Skip to main content arrow-down arrow-tail-right arrow-triangle-right calendar camera compass download email eye facebook flag mail phone pin play send square-right tag twitter youtube badge message

Who We Are

The Death Penalty Project is a legal action NGO at Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP. We use the law to protect prisoners facing execution and achieve fairer and more humane justice systems

Photo credits: James Guthrie
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

Sir Keir Starmer QC MP (May 2012)

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

Our History

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.

Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP (SM&B) represent death row prisoner Michael de Frietas (Michael X) in a …
Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP (SM&B) represent death row prisoner Michael de Frietas (Michael X) in a high-profile case from Trinidad & Tobago. Michael is executed, but the case inspires the firm to take on more death penalty cases
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
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 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

Our Team

Staff

Email
Parvais Jabbar

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.

Email
Saul Lehrfreund

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.

Email
Joey Greene

Communications Lead

Joey joined as Communications Lead in March 2021 and manages strategic and day-to-day communications across DPP’s work.

Joey has over 13 years of experience as a communications specialist in the non-profit sector. Passionate about human rights, she has worked for several NGO’s including Scope Impact Finland, the British Red Cross, the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and Action for Southern Africa. She holds a BA in Drama from Queen Mary University of London.

Svetlana Karadimova

Finance Officer

Svetlana joined in April 2021 and looks after DPP’s financial management as well as supporting fundraising and reporting to funders and other key stakeholders.

Svetlana’s background is in charity finance and social impact investment. Prior to DPP, she was Finance and Administration Manager at Paines Plough, a touring theatre company dedicated to new writing. Before that, she was part of Nesta’s Arts & Culture Finance team, helping arts organisations access affordable repayable finance in order to bring positive social change. Svetlana holds an MA in Arts and Cultural Management from King’s College London.

Jess McKey
Jess McKey

Operations Officer

Jess joined DPP in April 2021 and looks after DPP’s operations. She is responsible for policies and procedures, including governance and compliance.

Jess has a background in charity operations and communications. Prior to DPP, Jess was responsible for operations and communications at The John Smith Trust, which runs Fellowship Programmes for young professionals from former Soviet Union countries. Before that she has held various communications roles at Macmillan Cancer Support, Middlesex University and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Jess has a BSc degree in Psychology from the University of Manchester.

Email
Heshani Jayaratne

Project Officer

Heshani joined DPP as a Project Officer in March 2021 and is responsible for project implementation and delivery.

Heshani has extensive experience working in the non-profit sector and alongside institutional donors, having previously worked at Nesta and Kairos Europe as project manager and project officer. Heshani holds an MA in ‘Conflict, Security and Development’ from King’s College London and has a strong interest in human rights and international development.

Email
Thea Fanni

Paralegal

Thea joined DPP in October 2019, after completing the Bar Practice Training Course LLM with BPP University. She assists the legal team in appeals before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as well as challenges before other domestic and international tribunals. She holds a LLB from Queen Mary University, London. Thea has a strong interest in human rights and civil liberties and is aspiring to become a criminal barrister.

Directors

Anthony Burton CBE

Chair of Board of Directors

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”.

 

Simon Goldberg

Director

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.

Afua Hirsch

Director

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.

 

Parvais Jabbar

Co-founder and 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.

Saul Lehrfreund

Co-founder and 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.

Joseph Middleton

Director

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 Mireskandari

Director

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”.

 

Patrons

Lord Fellowes of West Stafford

Patron

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

Patron

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 Hunt

Patron

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

Patron

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

Patron

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

Patron

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.

Our funders

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:

Join us

No Vacancies

We have no vacancies at the moment but if you would like to register your interest in working with us, please email recruitment@deathpenaltyproject.org

Internships

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 are not currently recruiting for internships but will update our website with the details when applications are open.

Stay up-to-date with our work