SOAS University of London

About SOAS

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Baroness Kennedy is an expert in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues. She is the chair of Justice, the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists, and is a bencher of Gray’s Inn. She was chair of Charter 88 from 1992 to 1997, the Human Genetics Commission from 1998 to 2007 and the British Council from 1998 to 2004. She also chaired the Power Inquiry into British Democracy in 2006 and relaunched their new campaign POWER2010.

As chair of the Further Education Commission into Widening Participation, she produced the seminal Learning Works 1997 (aka the Kennedy Report), which led to changes in government policy in further education and has been hailed as a turning point in efforts to close the education divide in the UK.

Baroness Kennedy has acted in many of the most prominent British criminal cases of the last 30 years, including the Brighton bombing attack on the British cabinet, the Guildford Four Appeal and the Michael Bettany espionage case.  She was a member of the International Bar Association Task force on International Terrorism in 2002.  She has also acted in cases connected to the recent wave of terrorism, including the conspiracy to blow up transatlantic aircraft.  She is currently part of the Wikileaks legal team. In 2010 she was awarded the Chambers and Partners Bar Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Her work for women in the legal profession led to serious reforms on access and greater representation of women at senior levels in practice and in the judiciary.

She is a frequent broadcaster, journalist and author.  Her books include Eve Was Framed: Women and British Justice (1992, revised 2005), and Just Law: The Changing Face of Justice and Why It Matters to Us All (2004). Baroness Kennedy is also an advocate for the arts and literature, having served as chair of the British Council from 2004 and 2009 and as a judge for literary awards including the Man Booker Prize.

Baroness Kennedy recently became the president of The Women of The Year Lunch and a member of the Government Commission on a British Bill of Rights.  She is a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and an honorary Writer to the Signet in Scotland and will soon receive the Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

2011 marks Baroness Kennedy's last year as President of SOAS, an office she has held since 2002. She was elected Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, in July 2010 and will take up the position in autumn 2011.