Vera Baird KC was Police & Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, she was elected in November 2012 and re-elected in May 2016 with a majority of more than 120,000. In 2017 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to women and equality. She is also the only honorary woman member of the Durham Miners’ Association as well as a trustee of the charity RESPECT.
She was MP for Redcar between 2001 and 2010 and became a Minister in the Labour Government in 2006. In 2007, she became Solicitor General. In that post she conducted a number of criminal appeals and unduly lenient sentence cases and advised extensively on a wide range of legal issues and problems. Her areas of legal work included all aspects of criminal law, equality and discrimination, public law, public international law, EU law, devolution issues, charity law and a range of others. The Solicitor General also plays a role in integrated policy development within government and Vera was particularly involved in criminal justice policy and legislation and with gender and equalities policy. She was the Lead Minister with responsibility for taking the Equality Act 2010, the Tribunals,Courts and Enforcement Act 2008 and played an assisting role in the passage of the Company Law Reform Act 2007. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Stern Review into how rape complaints are handled by the public authorities.
As a Criminal Defence Barrister, prior to her entry to Parliament, she was involved in key civil liberties and protest cases and landmark cases involving battered women who kill. She became a QC in 2000. She was the first woman Chair of the Society of Labour Lawyers and was described by The Lawyer Magazine as one of the top five talents at the criminal bar.
Vera was born in Oldham. She attended Chadderton Grammar School followed by Northumbria University where she obtained a 2:1 Ll.B. During this time she was active in student politics, first as Editor of the student newspaper Polygon and later as Vice President of the Students’ Union for External Affairs.
In 1975 she was called to the Bar in Gray’s Inn. She became a Legal Associate of the Royal Town Planning Institute. In 1983 she obtained a BA 2:1 in Literature and Modern History (Open University). She is currently working on a MPhil (History) at Teesside University, having transfered her studies from London Metropolitan University, where she obtained a Post Graduate Certificate on their ground-breaking course on Modern British Womens History.
From 1999 – 2002 she was a Human Rights Law Trainer for the Criminal Bar Association. In 1999 she was a visiting Law Fellow at St Hilda’s College, Oxford where she undertook research on reforming the law on homicide.
She serves in several voluntary roles as an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law at Northumbria University, Visiting Professor of Legal Practice at Newcastle University, Visiting Law Professor at London South Bank University, Visiting Law Lecturer at Teesside University and as an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. In November 2017, she became an Honorary Fellow in Law at Durham University.
Vera was a key member of Michael Mansfield’s chambers at Tooks Court from 1986 and its Deputy Head of Chambers for 10 years. She has taken part in some of the key civil liberties cases. She successfully defended the four women charged with Criminal Damage to a Hawk aircraft destined for bombing East Timor; has worked on cases about almost every protest movement in the last two decades starting with Greenham Common and Menwith Hill. She appeared in many major cases arising from the Miners’ Strike and has prosecuted for Greenpeace and other environmentalist groups. She represented Emma Humphreys in her ground-breaking case about the implications of the law of provocation for battered women who kill their violent partners. She has defended men and women on every kind of serious criminal charge over many years at the Old Bailey, a range of Crown Courts and at the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.
A considerable amount of her pre-election work focused around legal issues and as a member of Justice for Women, she was involved in reform of the laws surrounding murder and the defence of provocation. She is also interested in reform of workplace and equal pay law.
She was Chair of the Fawcett Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice system from 2002 until she became a Minister. This was a high-powered multi-disciplinary investigation of the way the system treats women as defendants, complainants and as workers engaged in the courts. It made a number of radical recommendations, including reforms to rape and violence against women cases. The Together Women Project, a new sentencing option for women, was announced by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke at the launch of its Report “One Year On”.
She was a member of the following: Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Human Rights 2001-2003, Work and Pensions: 2003-2005, Corruption Bill 2003, Armed Forces Bill: 2005-2006. She was also a member of various Standing Committees including: Proceeds of Crime Bill 2001-02, Criminal Justice Bill 2003; Domestic Violence Bill 2003-04, Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill 2005.
As a backbencher she was involved in a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups including being the Joint Chair of the Democracy in Burma APPG and Chair of the APPGs on Equalities, Domestic Violence and Citizen’s Advice. She was also the Honorary Secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s (PLP) Women’s Committee and Chair of the Community Union Group of Labour MP’s. She was appointed Parliamentary aide to Charles Clarke as Home Secretary between 2005 and 2006. She won the Spectator’s Backbencher of the Year Award in 2004.
Vera’s interests include travel, reading, running, and Poppy, her re-homed Bedlington Terrier. She was widowed in 1979 and has two stepsons. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.
‘Perverting the Course of Justice’, ‘The Law of Harassment’, ‘Rape in Court’, ‘Battered Women who Kill and the Criminal Law’, ‘The Last Resort, a study of the Criminal Cases Review Commission’. There are a number of recent articles on the articles page on this website.