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  • Published: 2 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529906363
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

Sister in Law

Fighting for Justice in a System Designed by Men




The stories behind the headlines - landmark cases demonstrating that terrifyingly often, the law is not-fit-for-purpose for half the population.

For more than quarter of a century Harriet Wistrich has fought the corner of people from all walks of life let down by our justice system.

When Sally Challen won her appeal to overturn her conviction for the murder of her coercively controlling husband, it was with Harriet Wistrich at her side.

When victims of taxi driver and serial rapist John Worboys successfully took the Metropolitan Police to court for their investigative failures, and then, four years later, helped to hold the Parole Board to account for their decision to grant his early release from prison, the solicitor acting for them was Harriet Wistrich.

It was Harriet who represented a pioneering group of the women caught up in the ‘spy cops’ scandal – women deceived into forming long-term relationships with men later revealed to be undercover police officers embedded within their communities.

In a remarkable legal career, Harriet has been at the forefront of some historic and ground-breaking legal victories. Frequently working with women who have survived male violence or abuse, sometimes with the bereaved families of those who did not survive, her work has led her to challenge the police, CPS, government departments and the prison and immigration detention system.

In Sister in Law, she tells the shocking stories of some of those who have come to her for assistance and shines a feminist light on the landscape of arcane laws and byzantine systems, skewed towards male behaviour and responses, through which she has steered them.

Litigation can be a long and rocky path of pitfalls and dead ends and there are defeats as well as gains, hours of painstaking work as well as courtroom drama. It takes collaboration, extraordinary tenacity and huge compassion, but Harriet Wistrich is proof that it is possible to demand better justice and to bring about important change.

  • Published: 2 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529906363
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the author

Harriet Wistrich

Harriet Wistrich is the founder and director of the Centre for Women's Justice and a solicitor of over 25 years' experience. She has worked for many years with civil liberties firm Birnberg Peirce, acting in many high-profile cases around violence against women, including on behalf of women who challenged the police and parole board in the John Worboys case, women deceived in relationships by undercover police officers and women appealing murder convictions for killing abusive partners. She is also a founder member of the campaign group Justice for Women. Among other accolades, she was named Liberty Human Rights Lawyer of the Year 2014, Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year 2018 for public law and Law Society Gazette personality of the year 2019, and awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by Kent University in 2022.

Praise for Sister in Law

Harriet Wistrich has long offered a voice to the voiceless – those ordinary men, and especially women, who have been silenced, ignored, overlooked and talked down to. Her career is a testimony to her values, dedication, hard work and insight and as I read Sister in Law I realised that if I was ever in trouble I would want Harriet fighting in my corner.

Emeritus Professor David Wilson

Justice needs both warriors and champions and in Harriet Wistrich, she found both. Sister in Law is compelling, inspiring, horrifying and humbling in equal measure. Everybody should read it to begin to appreciate the inequalities within our legal system.

Dame Professor Sue Black

Harriet Wistrich is a heroine. Here is her story: 30 years of feminist and human rights activism, legal creativity, and tenacity. With great clarity and humanity she describes watershed cases - from women locked up for killing their violent abusers, to undercover ‘spy cops’, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, murdered by the police, and the bleak legacy of prostitution – all of them exemplars in the art of making a difference.

Beatrix Campbell, author of Secrets and Silence

Every feminist should know Harriet Wistrich’s name. She is an unsung heroine. There is no one better to learn from if you want to Get Shit Done.

Helen Lewis

This is a brilliant and important book. Harriet is a trailblazer and has done so much to get justice for so many women.

Victoria Derbyshire

Harriet's innovative, intense and courageous commitment to safeguarding basic rights, compellingly set out in every chapter, is exactly the sort of engagement that was sorely lacking in the Post Office debacle in order to prevent the wrongful convictions in the first place.

Michael Mansfield KC

A must-read for anyone interested in social activism and law, this is an incredible record of a unique career. Harriet Wistrich's work on behalf of abused women who have also been failed by the state is inspirational. She is one of the feminist pioneers of our age.

Susanna Rustin, author of Sexed: A History of British Feminism

For decades, Harriet Wistrich has been bravely standing up for women who have been abused, imprisoned and denied their rights. This stirring account of her impressive work will remind readers that the fight for justice is far from over, and inspire all of us who still hope to build a more equal and safer world.

Natasha Walter, author of Living Dolls and Before the Light Fades

Harriet Wistrich is a total inspiration. Her work to secure justice for women had been groundbreaking. She’s a game changer. A brilliant lawyer - A brilliant book!

Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws KC

A vivid account of cases in which the justice system has spectacularly failed women but also of how injustices can be challenged if only we know enough and care enough to do so.

Rt Hon Lady Hale DBE

A book that needed to be written. How women made the law work for women. At last!

Jenni Murray

Sally Challen, Eleanor de Freitas, Emma Humphreys, the undercover policing inquiry. Complex, heartbreaking cases from Harriet’s stellar career as a feminist lawyer, turned into a vital, compelling, enraging narrative about how the justice system must change to protect women and girls. Extraordinary. Everyone should read it.

Anna Mazzola, lawyer and novelist

Harriet Wistrich is one of our most courageous and outspoken lawyers and has written a remarkable, impressive and revelatory book, Sister in Law. It should be read by everyone involved the criminal justice system, everyone interested in how women are treated in our courts and everyone who wants to know what is really going on in Britain today in terms of crime and punishment.

Duncan Campbell, author of Underworld: The definitive history of Britain’s organised crime

This page turning account shows how a determined, innovative, feminist lawyer can squeeze improved outcomes for women from a creaking, patriarchal legal system. Harriet Wistrich has a campaigner's instinct in recognising when public pressure can be deployed in support of her legal challenges to produce explosive results.

Rahila Gupta, author of Enslaved

What a wonderful person Harriet Wistrich is. Her stories are very powerful and resonated deeply with me after witnessing so much injustice during my nineteen years working in prison. It is comforting and reassuring to know people such as Harriet exist.

Dr Amanda Brown, author of The Prison Doctor

Shocking, compelling and invigorating. Harriet´s book gives us a front row view of why we must do more for women. A must read for anyone interested in the justice system from one of the foremost feminist human rights lawyers today.

Keina Yoshida and Jen Robinson, authors of How Many More Women

Cover-ups, miscarriages of justice, and threats to women’s safety; Harriet Wistrich fights all these and more in this riveting account of her unique legal career. Peer behind the curtain of the most critical and shocking cases of the last 30 years - often affecting women and vulnerable people - and you will find Harriet, armed with compelling evidence and noisy supporters. I have made two documentaries about Harriet’s work, including the Bed of Lies podcast about the spycops scandal, and I was still taken aback by the horrifying details in these pages. A must read that will make you question how just our country really is.

Cara McGoogan, author of The Poison Line

She is a hero, an inspiration. Every aspiring lawyer, and anyone interested in justice, should read this book, get angry and join the fight.

Legal Review

A shocking, sobering and galvanising account of her astonishing legal career fighting for women in a legal system that is all too often stacked against them

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women substack

Sister in Law is a remarkable book chronicling an astonishing career. Countless lives have been changed, improved and saved by Harriet’s tireless campaigning. Highly recommended.

The Secret Barrister, twitter

Wistrich not only illustrates the ways in which the law fails women but the gruelling nature of litigation: it is slow, infernally complicated, and forces individuals to relive their worst experiences. Yet through these enraging and astonishing stories, Wistrich also shows us the best of humanity. ... Her book might be short on introspection but her remarkable legal career speaks volumes about the person she is.

Fiona Sturges, Guardian

Sally Challen, Eleanor de Freitas, Emma Humphreys, the undercover policing inquiry. Complex, heartbreaking cases from Harriet’s stellar career as a feminist lawyer, turned into a vital, compelling, enraging narrative about how the justice system must change to protect women and girls. Extraordinary. Everyone should read it.

Anna Mazzola, lawyer and author of The Unseeing and The Clockwork Girl