Judges 2020

See below for this years confirmed Judges, more to follow:

We are hugely fortunate to have a fantastic panel of judges with a great diversity of experience across the legal world. We are very grateful for the time they dedicate to reading the nominations, shortlisting and interviewing all of our finalists on judging day. Thank you!

 Dr Joanna Berry,            Associate Professor, Durham University Business School

Ruth Connorton
Bio to follow

Ian Cosgrove
Costs Lawyer
Cosgrove Costing Limited 

View Ian’s Biography

Rebecca Cresswell
Chartered Legal Executive
Sweeney Miller Law

View Rebecca’s Biography

TBC – Helen Cutting
Executive Director of Legal & Governance Services and University Secretary
Teesside University

View Helen’s Biography

Mark Dale,
Principal Consultant, Professional Services, Nigel Wright Recruitment

View Mark’s Biography

Simon Darby
SD Legal Services

View Simon’s Biography

Malcolm Davies
Elliot Davies


Ian Dormer
Managing Director
Rosh Engineering Ltd – Bio to follow


Michael Downes
KPMG – Bio to follow


Jon Dudgeon
FCA Cofounder
Blu Sky Chartered Accountants

View Jon’s Biography

Katherine Dunn
Northumbria Uni – Bio to follow


John Duns
NE Times

View John’s Biography

Andrew Entwistle 
Partner – Head of Valuations
George F White

View Andrew’s Biography

TBC – Laura Farnworth  
Head of Legal
Atom Bank

View Laura’s Biography

Vicki Gilman
Healthcare Entrepreneur
Social Return

View Vicki’s Biography

Alison Gittins
Durham Business Group

View Alison’s Biography

TBC – Simon Goldberg 
Barrister, Trinity Chambers

TBC – Toby Hedworth Q.C.
Head of Trinity Chambers

View Toby’s Biography

Chris Hugill 
Compliance Officer for Legal Practice
Ward Hadaway

View Chris’ Biography

Edwin James 
Director & General Counsel (Solicitor)
Bannatyne Group

View Edwin’s Biography

Jonathan Jowett
Company Secretary & General Counsel
Greggs plc

View Jonathan’s Biography

Chris Lucarelli
Cal Partners
Bio to follow

Kevin Maloney
Muckle LLP

View Kevin’s Biography

John Marshall  
Chair of NGI

View John’s Biography

Paul McKeown
Senior Lecturer
Northumbria Law School

View Paul’s Biography

Ammar Mirza
Chairman & Founder
Asian Business Connexions (ABC)

View Ammar’s Biography

TBC – Erin Peart
Head of Property
Hanro Group

View Erin’s Biography

TBC – William Ralston
Acting Director of Bar Programmes
Northumbria University Law School

View William’s Biography

Barry Speker
Sintons LLP

View Barry’s Biography

Ian Cosgrove Biography

Ian Cosgrove has been around the Newcastle upon Tyne legal scene since 1974, firstly as a Legal Executive and since 1994 as an independent Costs Practitioner. He became an Associate of the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen in 1993, gaining fellowship status by examination in 1997 and became one of the first Fellows bestowed with Costs Lawyer status in 2007. As a Costs Lawyer, Ian is entitled to conduct reserved legal activities under the Legal Services Act 2017.

Ian’s practice has resulted in him being instructed by commercial firms of Solicitors, high street firms and sole practitioners, dealing with all manner of legal costs. He estimates that since 1994 he has been instructed by well over 100 different firms of Solicitors making him ideally placed a member of this years judging panel.

Rebecca Cresswell Biography

Rebecca began her studies at Northumbria University in 2010 where she obtained a Masters level qualification while at the same time achieving a Qualifying Law Degree and completed her Legal Practice Course. She completed her training by qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in Civil Litigation and Family law via a work-based learning programme with CILEx.

Rebecca is based in the family and litigation department of what has become a major North East law firm through its period of growth. Rebecca is passionate about finding a resolution for family disputes. Rebecca joined the CILEx Newcastle Branch in 2015 and became Secretary of the Branch shortly after. Rebecca is a keen ambassador of the CILEx Newcastle Branch and works tirelessly to promote alternate routes into law. Rebecca has helped organise numerous charity fund raising events over the years at the Newcastle CILEx Branch and hopes that the support for both the Branch and the charities will continue to grow through new members.

Helen Cutting Biography

Helen is a qualified practising solicitor having studied law at Northumbria University. She is currently Executive Director of Legal and Governance Services & University Secretary for Teesside University having joined the senior executive team there in June 2017. Before joining Teesside, Helen was Director of Legal and Governance at University of Sunderland. Helen’s current role requires her to have oversight of the University’s legal and regulatory compliance, including information governance and safeguarding, as well as leading on the modernisation of the University’s governance practices and taking an active role on the University Executive Team. Before moving inhouse in higher education, Helen worked as a solicitor in private practice in the areas of medical negligence and commercial contracts.

Mark Dale Biography


Mark leads Nigel Wright’s professional services appointments across Accountancy, Legal market as well as Banking & Fund Management positions.
From Nigel Wright’s headquarters in Newcastle Mark’s client base is spread across North Yorkshire, the North East and Cumbria. As well as traditional, local recruitment activity, Mark delivers strategic, national, senior search campaigns which has enabled him to assist clients in recruiting senior leadership teams to create growth. Senior search at Director and Partner level for succession planning is also a key area of Mark’s work. A Durham University graduate, Mark has over 10 years’ experience in recruitment, more than 5 of those with Nigel Wright.

Simon Darby Biography

Simon founded SD Legal Services, a provider of process serving, investigation and enforcement services to the legal sector 10 years ago.
SD Legal Services now has offices in Newcastle and Guisborough and have a large number of North East based solicitor clients.
In the last 15 years Simon has carried out thousands of instructions in the North East for Solicitors, property management companies and Local Authorities.
Simon is a Certificated Bailiff (Enforcement Agent) of 15 years, a full member of the ABI (Association of British Investigators) and former police officer and school governor.
He has been dubbed ‘The Respondent Whisperer’ due to his ability to track down and serve Respondents with Non-Molestation Orders.

Jon Dudgeon Biography


Jon is Cofounder of Blu Sky Chartered Accountants, a growing, ambitious accountancy and tax practice that specialises in delivering expert advice to exciting high growth businesses. Blu Sky’s niche is the tech and digital sector here in the NE, London, Leeds and Manchester. Jon’s career as an accountant started with Arthur Andersen in Leeds in 1997 and prior to founding Blu Sky in 2008 Jon also worked for Deloitte, Aviva, GE Money and Santander. Jon is no stranger to award ceremonies having won NE accountancy practice of the year 3 times with Blu Sky at the North East Accountancy Awards.

John Duns Biography

John Duns is the co-owner of leading regional business magazine North East Times.
John has over 30 years experience in media and professional services with Wealth Manager Brewin Dolphin , law firm Watson Burton and Trinity Mirror.

Andrew Entwhistle Biography

Andrew has over 20 years’ experience working in the North East property sector and heads up the valuation teams within George F White. Andrew frequently deals with legal professionals on numerous matters, particularly on valuation orientated subjects, and as an Expert Witness in litigation cases. Appointed Head of Valuation for George F White in 2010, Andrew also sits on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Valuations Standards Board. 


Laura Farnworth Biography

Laura joined Atom Bank, initially on secondment, in July 2014 when the business was still very much in the early stages of development. She has been involved in all of the company’s funding rounds, including the initial investment by Banco Bilboa Argentaria Vizcaya as part of a £100m raise in late 2015, as well as the application for Atom’s banking licence and the associated lifting of restrictions on that licence in April 2016. More recently, Laura was Atom’s legal lead for its inaugural RMBS, where £400M of bonds were publicly placed.

Formerly, Laura was an associate in the banking team at Womble Bond Dickinson, working on transactions for both borrowers and high street lenders as well as clients including the British Business Bank and local fund managers.

Vicky Gilman Biography


Vicki qualified as a physiotherapist in 1988 and worked through a range of specialisms in the NHS before finding her clinical niche in the field of neurorehabilitation. Following a move to the independent sector she discovered an interest in entrepreneurial activities alongside her clinical professional background.
For the past 20 years as a therapist, expert witness and entrepreneur Vicki has been able to combine these aspects as the founder of successful and award-winning therapy and case management businesses.

Vicki has learned from the ground up how to balance innovation and passion for effective, meaningful services with a well-developed attention to detail, a strong strategic view and sustainability of outcomes for both the individual with healthcare needs and for the business.
She has had the good fortune in business to be surrounded by teams of outstanding people where 2-way knowledge sharing was firmly embedded and to be part of wider vibrant networks within the medico-legal community.

Alison Gittins Biography

Alison is the CEO of Durham Business Group (Durham Business Club, Durham Office Services and The Executive Group).
Alison has a passion for people and a love of networking, so feels she landed her dream job in 2010, and is lucky to work with businesses from all sectors across the region, and bring them together while showcasing some wonderful venues. DBC holds monthly breakfast and evening events for its 200 members, while The Executive Group’s lunches, are must-attend events for North East business leaders. To recharge her batteries Alison enjoys escaping to the sun on a cruise ship.

Toby Hedworth Q.C. Biography

Winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2017, Toby Hedworth Q.C. is a nationally recognised Criminal and Regulatory Silk.
Born and educated in the North East, Toby Hedworth Q.C. studied Law at Cambridge before returning to the region and being called to the Bar in 1975, quickly establishing himself as a leading junior barrister. He was appointed Crown Court Recorder in 1991 and took Silk in 1996.
Toby Hedworth Q.C. became Head of Trinity Chambers in 1998. During his time as Head, he has driven the development of Chambers, including the renovation of and move to The Custom House on Newcastle's Quayside in 2004 and the opening of Chambers in Middlesbrough. Under Toby’s leadership, Trinity has tripled in size, with nearly 80 barristers including 6 Silks working with solicitor clients across the region, nationally and increasingly, internationally.
Toby Hedworth Q.C. is regularly recognised in the leading legal directories - "He's an outstanding advocate in trials, and he gives peace of mind to clients who are facing the most stressful of times." Chambers and Partners 2018. "A fantastic communicator, who distils complex facts into intelligible themes" Legal 500 2017.

Chris Hugill Biography

Chris has had a long legal career which includes qualifying and practising in a high street firm, lecturing at a University in property law and the business of the law, writing three editions of a practitioner’s book on Business Leases, as a commercial property lawyer specialising in housing and mixed use development and formerly holding the position of a regional managing partner in an international law firm. Chris joined Ward Hadaway in 2006 as a partner to become the head of the firm’s regeneration team and is now a consultant with the firm giving advice on issues of legal ethics and property law and also the firm’s COLP. His particular interests are property law, the business of practising law, the development of lawyers, professional ethics and regulation.
Chris is Vice President of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Law Society.

Edwin James Biography

Ed James is Legal Director and General Counsel (Solicitor) at The Bannatyne Group with responsibility for overseeing legal compliance for over 71 health clubs, over 40 beauty spas and a small chain of hotels.

Ed’s legal career commenced with a training contract at Whitehead Monckton in Kent where he qualified into the Commercial Department. This was followed by a five year stint as a Corporate Finance Associate at Ward Hadaway in Newcastle upon Tyne. In November 2010, Ed joined Bannatyne as Legal Counsel. This role has developed in line with the growth of the company and Ed now oversees the Legal Department at The Bannatyne Group as well as sitting on the board of a number of the Bannatyne companies.

Jonathan Jowett Biography

Jonathan Jowett’s executive role is Company Secretary & General Counsel at Greggs plc, where he is a member of the Operating Board, reporting to the Chief Executive. He is a lawyer by profession, and has spent most of his career working in-house in international manufacturing companies, across a variety of sectors including food production and retailing, medical product and consumer healthcare.

Jonathan’s responsibilities in Greggs include legal and government affairs, risk management & insurances, internal audit, food safety, health and safety, corporate communications, social responsibility, and pensions administration. He is Secretary to the PLC board and its committees.

Away from Greggs, Jonathan chairs the Board of Trustees of the Percy Hedley Foundation, which provides educational and care services to children, young people and adults with cerebral palsy, communication sensory impairments and complex learning, social care and therapeutic needs. Jonathan is also a non-executive director at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Company Secretary of Darlington Football Club.

Kevin Maloney Biography


Kevin is a partner in the banking team specialising in the full range of services to banks, other financial organisations and businesses.
Outside of his fee earning work, Kevin leads the graduate recruitment team at Muckle and is responsible for the recruitment of the firm’s trainees. He also acts as a mentor for the trainees and oversees their training requirements.
Kevin studied law at Newcastle University and completed his LPC at the College of Law in York. Kevin joined the firm (Robert Muckle as it was then known) in 1998 as a trainee solicitor.

John Marshall Biography

John Marshall spent his legal career working out of Newcastle as a commercial litigator, becoming Head of Litigation and Senior Partner of Dickinson Dees. In 2013, on the firm's merger, John became Vice-Chairman of Bond Dickinson LLP.

John left on 30 June 2016 to build up a portfolio of interests. He is Chair of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and Chair of Trustees at Newcastle United Foundation. He is also a non-executive director of North East Ambulance Service and North East England Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Advisory Board of Bradley Hall Chartered Surveyors and of the North East Development Committee of the Prince’s Trust. He sits on the International Advisory Board for Newcastle University Business School, is a member of the Governing Body of St Chad’s College, Durham University and Vice Chair of Governors at Northumberland Church of England Academy in Ashington.

Paul McKeown Biography

Paul is an Associate Professor and a solicitor at Northumbria University. He is currently the Director of Northumbria Law School’s multi-award winning Student Law Office. Prior to joining Northumbria University in 2007, Paul was a solicitor specialising in employment and housing law. Throughout his career, Paul has had a keen interest in promoting access to justice. As well as being a former trustee of the North East Legal Support Trust, he has worked closely with a number of organisations including LawWorks, the Access to Justice Foundation and the Personal Support Unit to support the provision of legal advice and assistance in the North East. Paul has also been a board member of the European Network for Clinical Legal Education (ENCLE) since its formation in 2013.

Ammar Mirza Biography


Ammar Mirza CBE - A multi-award winning entrepreneur who has helped establish several hundred businesses in the North East. Ammar is Founder and Chairman of Asian Business Connexions, President of the Federation of Asian Business, Board Member at the North East LEP, alongside being a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management (FInstLM), and Royal Society of Arts(FRSA). He has a particular interest in enterprise education as Chair of Governors of a Primary School, Chair of the Progression Forum and a visiting Professor of Practice at Newcastle University, and having helped launch the Primary Inspiration through Enterprise (PIE) Project Charity.

Erin Peart Biography

Erin is the Head of Property at Hanro Group, a privately owned North East based property group with an investment and development portfolio in the order of £120m. She has responsibility for the day to day operation of the portfolio, including development, acquisitions and disposals.
Erin graduated from Northumbria University and is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Erin sits on the North East Regional Board of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The Board exists to help improve standards and professions in the land, property and construction sectors. Activities include influencing Government policy, encouraging more young talent in to the industry and helping promote RICS’ latest initiatives to create a more inclusive industry.

William Ralston Biography


William is a senior lecturer in law at Northumbria University and is the Programme Leader for the Full Time Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at Northumbria. Prior to joining Northumbria in 2013, William spent 13 years in full-time-practice in the Bar at a common law set of chambers in Liverpool. He still practises part-time in the areas of personal injury and commercial law.

Barry Speker Biography

Barry Speker has practised as a Solicitor in Newcastle for over 47 years. He is a Consultant at Sintons Law and Trust Solicitor for The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. A former Deputy District Judge, he continues to sit as Employment Judge in Newcastle, Teesside and London, a post he has held for over 27 years.

He is a former President of the Newcastle Law Society from whom he received a lifetime special achievement award in 2016. Barry was awarded the OBE in 2008 “for services to business and the community in Newcastle upon Tyne.” He is a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Tyne & Wear and a Freeman of the City of London. He was actively involved in the Grainger Town project developing Newcastle City Centre and was Chair of the Business Forum. He is a Law Society adjudicator and assessor.

Barry is also Honorary Chair of the North East Chinese Association, President of North East Council on Addictions and is on the board of many other charities including Tyne Theatre, North of England Civic Trust, Charlie Bear for Cancer Care and Northern Institute of Business Ethics.