Q & A with Nermine Abdel Sayed

In: Article Published: Wednesday 26 August 2020


Nermine has developed an outstanding practice, both prosecuting and defending a wide range of criminal offences. She is regularly instructed in cases involving serious sexual offences including cold cases, historical allegations of rape and sexual abuse. She is recognised for her skill in representing clients who are vulnerable, because of age, learning difficulties or mental health issues.    

Nermine has undertaken specialist training in dealing with vulnerable witnesses. She is approachable, clear, persuasive and is known as a particularly talented jury advocate who always has the respect of the Court. In 2017 Nermine was appointed a Deputy District Judge in the Magistrates Court.


1.      You were called to the Bar in 2001. What made you decide on a career at Bar? 

Long ago, I worked at a criminal solicitors’ firm. As an outdoor clerk, I accompanied instructed barristers to court and had the opportunity to watch them in action. I was hooked.


2.     Having made that decision, what made you choose Criminal Law?

For me, there was never really any other option. Criminal Law has given me the privilege of representing individuals from all walks of life, young and old and each with a unique set of personal circumstances. Every day is different in this job and you never stop learning.


3.      Looking back at pupillage, do you have any stand out memories? 

Whilst I don’t have a specific memory, I can describe the most important lesson I learnt from my pupil master – Paul Williams. I learnt the value of being yourself, of adopting and developing your own style of advocacy. I found that each of us has our own strengths and something different to bring to the table. It really helped me to mature as a barrister.


4.   Rolling forward to the present day, what would you describe as your specialism/ specialist area? 

I enjoy the variety of work at the Bar. However, I think that because of my ability to deal sensitively with witnesses and defendants in upsetting cases, I have been frequently instructed in serious sex cases.


5.      What do you enjoy about that type of work? 

A more skilful examination is required when dealing with a vulnerable victim, witness or defendant. Questioning a young child, a traumatised victim or those with mental health issues presents many challenges and considerations to the advocate. I enjoy this dimension to the serious sex cases that I work on.


6.      What is the most rewarding part of being a Criminal Barrister?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it has to be hearing the jury say the words “not guilty”, when you are defending a case and you know you have fought hard. There is nothing like that feeling. To this day, my heart still pounds as the jury are asked for their verdicts and I await their reply.


7.      What has been your biggest challenge during lockdown?

The very beginning of the lockdown was an anxious time for everybody. The uncertainty was very destabilising. Enduring those months of separation from friends and loved ones was very hard! I try to focus on the things I am grateful for in life and to keep busy. With all that spare time, I can say I am beyond up to date with my CPD points!


8.      Describe your last day in virtual court? Do you see a future of ever-increasing virtual hearings? 

The pandemic has accelerated the introduction of number of technological developments within the Criminal Justice System. My last day in a virtual court was complicated with sound quality issues on the link! Technology is the future and we must embrace it. Virtual working is still in its infancy and I hope to see it develop over the coming years, provided that it does not hinder the ability of defendants or other members of the public to participate in the hearings.


9.      What is the biggest challenge about being a Criminal Barrister in 2020? 

Surviving at the Criminal Bar has been a struggle for a long time now and the situation is getting worse. I am concerned about the negative impact on diversity at the Bar.


10. What pieces of advice would you give pupils and junior members of the


1.     Know your brief inside out.

2.    Treat everyone with courtesy and respect.

3.    Persevere.