Who We Are
The Death Penalty Project is an international legal action charity based at Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP. We use the law to protect prisoners facing execution and achieve fairer and more humane justice systems.
A prisoner speaking to a visitor at Belize Central Prison
The Death Penalty Project is one of the most successful litigation organisations in the world, their work has saved thousands of prisoners from execution
Who We Are
For more than three decades, The Death Penalty Project has provided free legal representation to those facing the death penalty. We began as a few lawyers at London law firm Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP dedicated to working on death penalty cases in the Caribbean. With the help of a wider team of human rights barristers, forensic experts and academics, our work has grown significantly over the years. Today we work in more than 30 countries around the world.
Driven by a belief that the death penalty is cruel and often discriminates against the poorest and most disadvantaged members of society, we work strategically to safeguard the rights of those facing the death penalty and other vulnerable prisoners. Our work has saved the lives of thousands of prisoners and transformed the legal landscape in the countries in which we operate.
Our mission is to
Restrict the use of the death penalty around the world, so fewer people are sentenced to death and executed
Provide access to justice and address miscarriages of justice
Protect the human rights of vulnerable prisoners, such as juveniles and those with mental disorder
Develop and promote human rights standards in criminal justice systems
From a leaky attic in Soho to an NGO with consultative status before the United Nations, we have come a long way over the last three decades and our work continues to grow each year.
Fresh out of university, Saul Lehrfreund answers a newspaper advert and joins SM&B to support Bernar …
Fresh out of university, Saul Lehrfreund answers a newspaper advert and joins SM&B to support Bernard Simons with death penalty appeals from the Caribbean. Parvais Jabbar joins the firm shortly after and The Death Penalty Project is born
In the landmark judgment, Pratt & Morgan, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council finds that exc …
In the landmark judgment, Pratt & Morgan, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council finds that excessive delay on death row amounts to inhuman or degrading treatment. Hundreds of prisoners across the Caribbean have been removed from death row as a result of this judgment
We hold our first regional conference in Belize focusing on the death penalty in the Caribbean …
We hold our first regional conference in Belize focusing on the death penalty in the Caribbean
In Thompson v St Vincent and the Grenadines, the United Nations Human Rights Committee declares the …
In Thompson v St Vincent and the Grenadines, the United Nations Human Rights Committee declares the mandatory death penalty to violate the right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
We win our first constitutional challenge to the mandatory death penalty in St Vincent and St Lucia …
We win our first constitutional challenge to the mandatory death penalty in St Vincent and St Lucia (Spence & Hughes). This decision creates a legal precedent which has been used to challenge the mandatory death penalty around the world
News of our legal success in the Caribbean spreads and we are invited to start working to bring lega …
News of our legal success in the Caribbean spreads and we are invited to start working to bring legal challenges to the mandatory death penalty in Malawi and Uganda
The mandatory death penalty and prolonged delay between a death sentence being imposed and carried o …
The mandatory death penalty and prolonged delay between a death sentence being imposed and carried out is declared unconstitutional in Uganda. All prisoners facing the death penalty are to be removed from death row
The Death Penalty Project gains its own legal identity and becomes a registered charity …
The Death Penalty Project gains its own legal identity and becomes a registered charity
We begin investigating attitudes towards the death penalty, starting in Trinidad & Tobago. A survey …
We begin investigating attitudes towards the death penalty, starting in Trinidad & Tobago. A survey of judicial and legal professionals shows that views towards the death penalty are highly nuanced. The findings highlight the need for original data to explore claims of public support for the death penalty
We assist in the case of Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian prisoner who is due to be executed in Sing …
We assist in the case of Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian prisoner who is due to be executed in Singapore for drug-trafficking. He is later removed from death row and his case helps to bring about reforms to the mandatory death penalty in Singapore
Two decades since The Death Penalty Project began and hundreds of prisoners have been saved from exe …
Two decades since The Death Penalty Project began and hundreds of prisoners have been saved from execution, lawyers trained and laws changed. This short video provides a snapshot of our work and achievements
A major legal precedent is set in Belize in the case of Lavern Longsworth. For the first time Batter …
A major legal precedent is set in Belize in the case of Lavern Longsworth. For the first time Battered Woman Syndrome is accepted as part of a defence to murder
50 years has passed since the UK abolished the death penalty – our timely report looks at how abol …
50 years has passed since the UK abolished the death penalty – our timely report looks at how abolition was achieved
We are featured in Intelligent Life magazine - it is the first time lawyers have made the front cove …
We are featured in Intelligent Life magazine - it is the first time lawyers have made the front cover
We are granted Special Consultative status with United Nations ECOSOC, giving us access to UN bodies …
We are granted Special Consultative status with United Nations ECOSOC, giving us access to UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council
In an historic judgment, the mandatory death penalty is declared unconstitutional in Kenya …
In an historic judgment, the mandatory death penalty is declared unconstitutional in Kenya
The Caribbean Court of Justice strikes down the mandatory death penalty in Barbados …
The Caribbean Court of Justice strikes down the mandatory death penalty in Barbados
CO-FOUNDER & CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Parvais has for over two decades represented individuals facing the death penalty around the world at the appellate level and before international bodies. A recognised expert on the death penalty and human rights law, Parvais has led and participated in international delegations advising on criminal justice reform and regularly lectures and speaks on capital punishment issues.
In 2012, Parvais was awarded an MBE for his services to international human rights and in 2016, received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Middlesex University.
CO-FOUNDER & CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Saul has dedicated his career to representing prisoners facing the death penalty in criminal and constitutional proceedings and also before international tribunals and courts. He is a leading authority on capital punishment and international human rights law and has published and lectured extensively on these topics.
In 2000, he was awarded an MBE for services to international human rights. In 2016, he was appointed as a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Reading, where he has been awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.
Annette joined in 2010 and was appointed Deputy Director in 2017. Working with the Executive Directors, Annette is responsible for the development and implementation of the organisation’s strategy, as well as managing programmes and projects. Annette plays a key role in the financial management, governance and administration of the organisation.
Annette started her career as a solicitor at Allen & Overy LLP and is dual-qualified (England & Wales and Hong Kong). Prior to joining the DPP, she worked at the Beijing Zhicheng Migrant Workers Legal Aid and Research Centre as a lawyer/policy advisor. She holds an LLM from Columbia University, USA.
Kate joined DPP in September 2019. She assists with the preparation of appeals before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as well as challenges before domestic and international tribunals. An Australian qualified solicitor, Kate previously worked as a criminal lawyer for Legal Aid Queensland. She has also worked with a defence team at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia as an intern and legal consultant.
Directors & Trustees
Anthony Burton CBE
Director & Trustee
Anthony is Chair of the Board and has been involved with the DPP since its inception. A leading authority on domestic and international criminal law, Anthony has a wealth of high-profile court experience.
Anthony is chairman of the Board of the Royal Court Theatre and is a regular writer and broadcaster on legal affairs. He is a Council member of the all party organisation Justice and a Trustee of the Heart of England Forest. The Legal 500 ranks Anthony as a leader in his field, and the Chambers Guide describes him as “the criminal heartbeat of the firm…a calm authority”.
Edward Fitzgerald QC CBE
Edward is a founder board member. Edward is joint head of Doughty Street Chambers and specialises in criminal law, public law and international human rights law. He was awarded a CBE in 2008 and is a winner of the Silk of the Year award (2005) and the Times Justice Human Rights Award (1998). He has won numerous important appeals in the House of Lords and the Privy Council establishing rights for death row prisoners. He has also appeared frequently in the European Court of Human Rights. Edward has been called to the Bar in numerous jurisdictions, including Belize, Grenada and St Vincent, and has been granted rights of audience to appear in cases in Hong Kong, Trinidad & Tobago, St Lucia, Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands.
Director & Trustee
Simon is a highly experienced commercial lawyer at Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP, specialising in non-contentious media work. He is recognised by both the Chambers Guide and the Legal 500 as a key practitioner in his field, and is ranked in four different practice areas. Key clients include Dennis Publishing, Time Out and talent agency 42 MP. Simon is a visiting lecturer in media studies at Warwick University. He is also a Trustee of the PSA Foundation and frequently advises charities on commercial and IP issues.
Simon has been a key adviser to and ardent supporter of The Death Penalty Project for several years, advising on a wide range of fundraising and public profile matters.
James Guthrie QC
James is a founder board member. He specialises in appellate work in the Privy Council and frequently carries out pro bono work, often in death penalty cases. He has considerable experience of litigation in Commonwealth jurisdictions, both in an advisory capacity and as an advocate, and has been called to the Bars of the Turks and Caicos Islands, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, St Christopher and Nevis, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Antigua and Bermuda. James also sits as a Recorder in England trying civil and criminal cases.
Afua has been a member of the board since 2010. She is an author, journalist and broadcaster. She was the Guardian correspondent for West Africa, the social affairs editor for Sky News, and practised human rights law. She now writes a regular column for The Guardian, and is a presenter on weekly current affairs debate shows on Sky News and CNN, and feature length documentaries on Channel 4 and the BBC. Her bestselling first book, Brit(ish) about race, identity and belonging was published in 2018 by Jonathan Cape, and is the winner of the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize.
Director & Trustee
Philip has been a member of the board since the DPP’s inception and is Company Secretary. He is Deputy Managing Partner and Head of Charity in the charity and social enterprise department of Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP. Philip advises charities and social enterprises on numerous aspects of charity, corporate and commercial law. Philip has an active interest in human rights and is a former member of the Law Society’s International Human Rights Committee. He has conducted monitoring missions in Turkey for the Law Society and for the Kurdish Human Rights Project.
Joseph has been a board member since 2010. He is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, where his practice areas include immigration, extradition and public/administrative law. He has been providing pro bono assistance to The Death Penalty Project for over 20 years, working on constitutional challenges in numerous Caribbean and African jurisdictions. He collaborated with local lawyers on the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Malawi and Kenya and has also engaged with judges and lawyers in the subsequent training and re-sentencing processes. Joseph has acted for British citizens facing the death penalty in the DRC, Ghana and Kenya. He is author of “Behind the Prison Gates“, the DPP’s report on Belize Central Prison.
Razi has been a board member since the DPP’s inception. He is Managing Partner of Simons Muirhead & Burton and leads a team of litigators who advise on all aspects of claimant and defendant work for individuals, companies and international organisations. He has specialist expertise in providing pragmatic solutions to complex legal issues. He is ranked by Chambers and is described as “a straight-talking strategist who can also be very assertive when necessary,” and as someone who “gets right to the heart of things,” and who is a “shrewd commercial lawyer, a strategist and a street fighter”.
Sarah has been a Trustee and Head of the DPP’s Finance Committee since 2007. Following a successful career as a charity specialist audit partner with accountancy firm PKF Littlejohn, Sarah currently acts in interim finance roles with UK based NGOs and is a consultant with the Charity Effectiveness Unit at Cass Business School.
Sarah sits on the Boards of the regeneration company, Renaisi and the human rights charity, the Forest Peoples Programme, and also chairs the audit committee of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). She completed an MA in Global Ethics and Human Values at King’s College London in 2015.
Lord Fellowes of West Stafford
Lord Julian Fellowes is a multi-award-winning actor, writer, director and producer. As creator, sole writer and Executive Producer of the television series Downton Abbey, he has won three Emmy awards and a Golden Globe. He received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park (2002). His work has also been honoured by the Writer’s Guild of America, The New York Film Critics’ Circle and the National Society of Film Critics for Best Screenplay. Lord Fellowes has also written a number of novels, including the international bestsellers Snobs, Past Imperfect and Belgravia. He is a patron of the Rainbow Trust and the Dorset Blind Association, and Vice-President of the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB). He has been a member of the House of Lords since 2011.
Field Marshal the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank GCB LVO OBE DL
Field Marshal the Lord Charles Guthrie of Craigiebank GCB LVO OBE DL is Colonel of The Life Guards and Gold Stick to The Queen, and Colonel-Commandant of the SAS. Lord Guthrie has had a long and distinguished military career, retiring as Chief of the Defence Staff in 2001. He is a Visiting Professor and Honorary Fellow of King’s College London University and the Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University. He is President of The Army Benevolent Fund, Action Research, and The Federation of London Youth Clubs. He is a patron of the Catholic homeless charities the Cardinal Hume Centre and Caritas Anchor House.
Phil is the founder and MD of both Bankside Films, an international film distribution company and Head Gear Films, a film, TV and video games investment company. Phil produces and executive produces and in the past decade has invested in over 200 feature films. Head Gear Films is now one of the world’s largest financiers of independent film.
Phil is a BAFTA voting member, mentor to National Film and Television producing students and regular speaker on the industry circuit. Phil is creating Bohemia, the world’s first private members club for the burgeoning alternative LGBTQI community in London. It will provide a safe space for people living outside mainstream culture.
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC is one of the UK’s most distinguished lawyers.
She has practiced at the Bar for over 40 years in the field of criminal law and has conducted many of the leading cases in those years. She is the President of Justice, the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists. She is the chair of the Booker Prize Foundation and a member of Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Advisory Council. She is the Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University. She is the new Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.
Sir Keir Starmer QC MP
Keir was a board member of the DPP since the DPP’s inception and was appointed a patron in 2020. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2005 and is currently the Leader of the Labour Party. Prior to becoming an MP, Keir was the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales. He has had a distinguished career as a human rights barrister, appearing pro bono on behalf of The Death Penalty Project in many cases. In 2007, he was named QC of the Year in the field of human rights and public law by Chambers & Partners. He is also a winner of the Bar Council’s Sydney Elland Goldsmith award for his outstanding contribution to pro bono work.
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Bryan is a widely acclaimed public-interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, incarcerated and condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death-row prisoners, protecting the rights of those incarcerated, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Bryan’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal-justice system has won him numerous awards. His bestselling memoir, ‘Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption’, is a winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction.
We are incredibly grateful for the continued support of all our funders and individuals donors who make our work possible. Our current core and project funders include:
Want to help?
We have no formal volunteering opportunities at the moment but please get in touch if you are interested in lending us your time and expertise
Death Penalty Project-Oxford Criminology Research Internships
In 2018, we established a death penalty research internship programme with the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford. The programme allows current MSc and DPhil Criminology students at Oxford to engage in research that will benefit death penalty research worldwide.MSc candidates will conduct research for the benefit of DPP but that would also meet the requirements of their MSc dissertation. They will be under the joint supervision of Professor Carolyn Hoyle, and our co-Executive directors. DPhil candidates will engage in longer-term research internships on a topic that might fit within their own research interests but does not need to. DPhil interns may spend some short periods of time working from our offices in London, though they too will be jointly supervised by both the DPP and oxford teams.
Our 2018 interns and their research topics:
Anjuli Peters, MSc candidate: ‘Compounded Violence: Domestic Abuse and the Mandatory Death Penalty in Ghana and Sierra Leone’
Amelia Inglis, MSc candidate: ‘Wrongful convictions and the death penalty in the Caribbean’
Lucy Harry, DPhil candidate: ‘Violence against women and the death penalty in Southeast Asia’ Lucy Harry will produce a report on women on death row in Southeast Asia, collecting data on their numbers, the crimes they were convicted for, their vulnerabilities, and (if possible) their experiences of death row.
We offer a number of formal internship programmes based at our offices in London for students and graduates who are interested in working in the human rights legal sector. We currently have ongoing internship/fellowship programmes with Yale University and the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway. We also offer a number of one-week internship opportunities during the summer holidays. If you would like to find out more please get in touch.