‘Hello one and all.
I am Nicholas Bowen, brother of the LOOK Commander-in-Chief, one Charlotte Bowen. I have been involved with LOOK, on and off, ever since our mother started the charity in the 1980s when Charlottes juvenile macular degeneration first kicked in at the age of 7. Fighting for Charlotte’s rights was a formative experience in my life, as the battle we successfully fought against the local authority to get her appropriate schooling was one of my first serious cases as a baby barrister.
I was in my late 20s then and have now reached the great age of 59 and am a QC! Tragic though it is to be nearly 60, it’s not as tragic as the reality that 30 years on, nothing much has changed.
Parents are still fighting away for decent schooling and the system of support appears to be as impoverished as ever. It was only through the dogged spirit of my parents that Charlotte was able to get a place at RNIB Worcester College and get decent results. It took years and involved endless correspondence and hearings, then under the 1981 Education Act, and threats of judicial review.
Her case and the insight it gave me into disability and the unfairness of the system led me down that path professionally and I am now a full-time claimant lawyer involved regularly in a range of work, normally for individuals who claim to have been the victims of incompetence and unfairness at the hands of a variety of public bodies. I still take cases against education and social services authorities for failures to provide appropriate education, failures to protect vulnerable children. Money is short; it was before the pandemic and now things are as bad as they have ever been so the need for charities like LOOK to thrive and contribute is as acute as it ever was. However grim things sometimes seem, the LOOK team are here to help, having built up unrivalled expertise over the last few years, they are doing an amazing job; filling in at least some of the gaps where the statutory services should be.
I grew up in Cardiff and went to the local school and now live in London. My children have all grown up and I work full time as a barrister in Doughty Street Chambers. It is big institution, full of what the Prime Minister pejoratively calls “activist lawyers”, when all we do for a living is hold power to account and do our bit to uphold the law.
My practice covers a wide area, cases involving misconduct, illegality and negligence in the criminal justice, health and social welfare system. That means locking horns, amongst others, with the police, probation, education and social services.
I have been asked to say a few words about a typical day .. there isn’t one really save the constant desire to procrastinate and work in the garden instead of at my computer. At the moment I am preparing an important test case next week in the Court of Appeal all about the policy of the London Borough of Redbridge and how they have a system which is not capable of supplying specialist and trained teaching assistants when they are written into an Education and Health Care Plan, what used to be called Statements of Special Educational Need.
No-one really knows the answer to what are often intractable problems. Charlotte and LOOK – having pointed me in this direction so many decades ago – gave me an interesting career and hopefully I have helped a few people along the way, as well ,of course, as causing a lot of trouble for hard-pressed public servants!
As well as law books I like to walk up hills, do the garden, eat well and get down to my lovely house near the Brecon Beacons. I have two cats, and a lovely girlfriend. So, national lockdown aside, I am happy and hope that everyone who needs LOOK manages to access the services they need and are not afraid to question authority and stick up for what you know is right!
Good luck to you all.’