This is an extract from the talk Helen was due to give at this year’s conference:

The fight for fairness & justice:
I'm very angry about the injustice that working people face, the inequality of arms. To try to rectify this I represent families at inquests- at no cost to them. I want to share examples of some of my clients' cases. I hope that these will highlight the battles we face & the difference that good lawyers can make. Some of these cases also show that I have been personally targeted for standing up for what is right.

Rene Tkacik
Rene was killed on 7 March 2014 when nearly 1 tonne of wet shotcrete fell on him whilst he was working on Crossrail.

I represented his parents at the Inquest. Another firm represented Rene's widow. All his parents wanted was to find out why & how he had been killed. They brought no claim for compensation. They had found me through the press. I was the only solicitor who spoke out about health & safety concerns on the project.

Crossrail sacked Frank Morris for raising concerns about health & safety. Frank came to me for help when his union solicitors initially turned him away. Several years later Frank submitted a Subject Access Request & when he received his file it contained emails about me, which he sent to me. I wasn't aware at the time of Rene’s inquest in February 2015, that Crossrail, in their words, were monitoring my activities.

During the inquest there was an error in a press release issued by my then employers, Crossrail seized this opportunity to attempt to silence me. They made an application to the Coroner asking that she refer me to the Attorney General for contempt of court. They used information gained from their monitoring activities, which included a conversation which I had at a private lunch attended by a barrister, Keith Morton QC of Temple Garden Chambers, who failed to advise me that he had been instructed by Crossrail in relation to Rene's death.

The Coroner agreed with Crossrail & referred me for contempt. If found guilty, I faced up to 2 years in prison & I would have been struck off as a solicitor. After the Inquest, Crossrail continued to monitor me, including having a spy at a Blacklist Support Group meeting in Glasgow in March 2015.

On 11 March 2015, Crossrail's director of health & safety emailed his colleagues, including their external affairs director & asked "is it about time we got tougher with Ms Clifford?" They decided that they would continue to monitor me & take action if required. Fortunately justice prevailed & I was advised on International Workers' Memorial Day 2015, (how fitting that it should be on that date!) that the Attorney General found no case to answer & threw the referral out. I had been attending a memorial event at Tower Hill with Rene's sister, we put our arms around each other & both cried with relief. She told me that Rene was watching over me so that I could continue to fight for justice for him & others.

Rene's case was a fight at every stage. We secured a helpful narrative verdict at the inquest because his parents were represented by an experienced barrister & we challenged the Coroner to ensure that questions were asked of the witnesses so that the jury understood the extent of Crossrail's disregard for Rene's life. We had to push the HSE to prosecute by preparing hundreds of pages of analysis of the documents & of their own investigations. In the end they prosecuted the companies responsible, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) and Kier Infrastructure & Overseas. But they agreed a deal with those companies that they would plead guilty if the charges were amended so as to name the joint venture, BFK, a joint venture they had formed for Crossrail. Why would the companies want this? Could it be because the joint venture would cease to exist when the project ended & the reputational damage would die with it? While household names, BAM & Kier would not have to disclose the prosecution in future tenders?

Steps were then taken to try to prevent Rene's mum's victim impact statement being read in Court in July 2017 at the HSE hearing. We were able to insist & she asked me to read it on her behalf, which I did whilst the directors of BFK glared at me.

Attempts were made to try to prevent the press from seeing the Court documents to which they were entitled. I had to advise the reporters & the legal teams of their rights.

Following sentencing, a fine of £300,000 for killing Rene and fines for almost killing 2 other men, which came to a total of £1m. BFK asked for time to pay even though Construction News reported in May 2017 that they were the highest earners on the project, having been paid almost £677m.

I was interviewed by BBC news. The uncensored interview was shown that lunchtime. By the evening news it had been censored. Key quotes from Rene's family were removed & the T-Shirts of campaign group supporters who could be seen in the background were blanked out.

Helen Clifford is a solicitor who is renowned for fighting the toughest opponents.