Harriet Wistrich

Harriet Wistrich is a prominent human rights lawyer and activist known for her work advocating for women’s rights and social justice issues. 

Born in 1960 in Hampstead, Harriet was raised in a liberal, upper-middle-class household. Before studying Law she initially went to Oxford University, where she became a feminist, came out as a lesbian, and graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. 

Harriet then went on to take a two-year law conversion course and completed her legal practice course in 1995 at the University of Westminster in London. In 1997, she qualified as a solicitor after training with Winstanley Burgess, one of the UK’s most respected asylum and immigration law practices.

In 1999 she co-founded the law firm Birnberg Peirce & Partners, where she continues to serve as a partner. In her role at the firm, she has represented numerous high-profile cases, including cases involving women who have experienced domestic violence, sexual abuse, and wrongful convictions.

Most notably Harriet played a pivotal role in representing the eight women who brought claims against the Metropolitan Police who were deceived into relationships with undercover police officers. This case shed light on the controversial practice of undercover policing and raised significant questions about ethics, accountability, and the abuse of power within law enforcement agencies.

The case resulted in a landmark settlement in favour of the women, with the Metropolitan Police issuing a formal apology and agreeing to pay compensation to the claimants.

Centre for Women’s Justice

Harriet is a co-founder of the Centre for Women’s Justice along with her partner Julie Bindel and Hilary McCollum. The organisation was originally set up as the Free Sara Thornton campaign to secure the release of Sara Thornton, convicted in 1989 of murdering her violent husband. Since then it has been dedicated to advancing the rights of women and girls within the criminal justice system. 

Through her work with the Centre for Women’s Justice and other organisations, Harriet continues to campaign for legal and social reforms to address sex-based violence, discrimination, and inequality.


Harriet has received several awards including the Liberty Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award 2014, Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year 2018 for public law and Law Society Gazette personality of the year 2019.  

In her own words

Listen to Harriet talking about her own life here:







“The attitudes of prosecutors and judges towards women are as bad as ever. We need radical change – and we need it now”

“Only when there is an understanding of the structural inequalities between men and women, and the intersecting forms of discrimination that make some groups of women more vulnerable based on race, class and disability, will real change occur. In the meantime, we will keep fighting.”



Author: Maina Kiai. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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