Our Trustees

Rich Watts profile picture

Rich Watts

Rich joined DLS as Chair in February 2018. After starting his career as a Community Officer in local government he joined the Disability Rights Commission to support, promote and enhance disabled people’s rights and equality. Following this, for nearly 10 years he was director of a disabled people’s user-led organisation which ensured disabled people’s voices were represented, promoted independent living and provided a wide range of services with and for disabled people. After work with the Department of Health, the Office for Disability Issues, as a mental health specialist and at Think Local Act Personal , Rich is now the lead for strategy and scale in the Personalised Care Group at NHS England.

He lives with his wife and three children in Bath, where he is also a governor of his local primary school. He has lived experience of mental health problems.

Alexander Woolfson

Alexander Woolfson

Alexander Woolfson is a regular commentator on foreign affairs, with a particular focus on defence and security. He writes, lectures and consults for both the public and private sectors about managing risk in the changing security environment. Alexander is a former BBC radio producer for the ‘World at One’ and ‘PM’. He also served as senior communications adviser to the BBC. Educated at Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Harvard, Alexander holds a doctorate in the history of US grand strategy and has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University and the American Political Science Association. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Berit Thoresen

Berit Thoresen

Berit Thoresen joined the Board of Trustees in April 2016. Prior to that she was a volunteer at DLS’s office at the same time as studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice.  Berit has first hand experience of some of the legal fights disabled people and their carers may face, having had to fight herself to get provisions in place for her youngest son who has severe learning difficulties, left sided hemiplegia, severe epilepsy, and communication and behaviour difficulties.

Berit is also a trustee of another charity that provides services to children and adults with learning difficulties and has previously volunteered for Face2Face/Scope, Barnardo’s and the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Berit is originally from Denmark, where she studied for a Masters degree in Public Administration and worked as a consultant in Performance Audit in Norway before relocating to London.  Berit is married and has two sons

Brenda Parkes

Brenda Parkes

Brenda Parkes is an independent equality, diversity and human rights consultant who provides advice, guidance and training as well as conducts audits and investigations. Prior to becoming a consultant she worked at the Equality and Human Rights Commission as a senior lawyer carrying out regulatory work and providing legal advice to staff and Commissioners. She was previously at the Commission for Racial Equality where she worked initially on policy and casework handling individual complaints, and later on as a lawyer in the enforcement team. Brenda is also a member of the Discrimination Law Association which publishes briefings, holds seminars and submits responses to government consultations.

Brenda is a trustee of the Communities Empowerment Network which provides advocacy services to parents of children who have been excluded from school, including those at risk of permanent exclusion. She is also a trustee of the Race Equality Foundation which promotes race equality in social support and public services.

Laura McLeod

Laura has been a trustee of Disability Law Service since May 2017. After starting her career in Westminster working for a Member of Parliament for three years, at the time of joining Laura was the policy and advocacy manager for the Alcohol Health Alliance.

Laura joined DLS in order to make a contribution to the disability policy agenda. Laura is currently the Public Affairs Manager at The Electoral Commission.

She took on the challenge of running the London Marathon in 2018 for DLS.

Lynne Brooke

Lynne Brooke LL.B Solicitor

Lynne has been a solicitor for over 30 years, most of that time as a Partner and has wide experience of the law and its operation.  The rule of law is a framework for Civil Society in which enterprises contribute to the wellbeing and wealth of its citizens.

To enable enterprises to be established in the commercial and Social Economy that focus on risk management and wealth creation, six years ago Lynne started The Brooke Consultancy LLP as a new type of Law Firm to provide Business Advice in the Round for small to medium sized enterprises.

Lynne established and headed a Corporate Group for a medium sized law firm for four years

The Brooke Consultancy operates internationally and presently has business in China, Australia, India and Africa.

Lynne has a wide range of experience in corporate and commercial law. He has dealt with startups, growth companies, articles of association containing special provisions, privileges and protections, public companies worldwide in the resource sector, non-resident trusts, mergers and acquisitions, shareholders’ agreements, commercial contracts of all types, licences and franchises. He has acted for companies on AIM and Plus markets and now that it’s open to UK companies wishes to enable them to join the main market by way of a Standard Listing.

Lynne takes an active interest in the development of the Social Economy and has incorporated Community Interest Companies, advised and acted for charities and set up appropriate and sustainable structures.  He believes that social impact investing will become a principal driver for investors.

Lynne has been a long serving trustee on various Charities. He is Vice Chair of Westminster Mencap, Trustee of Kith and Kids, Disability Law Service, Secretary of Lawyers for People with Learning Disabilities and founder trustee of Newham Riding School Association known as Docklands Equestrian Centre.

Mark Newbery

Mark works at a City law firm which he joined in 1980. He spent two years in New York and four in Singapore with the firm and over his career has worked on over 200 projects in the power sector in more than 60 countries. He has been active in the firm’s pro bono initiatives over the years especially helping charities with their commercial contracts. He is also a director of a number of renewable energy companies.

As a trustee, he hopes to help DLS protect and enhance the rights of disabled people.

Nikki Talbot Hadley

Nikki Talbot Hadley joined the DLS Board of Trustees in April 2018. She is an independent barrister with a practice in criminal and family law but has spent the last three years working for the Department of Work and Pensions advising the Government on disability benefits and working in particular on PIP policy, appeals and legislation, and reasonable adjustments for disabled benefits claimants. She is eager to use her experience in assisting with PIP appeals for DLS. Prior to becoming a barrister, Nikki worked in Parliament, as a parliamentary research assistant and also as a freelance political consultant for various charities. As a barrister, Nikki regularly deals with people with mental and physical disabilities and vulnerable witnesses in court. She also volunteers with her local youth offending service as a community panel member for young people who have been given a referral order following a first conviction. 

Sarah Holloway

Sarah Holloway

Sarah became a Trustee of DLS in 2012, and was Chair between 2014 and 2017.

Sarah joined DLS in order to make a contribution to the protection of the rights of disabled people, and has a particular interest in the rights of people with mental health problems.

At the time of joining DLS, Sarah was Research and Evaluation lead for the mental health charity, Mind. Since then she has moved from the voluntary sector to the public sector, with roles at both the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health. Having returned to focus on mental health, Sarah currently works for NHS England where she leads a programme of work around improving the quality of community mental health services in England. Sarah works four days a week, with the fifth day reserved for looking after her young son.  

Vijay Samtani

Vijay Samtani

Vijay Samtani has been a trustee of Disability Law Service since April 2016. The majority of his professional life has been focused in IT and information security, working in a variety of large companies.

Vijay is currently Chief Information Security Officer at Cambridge University. He is a highly experienced security and risk technologist, and has designed and managed cyber security programmes for large and high-profile organisations, including the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Vijay has cerebral palsy. He has been fortunate not to have suffered from overt discrimination against him, but also fortunate to have had support from formal and informal advocates throughout his life. He worked for a period early in his career in a pioneering law firm that specialised in representing vulnerable people, and learned in that time how easily discrimination and legal processes can harm those without good representation and advice, and conversely, how important access to legal representation is in empowering disabled people.