Christian Weaver: 'My goal is to make the law work for ordinary people'


I’m Christian, a 27 year old barrister.

Let me ask you a few questions.

If your landlord changed the locks and you could no longer access your home – would you know what to do? If your younger brother called you from a police station, could you tell him his rights? If bailiffs knocked on your door right now – would you legally know how you can respond?

For many of us the answer to these simple questions would be “no”, forcing us to rely on the goodwill of those exerting their power over us, whether that be the landlord, police officer, bailiff or employer.

Not knowing the law might not always be the end of the world – perhaps it just means you lose £10 because you don’t challenge the man at customer services who says you are not entitled to a refund. But those small instances add up. They build a world where we are not really in control. A world where we are not really sure of our rights or our protections.

As Black people, we cannot afford for this to be the case. A multitude of negative disproportionalities already exist when it comes to our community and the law. In addition to being seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people, research shows that the find rate for drugs in stop and searches is actually lower for black people than it is for white people. This suggests that, when it comes to police searching individuals for drugs, searches on Black people are based on weaker grounds of suspicion than those for white people. This statistic is of particular concern given the wider context that Black people are statistically less likely to use drugs, but twice as likely to be charged with drug possession.

(Photo: Ethan Wilkinson/Unsplash) Figures from the Home Office show the number of stop and searches recorded grew last year despite several lockdowns.

Making the law work for everyone

My goal is to make the law work for ordinary people, not just those who have the money or ‘know how’ to utilise it to its full effect. That is why I wrote ‘The Law in 60 Seconds: A Pocket Guide to Your Rights’. I was driven to create an easy to understand book illuminating the rights of everyday citizens and the full power of the law. Whether arguing with your landlord, looking for a refund, going to a protest or being harassed – the book will give you and your loved ones the confidence and clarity to take greater control. While the book is written with my ‘barrister hat’ on, it heavily draws from my life experiences as a young black man. As such, topics vitally important for our community feature prominently.

Legal education is an interest I have had since my youth. One of my earliest childhood memories is of dog faeces being smeared over my grandparents’ car on their driveway in weekly, sustained, racist attacks. I was 6 at the time. Despite calls from my parents to the police detailing the devastating effect this racist abuse was having on my grandparents, the racists were not found and my grandparents were left feeling violated in the parameters of their own home. As a family we rallied together, and, led by my grandfather, were able to get press coverage of what was going on. Soon enough, the racist incidents stopped. Nonetheless, from a young age, I remember having an appreciation way beyond my years of what it felt like to be powerless. Nobody should feel that way.

As I matured and embarked on programmes such as the OBV Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme, I learned the importance of standing up for what is right. Resultantly, as soon as I had the requisite level of legal knowledge, I started creating 60 second videos on YouTube advising people of their legal rights. I still produce those videos now – search ‘The Law in 60 Seconds’ on YouTube. It is the success of these videos that has led to the creation of this book.

Legal education should be the responsibility of the state, not individuals. Notwithstanding this, as somebody working in our courts daily - I see just how problematic individual’s not knowing the law can be. Standing on the sidelines would be unacceptable.

Five important rights you may not realise you have

Five important rights you may not realise you have first appeared in The I newspaper.

(Photo: Mario Guti/Getty) Many people believe that a driver can refuse a journey based on a lack of distance but this is not the case.

  1. “Reasonable wear and tear” is not a reason for your landlord to take money from your deposit. This means that if your carpet looks a little more worn than it was when you first moved in (you know, because you walked on it …). You shouldn’t have deductions taken from your deposit on this basis.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, a hackney carriage (taxi) driver cannot refuse a journey due to it being too short. You can report this to the local council if it happens.
  3. The law doesn’t require you to wait to be struck first before you defend yourself. You can strike first if it is necessary. This is known as a “pre-emptive” strike. Nonetheless, the force used must be reasonable.
  4. If you buy something on your credit card costing more than £100 and up to £30,000, the credit card provider is equally as liable as the supplier (seller) if something goes wrong. So, if you purchase a one-way ticket from an airline to go to Rome, but the flight never happens as the airline goes bust, you can go to the credit card company to get a refund.
  5. If you work in the services or hospitality industry, it is important to know that tips do not count towards minimum wage. Don’t allow your employer to suggest otherwise. Tips should be on top of your hourly wage.

Christian Weaver