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Changing the narrative on crime: World’s Toughest Prisons host to headline Annual Bar Conference

Bar Council

3 min read Partner content

“I am Raphael Rowe and my career was born as a result of spending nearly 12 years in prison for crimes I did not commit.”

 Raphael Rowe, broadcaster, host of Netflix’s ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons’, and former prisoner, will deliver the keynote address at the Bar Council’s Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference on Saturday 26 November in London.

Having grown up in “a deprived area scarred by racial discrimination and inequality”, Raphael Rowe left school at 16. In January 1989 he was arrested and in March 1990 sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and aggravated robbery – crimes he did not commit. It wasn’t until July 2000 that Raphael Rowe was acquitted by the Court of Appeal and released.

Raphael Rowe’s broadcast career started at the BBC as a reporter for BBC Radio 4 Today and then the Six O’Clock News, describing himself as “not exactly the stereotypical BBC reporter!” as a mixed race ex-prisoner with dreadlocks.

He later moved to Panorama, the BBC’s flagship investigations programme, where he worked undercover to expose conflict diamond smuggling, the tactics of Congolese militia rebels, and the illegal logging and deforestation of some of the world’s most precious resources.

Since 2018 Raphael Rowe has hosted the Netflix documentary series ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons’. The programme has taken him across the world to visit high security prisons to interview prisoners, guards, prisoners’ families, and politicians.

Later in life he studied for a degree in criminology and volunteers his time for social justice projects he cares about.

Raphael says: “It is important to change the narrative surrounding crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system. A more transparent discussion about what works, and what does not, is needed in order to reduce both the causes of crime and understand the effect criminality can have upon both the victims or crime and society as a whole.”

Chair of the Bar Council Mark Fenhalls KC said:

“As a young barrister setting out in criminal practice in the early 90s, my early career was, in part, shaped by the Court of Appeal case of ‘Johnson, Davis and Rowe’ and the way it reshaped the way we all thought about disclosure. 

“The theme of our conference is Future-proofing the Bar, and we can only do that by understanding the state of our current system; what works, and – above all – what does not.

“To listen to Raphael’s extraordinary journey from wrongfully convicted prisoner to successful broadcaster is a privilege that I urge you to experience. Do join us at the Bar Conference.”

Raphael Rowe will be speaking at the Bar Council Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference at 16:45-17:30 on Saturday 26 November at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London WC2B 5DA.

Information and tickets available at:


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