Helena Kennedy, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws

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The Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
Official portrait, 2019
Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University
Assumed office
26 July 2018
Preceded byRobert Winston, Baron Winston
Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford
In office
September 2011 – 2018
Preceded byDiana Walford
Succeeded byHelen Mountfield
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
27 October 1997
Life peerage
Personal details
Helena Ann Kennedy

(1950-05-12) 12 May 1950 (age 73)
Glasgow, Scotland
Political partyLabour
Iain Louis Hutchison
(m. 1986)
Domestic partnerIain Mitchell (1978–1984)
OccupationBarrister, television presenter

Helena Ann Kennedy, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, KC, FRSA, HonFRSE (born 12 May 1950), is a Scottish barrister, broadcaster, and Labour member of the House of Lords. She was Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, from 2011 to 2018.

Early life and education[edit]

Kennedy was born on 12 May 1950 in Glasgow, Scotland, one of the four daughters of Mary Veronica (née Jones) and Joshua Patrick.[1] Her parents were committed Labour activists and devoutly Roman Catholic.[2] Her father, a printer with the Daily Record, was a trade union official.[2]

She attended Holyrood Secondary School in Glasgow, where she was appointed Head Girl. She studied law at the Council of Legal Education in London.[2]

Legal career[edit]

In 1972, Kennedy was called to the bar at Gray's Inn. Among her many cases, Kennedy acted as junior counsel for child murderer Myra Hindley during her 1974 trial for plotting to escape from Holloway Prison.[3][4]


Kennedy rebels against her party whip in the House of Lords more frequently than any other Labour Peer, having a dissent rate of 33.3%.[5] She was Chair of Charter 88 (1992–1997) and is closely affiliated to the educational charity Common Purpose. In 2020, she worked with the Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith and democracy activist Luke de Pulford to create the global pressure group Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.[6] In March 2021, China placed sanctions on her.[7] The sanctions were condemned by the Prime Minister and led the Foreign Secretary to summon the Chinese ambassador.[8][9]

Despite flagrant violations of international law that led other countries to impose arms embargos on Israel during its genocidal assault on Gaza of 2023–24, Kennedy helped stymie a UK arms embargo by claiming it was not possible to discern whether or not Israel was complying with international law.[10]


Kennedy became the first Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, serving from 1994 until 2001. She was elected principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, in July 2010 and served in the role from September 2011.[11] She retired in 2018 and became Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University on 26 July 2018.[12]

Personal life[edit]

From 1978 to 1984 she lived with the actor Iain Mitchell, and together they had a son. In 1986, Kennedy married Iain Louis Hutchison, a surgeon, with whom she has a daughter and a son.[2]

Kennedy regularly attends Mass and professes that her Roman Catholicism "remains very much part of who I am", even though she eschews its more traditional values.[2]

In 2023, Kennedy took part in King Charles and Queen Camilla's coronation at Westminster Abbey, carrying the Queen Consort's Rod with Dove.[13]


She has received numerous academic awards, including:


Hosting After Dark in 1997
  • Creator: Blind Justice, BBC TV, 1987
  • Presenter: Heart of the Matter, BBC TV, 1987
  • After Dark, Channel 4 and BBC4, 1987–2003
    • Kennedy presented many editions of this series, including the 1991 "Do Men Have To Be Violent" featuring an inebriated Oliver Reed who verbally insulted and attempted to kiss feminist Kate Millett, as well as the 1995 special "Ireland: Sex & Celibacy, Church & State" which included an unscheduled last-minute appearance from singer Sinéad O'Connor.
  • Presenter: Raw Deal on Medical Negligence, BBC TV, 1989
  • Presenter: The Trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover, BBC Radio 4, 1990
  • Presenter: Time Gentlemen, Please, BBC Scotland, 1994 (Winner, Television Programme Award category, 1994 Industrial Journalism Awards)
  • Commissioner, BAFTA Inquiry into the future of the BBC, 1990


Kennedy signing The Convention on Modern Liberty in January 2009

Civic honours[edit]


  • Eve was Framed: Women and British Justice, 1993; ISBN 0-09-922441-0
  • Just Law: The changing face of justice and why it matters to us, 2004; ISBN 0-09-945833-0
  • Eve Was Shamed: How British Justice Is Failing Women, 2018; ISBN 9781784742225
  • Misjustice: How British Law is Failing Women, 2019; ISBN 9781784707682


  1. ^ "Kennedy of the Shaws, Baroness, (Helena Ann Kennedy) (Born 12 May 1950)". Who's Who. Oxford University Press. 1 December 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u22850. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wroe, Nicholas (27 March 2004). "A radical in the House". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Baroness Helena Kennedy QC on why the British justice system is failing women". Yorkshire Post. 2 August 2018.
  4. ^ Carol Ann Lee, One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley (2012).
  5. ^ Rebel Lords — Current members The Public Whip.
  6. ^ Rogers, Benedict (6 June 2020). "Parliamentarians From Around the World Unite to Discuss the China Challenge". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Uighurs: China bans UK MPs after abuse sanctions". BBC News. 26 March 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  8. ^ Cheshire, Tom; Nick Lester (26 March 2021). "China sanctions: Boris Johnson praises MPs banned by Beijing for 'shining a light on gross human rights violations'". Sky News.
  9. ^ "'Badge of honour' - China sanctions UK politicians for Xinjiang 'lies'". Reuters. 26 March 2021.
  10. ^ Wintour, Patrick (1 March 2024). "Politicians from 12 countries unite to press for arms ban on Israel". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  11. ^ "Baroness Helena Kennedy QC elected next Principal of Mansfield College", University of Oxford Mansfield College, 13 April 2011. Archived 29 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "Principal". Mansfield College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  13. ^ "The full list of people with ceremonial roles during King's coronation". The Independent. 28 April 2023. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  14. ^ "Helena Kennedy QC made an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College". University of Cambridge. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  15. ^ "Baroness Helena Kennedy QC". Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy of The Shaws QC, HonFBA, HonFRSE – The Royal Society of Edinburgh". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  17. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2021: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. 7 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Coronation order of service in full". BBC News. 5 May 2023. Retrieved 6 May 2023.
  19. ^ "2016: A Vision and Strategy for the Centennial" Archived 4 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine (p. 18), School of Oriental and African Studies, April 2010
  20. ^ Qureshi, Huma (17 October 2012). "Helena Kennedy: 'Women's struggles are not over'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  21. ^ "New Chancellor for Sheffield Hallam University". shu.ac.uk. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  22. ^ "IBA - IBAHRI Secretariat to the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom". www.ibanet.org. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Meet The Team" Archived 11 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine, LIFT. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  24. ^ "SafeHands for Mothers". SafeHands for Mothers. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  25. ^ Chandler, Mark (20 January 2020), "Kennedy steps down as Booker Prize Foundation chair", The Bookseller.
  26. ^ "CHE > In the news". www.c-h-e.org.uk.
  27. ^ "No. 54934". The London Gazette. 30 October 1997. p. 12205.
  28. ^ "Kennedy Baronessa Helena - Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana" (in Italian). Quirinale. 23 April 2004.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
New university Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University