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BPTC student uses skills she’s learnt on bar course to challenge government’s decision to strip her dad of his benefits

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Anita Dowman admits she ‘wouldn’t have had a clue’ how to bring the case without her law studies

Anita Dowman and her son
Anita Dowman and her son

A Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) student has been representing her dad in a judicial review challenge at the same time as juggling her studies.

BPP law student Anita Dowman will argue before the High Court that the Department for Work and Pensions’ decision to disallow his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is unlawful on a number of grounds. These grounds include article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the prohibition of torture and inhumane treatment). She admits that without having studied for the bar, she “wouldn’t have had a clue” she could bring a case like this.

According to court documentation — written up by Dowman using skills she’s acquired on her course — her father suffers from Crohn’s disease and complex fistulas. He is in constant pain and weighs just 49 kilograms. She says he is “extremely ill and reliant financially solely on his benefit money”.

Dowman — who received scholarships from Middle Temple and BPP to fund her BPTC — hopes that by bringing this judicial review, her dad’s allowance will be reinstated. His ESA was pulled because he did not attend a medical assessment.

The LLB law graduate told Legal Cheek that working on this case has focused her career aspirations. She said:

Even though I’m doing this for my dad, it’s made me realise public law is what I want to do. I want to help people.

However, Dowman fears her barrister dreams will be blighted by her academic record. She obtained a 2:2 at undergraduate level and failed parts of her bar course because her son’s dad died. “I’ll never get a pupillage”, she told us.

Dowman’s case will be listed in the High Court for a date after 3 March, when the court will decide whether to grant permission to appeal. If so, the court will proceed immediately with the substantive claim.

Because she doesn’t have rights of audience, Dowman will have to ask the court for permission to give oral submissions on her dad’s behalf. However, she’s really keen to find a barrister. If you think you might be the right person for the case, please contact us.

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44 Comments

Anonymous

Best of luck to her!

(37)(0)

Anonymous

Best of luck 🇬🇧👊🏾🔥

(2)(1)

Anonymous

The fact she got a 2.2 is irrelevant. The fact she is bringing a case like this on behalf of her dad shows she has the motivation and ambition to become a successful barrister. I have no doubt she will secure a pupillage – best of luck to her!

(41)(8)

Anonymous

Kind words

(3)(3)

Anonymous

All people who apply for pupillage have motivation and determination to succeed. It is not a lack of motivation that causes the vast majority to fail.

(12)(2)

LawNOrder

Yeah, her academics may cause a problem (yet were originally good enough for scholarships. Potential for arguing mitigating circumstances?), but public law/civil liberties teams are looking for outstanding and committed advocates. Someone with the guts to go to the High Court in this way would be an excellent addition to any set!

(18)(3)

Anonymous

It hardly takes “guts” when losing and a costs order can’t make things any worse for her father.

This is what makes me slightly annoyed. The poor can bring claims like this without worrying about costs. Those with even a tiny amount of money and a property risk losing everything. It’s not fair at all.

(14)(26)

Anonymous

Her father is severely incapacitated. He depends on benefits for subsistence money. His ability to receive even this is contingent on private agencies staffed by incompetents who have a track record of cutting off benefits even to the dying because it makes their stats look good. There are many factors that are unfair about this situation. The fact the poor have nothing else to lose isn’t one of them.

(29)(3)

Anonymous

This is a legal website and my point was about litigation costs. If you want to talk about how hard the poor have it generally then mumsnet is over there ———->

(17)(20)

Anonymous

Actually, your point was about what was fair. Hence why you ended your post with the words “It’s not fair at all.”

Of course, the point you were trying to make in your second post is that you’re a massive bellend. Consider that point well made and understood by all.

(32)(3)

Anonymous

Have you tried crying harder? Calling someone a bellend because they pointed out that your post has no legal relevance whatsoever shows you to be the troll that you are.

(3)(21)

Anonymous

I ain’t crying brother, and I ain’t the poster you replied to. I’m just a random passer-by who, on reading the above, felt it incumbent upon them to point out that you’re a massive bellend.

(11)(4)

random passer-by

You sound like just as much of a bellend as he is tbh

Anonymous

That is not denied.

Anonymous

Likewise, if you want to have a debate about how unfair it is to penalise those who have worked hard for their money.

Cuts both ways, dude.

(3)(10)

Anonymous

I agree with u well said 🇬🇧👊🏾🔥

(2)(2)

Anonymous Coward

I thought about bringing a JR to help my parents once, but they aren’t on benefits so would have lost their home and their livelihood in costs had I failed.

She’s lucky a costs order means absolutely nothing to her father so she could bring this case in the first place.

(10)(5)

Paul T

Slightly confused about why a judicial review is necessary here? If her father’s ESA claim has been stopped due to failure to attend a medical assessment, the normal route to challenge such a disallowance would be by submitting a revisions request (now referred to as a mandatory reconsideration). If this is refused, an appeal to HMCTS can be lodged and is often where poor decisions are overrturned.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

How does one graduate from BPP Law School with a 2.2, and receive scholarships from Middle Temple and BPP? I come from a working class background, first of my family to attend university, graduated with a 1st class LLB from Bristol and was unable to secure funding for my BPTC…

(3)(12)

Anonymous

Maybe because you come across as entitled.

(27)(5)

Anonymous

Degree grade counts for nothing in the scholarship race.

The Inns take a more old fashioned approach which is “do we think this person is going to make it at the Bar”?

Some Inns also take finances into account.

If they think you’re a bright but socially inept person who happens to have a 1st, they will take the view that you probably wouldn’t “get on” at the Bar, and you won’t get one.

If however you have all the hallmarks of a good barrister but have a 2:2, possibly due to mitigating circumstances, then you stand a better chance of getting one.

I had a 2:1 from a mid-range University having been to a state school and I got one of my Inn’s top scholarship. I am now at the Bar, having obtained pupillage in the first round.

(12)(4)

Anonymous

Degree grade DOES count for something when it comes to getting pupillage, however. The Inns tend to give scholarships to people they like, with interesting life stories. This will not get you a pupillage. There are plenty of people with scholarships and no pupillage.

(5)(0)

OP

Not sure how accurate that is.

Everyone I met on the BVC who ended the course with a pupillage had a scholarship.

Likewise I don’t recall meeting anyone who had a scholarship but didn’t get a pupillage.

I concede there must be exceptions, but I remember a barrister once told me at an Inns dinner that a top scholarship was “a ticket to a pupillage” and in my case he was right.

If you have any statistics that contradict my experience, please do reveal all.

(0)(1)

Bumblebee

Speaking from personal experience, everyone I know who had or got a pupillage did indeed have a scholarship.

However, the reverse certainly isn’t true. I know know FAR more people who with a scholarship and no pupillage than I do with both.

(2)(0)

Bumblebee

I’m tired and illiterate, but I think you can probably work out what I mean.

(0)(0)

Original Anonymous

Most people with pupillage have scholarships but I can think of a few who don’t. There are many with scholarships and no pupillage though. I have 3 friends with scholarships (one a Queen Mother) and no pupillage (they have given up trying). I don’t have statistics because I haven’t conducted a thorough survey and neither has anyone else as far as I am aware. I am speaking anecdotally – but then so is everyone else.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

My understanding is that a JR would only be brought if the UTT refused to allow permission to appeal the decision from the FTT? She should be looking at a legal reason why permission was refused; not necessarily reasons as to why her father may be entitled to benefit which seems to be the idea behind an Art3 argument.

Unfortunately, unless she has arguments as to why the decision to refuse permission to appeal was legally incorrect, I do not see this going very far.

It would be worth while father putting in a further claim for ESA in the meantime and I hope he has been advised to do so.

(9)(0)

Lord Harley

If the government dares to touch my benefits, they will regret the day they tangled with the greatest lawyer since Cicero.

(3)(0)

Aaron

Anita is 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Damn, she fine.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Word. She a piff ting. She single?

(2)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

No, she comes together with miniature Martin Shkreli there.

(0)(1)

Just Anonymous

I am very concerned by this story.

I am concerned because it gives me the impression that one of the reasons Dowman is bringing this claim is to advertise herself to chambers in preparation for future pupillage applications. Obviously not the only reason, but a reason.

Now, it’s possible Dowman herself has no such intention, and I’ve gained this impression solely from Legal Cheek’s sensational reporting. However, I would say this:

Litigation is not a game. And it is not to be undertaken lightly. I would question the judgment of anyone who undertook litigation simply because (or partly because) they’re seeking to impress a pupillage panel. Current students should not be given the impression that conducting their own litigation is a sure-fire way of walking into pupillage. It is not. And in my opinion, conveying such an impression is dangerous and irresponsible.

In summary: if you want to do real advocacy for your pupillage applications, then do FRU. Don’t do this.

(28)(0)

Anonymous

Im guessing the story isn’t complete – must have gone through Tribunal service prior to JR?

Reg 23 ESA provides a good cause exception in cases of failure to attend assessment – that would be a much safer line of argument than Art. 3.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

She is applying for leave to appeal, folks.

I personally give her the benefit of the doubt, by a long way, that she is doing this for her Dad primarily, and as she has done the prep, she has realized she could help anyone through JR, and she wants to.

To go against the cynics on here, this is an application for permission to appeal. See the final paragraph of the LC article. Hopefully the Judge will direct her to the correct bureaucratic avenues if she has jumped the gun and there is still lesser procedures to try. If she has not jumped the gun, my guess is that the DWP will lose here. They are used to losing, even though they do not lose all the time.

If you are reading this Anita, good luck ! It actually is not that difficult to be a barrister. There is a confidence trick involved. Those who are barristers, especially the ones from a privileged background, pretend that it is difficult and they split hairs to try and make you think you cannot understand what is involved, or that it is beyond you. If this happens, please bear in mind that they are acting out a confidence trick, and you are their mark today. There will be other marks tomorrow.

If he has the confidence to recite a poem from memory in public, your son could do this 🙂

(8)(4)

Pupil

Shut up, mate. Your assertions are utter tripe.

(1)(4)

Anonymous

I am not your mate. I am prepared to offer peace on conditions, but you are up against it calling my assertions utter tripe when I am running at 3 thumbs either side, and you are one thumb either side. Being a barrister is easy. Get over yourself.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

How do you know if you’re not one?

(0)(2)

A Barrister

I find being a barrister easy.

But then I do criminal work, so not much law involved…

(1)(1)

Iami Tafari

Mi waz walking down mi father street
When im benefit run away.
Mi waz feeling rather incomplete
But still dem benefit would not stay.
So wen mi aksed dem benefit bumbs
Dem address mi rather blunt
An tell mi , mi father got di date back to front.
So mi bring di case in high court
Fo dem benefit mon mi fought
Coz high court be parens patria
Even fo di Rastafarian
And di relief of mercy to mi father
Is wot mi advocacy sought

(5)(4)

Anonymous

DATS RAYSISST!!!!

(0)(1)

Anonymous

The story is a nice one. It’s a daughter fighting for her father. There is a sense of injustice that should be corrected. I like that about it and about her. From a legal prospective I agree with Anon 11:02am, we are missing information here. From the ‘moral of the story point’ I would have to agree with Just Anon 10:49am, the way the article is written makes advocacy into a game or way of getting publicity, which is not the case, FRU is the better way.

All that said, just become a Solicitor instead. You will have more client contact to help the clients. You can ensure that your cases are properly handled so Counsel has a good bundle to work from, you could probably still do some of your own advocacy and lastly the 2:2 won’t matter.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

We have a motto at my chambers: If your facts are good, rely on the facts. If your facts are bad, rely on the law. If you’re f***ed either way, rely on the ECHR.

(18)(0)

Anonymous

It sounds (though all of the facts are presumably not here) like this lady might be in the category of “litigants in person with a little legal knowledge”, who in my experience persistently demonstrate the truth of the proverb, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

(8)(2)

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