1. The Beano

The National:

I WASN’T top of the class, I was bottom of the class. Somehow one of my teachers got me into comics. The Beano was the one I read from end to end. My mum despaired, but that introduced me to a love of reading. If I got pocket money, I would drag my mum down to the shops and get comics. I was dreaming of living in a different world. The Beano was about groups of friends, which was something I didn’t have – I was shy and a bit of a loner – but I could read the Bash Street Kids and see these schoolmates all getting up to things together.

I also loved Marvel and DC superhero stories, especially Superman. I grew up in Liverpool and it was a very difficult place to grow up. You were dealing with racism every day, so you looked for an escape.

At about the age of six, I remember climbing up the drainpipe at school and on to the roof and getting the other kids together underneath and saying “I can fly”, then jumping off and landing on the deck. I’ve still got the bump on the head.

The first book I loved was The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe – I remember many times sitting in a wardrobe thinking “I wish this would open up”.

2. In the Name of the Father

The National:

Being put on trial for contempt of court wrecked my life. It was for speaking up for my client Mohammed Atif Siddique after he was wrongly convicted of terrorism offences. I refused to apologise for my speech and was told I could go to prison or lose my career, but that young man was wrongly put in jail and I made a promise to his family and said I would fight.

In the Name of the Father is a film I always recommend to young lawyers. It stars Emma Thompson as Gareth Peirce, standing up for a young man who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.

Gareth helped me in my contempt of court case. She gave me advice and helped me work out how we were going to win it. She literally brought the British state to its knees by representing the Guildford Four, and she’s done so much more. She’s tiny, but she was a powerful force who didn’t need to shout and scream to do it. Her strategy was her knowledge and preparation, which are invaluable to a lawyer.

People try to make out that the contempt of court case was all about me. No, it was about my clients. They are the ones who fought, who refused to be pushed aside, and when we went back to court and Atif Siddique was cleared, I read that same speech again.

3. Animal Farm

The National:

I HAD an English teacher who was a former British soldier in Palestine, and he introduced me to Animal Farm. It was the first political thing I’d read, and I became more and more interested in politics. This book is a good basis for understanding political movements and how they operate, and that mindset that they are right and everyone else is wrong – there are no grey areas.

Goerge Orwell shows that it’s easy to see in the real world how people can set themselves up as right and almost saint-like, before their real natures are revealed. My son has a copy and it’s great to see him enjoy it now the way I did.

4. Sholay

The National:

MY parents came from wealthy families in Pakistan but they came to the UK because they had a love match and it was a shock. My mum was a secretary and my dad worked on the buses.

When I was about ten, my dad came home and I was watching our black and white TV with the label from a Lucozade bottle in front of my eyes. He asked what I was doing and I said I was watching colour TV.

Nobody in our street had a colour TV, but that really upset him because he didn’t want us to lack anything. He worked double shifts and saved up and one Saturday the whole family went down to London in my dad’s Cortina and bought a Grundig TV set that was about the equivalent of a month’s wages.

We bought a clunky VHS with piano key buttons and four or five Indian movies, then took them home and stayed up til about 5am watching them. Sholay was based on The Magnificent Seven and starred Amitabh Bachchan (pictured left), a Bollywood hero. He and his mate are Jack-the-lads, then they come into this village and fall in love with local girls and have to fight for them. I wanted to be that anti-hero – Amitabh Bachchan was the guy we all wanted to be.

5. Being assaulted by the police

The National:

THIS was a significant turning point.

I was involved in student politics and we were flyposting when somebody shouted police were coming. We ran and I heard these footsteps behind me, somebody grabbed me and I shouted “I’ve stopped”. Somebody pushed me to the ground.

The next thing I felt my head being pulled up and smashed off the pavement, and my teeth start to crumble. Then it just went black.

When I came round I was crying, I was terrified. I’d grown up a mile from Toxteth where we’d heard stories of young black men dying in police vans.

The officer said they were going to take me back to the station – I thought they were going to finish me off.

I was asking why and he said “that’s what happens to black boys with big mouths”.

Then I was kicked in the face and the stomach, and I thought “I’m going to die tonight and I’m not going to die not shouting about it”.

I shouted for my life, I shouted for help. A German teacher-in-training heard and the lane filled up with students.

After that, I became extremely angry. I could quite easily have ended up in prison.

I’d wanted to be a journalist, but after the court case I told my dad I wanted to be a lawyer.

6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The National:

I GOT this when I went to work in Chicago for three months. It was recommended by a guy at a bookshop and, although I’d heard of Malcolm X, I didn’t really know about him.

This book just blew me away. His father was killed, his mother was remanded in a mental health institution and he was told, as a black child, there was no point in pursuing his dream.

His life went downhill and he became violent. His argument was for taking off the shackles of racism by any means necessary. I’m a peace-loving lawyer now, but I was very angry and became very radical.

7. Wham

The National:

I REMEMBER taking a picture of Andrew Ridgeley to the hairdressers and asking for his style. Wham were glam boys, the way they dressed and the hair.

Although I got into acid house and dance music, I’ve always liked my cheesy stuff. My karaoke song was George Michael’s Let’s Go Outside.

I also remember going to see Michael Jackson in Liverpool, which was amazing. His music has stuck through my playlists.

Unfortunately I’ve never been able to dance. The family make fun of my dad dancing, all I can do is jump up and down on the spot, which I still do at Sub Club every now and then.

8. Curlers bar in Glasgow

The National:

I WAS supposed to go into the Royal Air Force and came to Glasgow to study engineering. Liverpool had had the Toxteth riots and been decimated by the Tories, and Glasgow was in a bad way too.

The first night I went out to see the West End, but I turned in the wrong direction and ended up walking towards Maryhill and had stones thrown at me.

When I got back to my halls I was crying and wanted to come home, but I had a friend also from Liverpool, who asked what way I’d gone, then took me to Curlers.

I was mesmerised. I hadn’t been in a pub before. I didn’t drink at the time, but that only lasted a few months.

9. Strings of Life

The National:

MUSIC in the clubs was always chart stuff until Sub Club came along. That’s really the place that got me into dance music and gave me friendships for life. It broke down preconceptions for me – I’d come to Glasgow a bigot and a homophobe, but it was there I formed friendships with people from the gay community.

It was somewhere that broke down barriers on class, religion, sexuality, race, and it was one of the best clubs in the world. It still is.

Strings of Life by Derrick May made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I still blast it in my car, the kids go insane – “what is this?”

10. Justice for Surjit Singh Chhokar

The National:

I REMEMBER the humiliation and anger and upset I felt when two trials failed to deliver a conviction for the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, and two inquiries were whitewashes. Then the SNP brought in the Double Jeopardy Act that allowed us to get the case reopened. It was a revolutionary change that said “we will put victims’ rights at the heart of the criminal justice system”. And we won.

I knew that things had changed for the better, that genuine people were determined to root out institutional racism.

That was the one case that had broken my heart, that never went away, that I always had to argue about. We fought tooth and nail. The Chhokar family taught me a hell of a lot. When it gets tough, I remember Mr Chhokar, who was a warrior, who until his dying breath said “I have hope for justice”.