Helena Kennedy – human rights lawyer and civil liberties advocate 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Helena Kennedy

Helena Kennedy QC is one of the UK’s most distinguished lawyers and has spent her professional life advocating for the least represented in society, championing civil liberties and promoting human rights.  

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws was elevated to the House of Lords as a peer in 1997 and 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.  

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 was made a Fellow of Birkbeck since 2021 and was commended during her oration for sharing Birkbeck’s ethos of promoting higher education for everyone, and not only the privileged few. In 2023, she participated in King Charles and Queen Camilla’s coronation at Westminster Abbey, carrying the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove.  


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