Today we’re speaking with Gemma Vine, specialist Inquest solicitor here at Ison Harrison.
Gemma is a nationally recognised specialist in representing bereaved families at Inquests, along with representing and advising people through the police complaint process and bringing a variety of claims against the police.
Q: How long have you worked at Ison Harrison?
I joined in January 2020 from another firm in Leeds.
Q: Describe your day to day role:
I mainly represent bereaved families at inquests where the State are involved in some capacity. I largely specialise in inquests involving deaths within the mental health services (community and detained) but I have also recently started to take cases involving the self-inflicted deaths of armed forces veterans and cases where there are concerns about whether or not domestic violence has played a role in the death.
When not in court, my day to day role is requesting and reviewing the right evidence/records to establish how someone has died in order to try and identify whether there were any failings that we could learn from to prevent a death in similar circumstances from happening again.
Q: What pushed you towards a legal career?
I was very passionate about human rights growing up. Having lived in Germany for most of my childhood I was lucky enough to be taken to a number of Holocaust museums/camps, which led me to develop interest in reading up on other well known genocides like in Rwanda and the DRC. I originally wanted to specialise in international human rights however my brain is not wired for learning other languages so had to adapt and look at ways I could make a difference in the UK instead.
Q: Tell us about your legal training and where you qualified?
I took the traditional route of going to university to study law and did my training contract with a firm in Lancashire who specialised in Inquest Law. I qualified into this area of law in July 2010 and have worked in that area ever since. The solicitor who trained me is now the Senior Coroner for North Manchester.
Q: What made you want to specialise in Inquest law?
I went to do some work experience with a solicitor who specialised in this area and I loved the investigative role that you took on whilst doing this work. Having to request the right documents, review the evidence to see what else you might need and then building your case in court. I find it incredibly fulfilling to be able to get some of the answers that the family needs to hopefully give them some closure and more so when you have been instrumental in changing law, policy or guidelines as a result of your case.
Q: Are there any cases you’ve found particularly hard on an emotional level?
All my cases are hard on an emotional level given the area of law that I do, especially those cases where we have to view the CCTV footage of someone’s final moments or listen to the final 999 calls. However, the two that stick in my mind the most are the Inquest into the death of Christi and Bobby Shepherd (carbon monoxide poisoning in Corfu/Thomas Cook) and the more recent Inquest into the death of Shane Gilmer (Crossbow).
Q: What is the most interesting part of your job?
The ability to make a real change in the law. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on a number of different inquests which have had a direct impact on changing the law, regulations or policy i.e. the Still a Child at 17 campaign (where children who were 17 were treated as adults in police custody due to the definition of a 17 year old under PACE).
Q: What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?
To look after your own mental wellbeing – quite often you can forget the strain that your work can have on you as you – I was told that your mental wellbeing is like a jar of pebbles and each time you might have case that doesn’t conclude the way you want it to, or have to read/consider particularly emotive evidence for example, you lose some of those pebbles and you must remember to find ways to refill that jar whether it be family time, going for a run, creating a playlist to put on, on your way home from work, holidays and so forth.
Q: What do you like doing in your spare time?
I love to spend time with my little boy when I’m not working.
When I need some “me time” I love to listen to audio books, running and drinking wine!
Q: Are there any interesting / little known facts about you that you can share with us?
I spent my whole time in Primary school (and pre-school years) living in Germany but I can’t speak German (bad I know!)
Q: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing?
Either a history teacher or owning and running my own bookshop.
You can find Gemma Vine at our Leeds city centre head office located at Duke House, 54 Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 2EE.
To contact Gemma directly, please email email@example.com or call 0113 284 5037.