Griffith Law School alumnus and Gilbert + Tobin partner Chris Flynn was head of the legal team that helped to free journalist Peter Greste from an Egyptian prison.
After 400 days in prison, Greste was freed on February 1 and has now returned home to Brisbane to celebrate his release with family and friends.
“Doing work like this provides meaning to everything we do and is the reason why we study law in the first place,’’ said Chris, a partner with Sydney law firm Gilbert and Tobin.
“We’re delighted to have him home, it’s just great. We look forward to Peter picking up his pen again when he’s ready.”
One of the biggest challenges was the complexity of the case.
“There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle. We were confident that our strategy had the best chance of getting him free but because of the political situation in Egypt we didn’t take anything for granted.”
He said the case resonated with the public, not only because Peter was wrongly incarcerated but also because he was a journalist who reported on cases that were unjust.
“In many ways it’s the other side of the same coin; it speaks to the same values we have as lawyers of accountability, transparency, democratic values and the rule of law.”
“The law pursuant to which Gilbert + Tobin made the application for Peter’s release (which was subsequently subject to diplomatic representations made by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) applies only to foreigners.
Chris anticipates it will be available to Canadian Mohamad Fahmy. However, Egyptian national Baher Mohamed will have to go through a different process. Chris continues to hold hope, and looks forward to, their release.
“I hope Mohamed will be acquitted or that the president uses his discretion to grant a pardon.”
Gilbert and Tobin is one of the top pro bono practices in Australia. While a prestigious commercial law firm, it places significant emphasis on social justice, taking cases relating to refugee law, indigenous welfare and community law.
“The emphasis on social justice is core to what we do. It’s similar to what I learnt at the Griffith Law School.
“What I enjoyed while studying at Griffith was the overarching framework of learning about law. It was an excellent grounding that gave me a real toolkit for working.”
While completing his law degree at Griffith, Chris worked as a financial planner, and studied some of his electives in Spain under an Ambassadorial Scholarship. He trained at Allens in Sydney and completed a Master of Law in International Law (while studying under Dr Christopher Ward, who Chris would instruct as Peter Greste’s barrister).
He was also awarded a Chevening Scholarship to study International Relations at St Andrew’s in Scotland.
Chris said the most rewarding work in law is helping people in need.
“It is the pointiest end of the law, and its most important work. Unfortunately, it’s often the least financially rewarding, but this is never a reflection of its true worth.”
His advice to law students is simple: “If you go into commercial practice, make sure you mix it up. You will need to specialise in commercial practice so choose an area that you like, but also complement that with pro bono work that allows you to see the important impact your legal skills can have on people’s lives.”