David Thomas

David Thomas, Lawyer and PhD Student, Birkbeck School of Law

David’s first degree was in history. After that he trained as a solicitor and qualified in 1986. He worked in South London, running his own firm for many years, practising generally in legal aid and finally specialising in housing law and related public and human rights law, acting mostly for tenants and homeless people. Legal aid lawyers are often in the appeal courts; as well as his daily business in the county courts, he ran many judicial reviews, High Court cases, and quite a few Court of Appeal and House of Lords cases. The best known of the cases that he was involved with was Kay v LB Lambeth [2006] 2 A.C. 465, which found its way to the European Court of Human Rights (Kay v UK [2008] ECHR 1193). Partly as a result, he was made Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (social welfare law category) in 2011.

While he was in practice he studied part time for a Masters at Birkbeck School of Law, and enjoyed it so much that he stopped practising in 2013 to start a PhD there. He teaches law students at Birkbeck, does public legal education-style training with community volunteers for Law for Life, and works as a housing activist with Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition. As an activist he has been promoting the Homeless Bill of Rights, which he hopes to see adopted by Brighton & Hove City Council soon.

His research concerns a story about the origins of human rights. It is set in the seventeenth century, with Thomas Hobbes as the main character and, as a foil for him, the contemporary English revolutionary Gerrard Winstanley. His main theoreticians are Foucault and Rancière, and through Rancière especially he has come to appreciate the aesthetic dimension to politics and his activism.

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