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  • Writer's pictureArjun Gananathan

Benjamin Aina: A Bio & Episode Summary

Benjamin Aina was born in London into a single-parent, working class household. His mother, who had immigrated to England from Nigeria, was a canteen assistant for the London Metropolitan Police. Aina described himself as a rebellious child who often found himself in trouble. At the age of 11, Aina enrolled in Woolverstone Hall, a state-run boarding school just south of Ipswich. Its military-style pedagogy transformed his behavior; he was forced early on to develop a sense of resiliency and self-confidence. Barely two years later, Aina was placed into a foster family in East London, after his mother decided to move back to Nigeria. After graduating from Woolverstone Hall, Aina enrolled in the Chelmer Institute of Higher Education (today Anglia Ruskin University), where he studied law. He later obtained an LLM from the University of London, before sitting and passing the Bar in 1987.

Pictured: Benjamin Aina (right) with journalist Luke Hanrahan. Source: Facebook

As an advocate, Aina has developed an expertise in both civil and criminal litigation. He has worked extensively on matters ranging from commercial fraud and personal injury to murder. Aina is also well-known for his work as both a defense attorney and as a prosecutor. In March of 2009, Aina was appointed Queen’s Counsel, and was later appointed to the Serious Fraud Office QC List. He has also acted as standing counsel to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and as an assessor for the Crown Prosecution Service Higher Advocates Panel.

Our interview begins with a discussion of one of Aina’s more significant cases as a barrister. Despite having worked primarily as defense counsel, Aina was tasked with prosecuting the leadman of a popular early-2000s rap group, So Solid Crew.

The So Solid Crew at the Brit Awards in 2002

The optics were delicate. It was rare at the time for a Black barrister to act as a prosecutor, and even rarer for a Black barrister to prosecute a Black defendant. The action was perceived by many in the Black community as an attempt to suppress and censor artistic commentary on young Black culture. Consequently, Aina received threats, and was strongly advised by his colleagues to drop the case altogether. This did not stop Aina, however. The defendant was eventually convicted of possessing a prohibited firearm, and was sentenced to four years in prison. This anecdote perfectly encapsulates Benjamin Aina: A tenacious and proficient advocate who is committed not only to his craft, but to the wider legal profession and his community.

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