure, maybe, your primary aim of ensuring good law. And also-

Baroness Kennedy:

Absolutely.

Lord Speaker:

... that it gives you a platform globally, to engage and as a soft power element to that with positive benefits for other people in the world?

Baroness Kennedy:

Well, I mean, there's no doubt that just now, last week the British Parliament entertained ministers of justice from around the world, 40 different countries. And we were meeting with the Prosecutor General from Ukraine came. And our Attorney General and so on were present, as were indeed, lawyers in the House of Lords, meeting with all those ministers of justice to talk about the importance of getting the law right, in relation to the trial of war crimes. And, I just think that our influence in all of this is vitally important. And there's no doubt that the House of Lords plays an important role in that. Other countries, read the reports that come out of House of Lords' committees, and particularly around justice issues, and particularly around issues of human rights.

Lord Speaker:

That was fascinating. Thank you very much.

Baroness Kennedy:

Very interesting.

Lord Speaker:

Thank you.

Baroness Kennedy:

Thank you.