Birmingham Lawyer’s case becomes major new film

Karen Bailey

A case handled by Birmingham lawyer Karen Bailey has been turned into a major international film starring Oscar winners Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave.

In 2002 Karen won a £110,000 pay out for former police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, who was unfairly sacked by DynCorp International LLC.,  for blowing the whistle on the  United Nations’ and her DynCorp colleagues involved in the Bosnian sex trade.

Ms Bolkovac will be portrayed by Rachel Weisz in “The Whistleblower”, which was filmed in Bucharest, Romania and directed by award winner Larysa Kondracki, who co-wrote the script with Eilis Kirwan.

A former cop from Nebraska, Ms Bolkovac took up a role with DynCorp International, a global government services company based in Texas. DynCorp was contracted by the U.S. State Department to provide peacekeepers to the United Nations as part of the Dayton Agreement to assist in security and restoring the rule of law in post-war Bosnia.

In her role investigating human trafficking and prostitution rackets in the Balkans, Kathryn uncovered senior UN workers and other internationals involved in the sex trade, including the use of prostitutes and buying sex slaves.

The blatant attempts to silence her and bury her reports did not work. DynCorp, fearful that Kathryn’s disclosures would lead to a loss of its lucrative government contract, sacked her for allegedly falsifying a timesheet.

In 2001, on the advice of UN insider, Madeleine Rees, then Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia, Kathryn appointed Karen Bailey to handle her dismissal case.

Ms Rees, who is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave in the film, and Karen formerly worked together at Birmingham solicitors Tyndallwoods in the 1980s (where Karen rose to become a partner) and had remained friends. Ms Bolkovac’s employment contract was governed by UK law, so her case had to be heard by a UK employment tribunal.

Karen represented Ms Bolkovac, with London barrister Stephanie Harrison, at an employment tribunal convened in Southampton.

The tribunal ruled that Ms Bolkovac had become a “marked woman”, sacked for exposing the scandal. She was awarded £10,117 in lost wages, £81,254 in lost future earnings and £15,000 for injury to feelings.

Karen Bailey is head of Bailey Wright Solicitors, based in the Jewellery Quarter.  She set the practice up in 1996, the first African-Caribbean woman to set up a practice in Birmingham City Centre. In 1998 she won Black Business in Birmingham’s Business Woman of the Year award. She was recognised by Birmingham Law Society in 2002 when she won the Sole Practitioner of the Year Award at the organisation’s Legal Awards. The firm, which now employs six, specialises in child care, human rights, education and employment law.

Karen, a sole practitioner when she won the brief from Ms Bolkovac, took the case on a no win, no fee basis.

She said: “As a sole practitioner from Birmingham I was pitted against a multi-billion dollar corporation and their international attorneys, Altheimer & Gray (then a multi-national firm, but now dissolved).

“Because of the UN’s involvement, the case was in the global spotlight.

 It was the case of a lifetime and a definite highlight of my career.

“To this day, however, the UN continues to deny allegations associated with the case. I still have letters to them awaiting a response. Perhaps the film will change that.”

Birmingham Law Society is planning a private screening of the film, in which Monica Bellucci and David Strathairn also star, for its members. It’s UK release is anticipated in the Autumn.

President Dean Parnell said: “Karen’s work demonstrates that Birmingham firms do cutting edge work on the global stage. The city has become a major centre for human rights work, with individuals like Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers and firms such as Public Law Solicitors enjoying an international reputation, and the recent launch of a new Human Rights Lawyers Group in the city. It’s great that Karen’s work is being recognised in this way and we look forward to celebrating with her.”

Kathryn Bolkovac has written a book about her experiences, with Cari Lynn. ‘The Whistleblower’ was launched in hardback last week by publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

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