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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.

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 Team

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.

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.

Annette So

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

Annette joined in 2010 and was appointed Deputy Director in 2018. 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 spent the first four years of her career practicing as a solicitor in the private sector 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.

Amanda Clift-Matthews

LEGAL DIRECTOR & IN-HOUSE COUNSEL

Amanda joined in April 2014 and was appointed Legal Director in 2016. Amanda specialises in human rights and criminal law and oversees the organisation’s legal work. Notable strategic cases include the lawfulness of the death penalty for the mentally impaired, the treatment of juveniles in police custody, battered woman syndrome as a defence to murder and the constitutionality of life sentences. She has also provided legal assistance at the appellate level throughout the Caribbean and in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

Amanda started out at the criminal bar, followed by periods at Hogan Lovells LLP and Osborne Clarke LLP. She has worked in Moscow and Hong Kong and is dual-qualified.

Sophie Gebreselassie

Legal and Policy Advisor

Sophie joined in March 2018 and supports the organisation’s work to develop and promote human rights standards in criminal justice systems, including engagement with international human rights mechanisms, governments and other key stakeholders. She also assists in the DPP’s work implementing legal redress mechanisms following successful challenges and helps coordinate the provision of legal assistance before domestic courts.

Sophie holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University and obtained a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar.  She is a US-qualified attorney and clerked for the Honourable Todd E. Edelman of the D.C. Superior Court.

Amy Kuan

Senior Legal Officer

Amy joined as a volunteer in October 2014 and became a full-time member of staff in January 2015. She has a wealth of experience providing legal representation and assistance in international criminal and constitutional cases, primarily before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but also the Caribbean Court of Justice, international tribunals and foreign domestic courts, including throughout the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Her case load ranges from death penalty appeals, serious miscarriages of justice and strategic litigation.

Amy qualified at Allen and Overy LLP. Post-qualification, she undertook a capital defence internship in Houston, Texas, providing free legal assistance to prisoners facing the death penalty.

Oskar Butcher

Project Officer

Oskar joined in February 2018 and is involved in the coordination and implementation of the organisation’s international projects.

Oskar holds an MSc in Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice from SOAS, University of London. He also holds a BSc in Social Sciences from the University of Bath, and volunteers as a Speaker and Campaigner with Amnesty International.

Sophie Blake

COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICER

Sophie joined in November 2016 and has played a key role in developing and implementing the DPP’s external communications. She is responsible for coordinating and delivering the organisation’s media engagement, publications and outreach to key audiences. She also assists with other aspects of organisational development.

Sophie has five years’ experience working in the public policy and not-for-profit sector and holds an MA in Human Rights from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

Ruby Peacock

PARALEGAL

Ruby joined in June 2018 and provides administrative and casework support to the Executive Directors and the team.

Ruby holds an undergraduate degree in English Literature and Language from the University of Nottingham and a Graduate Diploma in Law from BPP University Cambridge.

Imogen Niewiara

CASEWORKER

Imogen joined in May 2018 and assists the legal team in appeals before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as well as challenges before other domestic and international tribunals.

Imogen holds an LLB from the University of Sussex.

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

Trustee

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.

 

 

Simon Goldberg

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

Trustee

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 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.

 

James Hughes-Hallett CMG

Trustee

James has been a board member since September 2013. He retired as Chairman of John Swire & Sons Ltd in 2015 and remains a non-Executive Director. He is Chairman of Clarkson PLC and of The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. As ex-Chairman of The Courtauld Institute, he is still on the Governing Board and is Deputy Chairman of The Attingham Trust. James is also a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and an Honorary Fellow of The University of Hong Kong and of Merton College, Oxford.

 

Philip Kirkpatrick

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 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”.

 

Sarah Morrison

Trustee

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.

 

Sir Keir Starmer QC MP

Director

Keir has been a board member since the DPP’s inception. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2005 and currently holds the post of Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. 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.

 

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 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.

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

Join our committed team in London or support our work as an intern or volunteer

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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

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 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.

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