Barristers hear from cancer patient Vicky Phelan and rape survivor Leona O’Callaghan at conference

Barristers hear from cancer patient Vicky Phelan and rape survivor Leona O'Callaghan at conference

Pictured (L-R): Micheál P O'Higgins SC, Leona O'Callaghan and Vicky Phelan

Barristers heard from cervical cancer patient Vicky Phelan and rape survivor Leona O’Callaghan at a landmark conference on the experience of plaintiffs and victims in pursuit of access to justice through the legal system in Ireland.

The Bar of Ireland’s chairman’s conference, “Laws & Effect”, took place in Co Laois on Saturday and heard from the two guest speakers as well as 10 barristers from four bar associations.

Ms Phelan, one of the most high-profile campaigners around the CervicalCheck scandal, and Ms O’Callaghan, founder of Survivor Support Anonymous, shared their personal experiences with conference delegates.

Meanwhile, barristers delivered papers on a range of specialist areas including disclosure, the right to redress, privacy and damages, asylum law and professional regulation.

Micheál P O’Higgins SC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “Barristers represent clients in court every day, to the best of their ability, within the parameters of the law. Barristers perform their functions with independence and are duty bound to defend their clients’ best interests. Barristers are acutely aware of the need to consider the human impact of legal proceedings – for our clients, for plaintiffs, for victims and indeed for their families.

“We are delighted that Leona O’Callaghan and Vicky Phelan have accepted our invitation to join us at our conference. They have been fearless advocates in the pursuit of justice and their campaigns have brought many important issues to light.”

He added: “The Council of The Bar of Ireland plays an active role in upholding and improving our courts system by regularly participating in reviews of the operation of the justice system. This includes being open to reform and willing to listen to fresh perspectives.

“We are fortunate in Ireland to have such an effective and independent justice system that is so integral to a functioning democracy.

“Like all sections of society, we must always seek to evolve and improve, and our conference is centred on shared learnings and perspectives – both from our barrister colleagues, and our distinguished guest speakers.”

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