Three elements combine to create the kind of lawyer Martyn Day is – law, literature and politics. I will take the poetic licence to describe this qualification as an LL.P.
Dennis Nowell Pritt, who can be regarded as Day’s pioneer in this field in Kenya, was described as an author of undisputed three-fold eminence – lawyer, politician and writer. Day himself admits that he is at his best “when combining the law, the political and the media.”
Like Dennis Pritt, Day is politically labour and says he has been a labour man for 25 years. He belongs to the executive society of labour lawyers. He is an environmental activist and is the current chairman of Greenpeace in the United Kingdom; and while Dennis Pritt was once a member of parliament, Day was once a councilor.
With his background, Day is a lawyer with a political chip on his shoulder. While many lawyers view practice as the provision of legal representation in legal causes, Martyn Day views it in a wider context. His role as a lawyer extends to the crusade for social justice. He uses practice to secure more than legal justice.
“I think I have been extremely lucky in finding a field that totally suits my character,” he says, “my primary interest in being a lawyer is to assist individual people who have been harmed by the corporate world or by government and to try and give them some sort of justice for what they have been through.”
According to Day, a social justice oriented lawyer looks beyond the legal process. His client is not just after a legal victory. He also needs a psychological victory. “the other side of it is the significance of showing the people that they do not always have to accept what life brings to them,” he adds. “hopefully our work will encourage the people to feel that if anything like this ever happens again, then they can immediately have the courage to stand up.”
Day makes his clients understand the nature of the injustice and explains the reason for the victory. He also ensures that the monetary compensation is meaningful to the client. In Dol Dol where his clients on the Kenya munitions case live, he is working with the banks and NGOs to ensure that the claimant use their money wisely. Without this intervention, most of his clients would I years to come go back to the poverty that their injuries had subjected them to.
The media is an invaluable partner in Day’s type of practice, first, it is useful in sensitizing both the clients and the rest of society to the elements of the case. This is a effective way of explaining the injustices and the reason for the victory. Secondly, it helps sway public opinion to the crusade elements of the case, without which many such cases are lost.
Without the pressure of public opinion, judges can, in some crucial cases, decide in unbelievable ways. Possibly that is what happened to Day in cases he filed in the UK against tobacco companies. “I felt at my lowest and felt like giving up. I felt it was a total travesty of justice and that the cases were dismissed by the judge when there was so much evidence against the tobacco industry.” No doubt Jeremy Bentham was right when he said that publicity is the very soul of justice. When describing his tribulations at Kapenguria, Dennis Pritt spoke of how he used the media the fight back the system that was put in place to frustrate his work.
“fortunately, I had already a very powerful weapon in my hands, in that the press – not merely some good Nairobi journalists but the foreign correspondents already mentioned – were there in force, and on the alert; and I only had to tell the district commissioner over the telephone that if I didn’t have an unrestricted pass within half an hour, he would be on the headlines of half the British press the following morning to get the pass at once.”
In Day, we have a reincarnated Dennis Pritt. The latter represented clients in the USA, India, West Germany, Belgium, Pakistan, Algeria, South Africa, Kenya, British Guyana, Singapore, Ceylon, Cyprus, Uganda and Tanganyika. Day has begun his international circuit and has handled cases in Japan, Germany, South Africa, Kenya, Swaziland and Bangladesh.
At the age of 46, he has in illustrious politico-legal career ahead, bearing in mind that pritt begun his circuit at the age of 62. While Pritt continuously embarrassed his government by taking political cases in the colonies, Day is embarrassing it by asking it to pay for its injustices. This may not earn him many friends at home but we hope that the day he will write his memoirs; he shall have a “full and happy heart” like Dennis Nowell Pritt.