Staff

Management

Niamh Eastwood
Executive Director
020 7324 2980

Niamh is Executive Director of Release. She is a non-practising barrister who started at Release in 2002 as a legal advisor. She has extensive experience of service delivery, policy strategy, fundraising and operational development. Having worked in drug policy for the last fifteen years Niamh is passionate about drug policy reform and believes that the most vulnerable in society are disproportionately impacted upon by the current drug laws.

Niamh has co-authored Release's two most recent policy papers 'The Numbers in Black And White: Ethnic Disparities In The Policing And Prosecution Of Drug Offences In England And Wales' and ‘A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Policies in Practice Across the Globe’. She has also co-authored and edited a number of Release's advice booklets including  ‘Drugs and the Law’ and ‘Sex Workers and the Law’, she regularly contributes to drug policy journals and publications. Niamh is also responsible for drafting many of Release's briefings for parliamentarians and policy makers. She has presented at international and national conferences and is regularly invited to comment in the media.

Niamh is an Associate of The London School of Economics IDEAS International Drug Policy Project, a member of the Expert Steering Group for the Global Drug Survey and is a visiting lecturer at the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University. She is also a committe member for DrugScience and has been a technical advisor to the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Kirstie Douse
Head of Legal Services
020 7324 2982

Kirstie was appointed Head of Legal Services in January 2012, having joined Release as a solicitor in 2008.

Before joining Release Kirstie practiced as a solicitor specialising in criminal defence. Having become disillusioned with the way drug users are dealt with in the criminal justice system, Kirstie joined Release with a view to tackling the problems at an earlier stage in proceedings by challenging policy and procedure. 

In addition to managing the Legal Team, Kirstie continues to advise clients at Release's legal surgeries and via the legal helpline.  She has become increasingly involved in the organisation’s policy and campaign work, and is passionate about tackling the stigma faced by people who use drugs. Kirstie provides comment in the media on legal and policy issues relating to drugs, and has also presented at national and international conferences.

Gary Sutton
Head of Drugs Services
020 7324 2971

Gary has over 20 years of experience working in the field of substance dependence including counselling (MSc in Therapeutic Counselling), outreach work and formerly managing the largest needle exchange project in London. With his unparalleled experience and knowledge of drugs many committees and working groups have requested his contribution, and he has held advisory positions with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the National Treatment Agency (NTA), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Parliamentary advisory forums. In addition, Gary has provided training for members of the RGCP, and has delivered lectures for the MSc in Addiction Studies at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London. Gary has authored a number of informative and educational publications including heroin treatment and dependence, and cannabis, and has presented on numerous drug related topics at national and international conferences. Additionally, Gary has provided over 200 expert reports in civil, criminal, medical and military drug cases, as well as testimony. He also delivers a weekly counselling service in a clinical environment in West London to individuals and groups alike including drug and alcohol matters.  Gary has professional memberships with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals, and the Expert Witness Institute.

Keith Edwards
Finance & Operations Manager
020 7324 2979

Keith does all the financial stuff for the organisation, as well as all of the office recycling - generally because no one else is willing to do it. He also provides operational support and the evaluation reports for the services we provide.

Legal

Lorna Macfarlane
Solicitor
020 7324 2984

Lorna obtained a degree in English Literature from Edinburgh University and worked for the BBC before re-training as a lawyer. She advises Release's clients on the helpline and at outreach projects, believing in accessible, good quality representation for all.

Donna Crentsil-Keane
Solicitor
020 7324 2983

Donna gained thorough experience in Criminal Law having worked for 5 years within Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service as both a Court Associate and Magistrates’ Court Legal Advisor. Donna is a Qualified Criminal Duty Solicitor who has also practiced and specialised in Criminal Law Defence.  She has also gained experience in Employment Law, Prison Law and Family Law. It is through her time in private practice that she gained an interest in taking up a role that would aim to make a huge difference in the lives of others. Donna currently attends several of Release's Outreach Projects across London where she advises clients on a variety of legal issues.

Stephen Cutter
Solicitor
020 7324 2986

Stephen joined Release in as a Trainee Solicitor through the Justice First Fellowship, and stayed with the charity when he qualified as a Solicitor in 2019, during which time he also completed a secondment with a focus on criminal defence work. He has a particular interest in housing and social security entitlements disputes, recognising both as vital to ensuring clients’ welfare. Stephen advises clients through the legal outreach projects in London and through the telephone and email advice services run by Release.

Prior to joining Release, he was employed by BPP University where he managed their Legal Advice Clinic, which provides free advice to members of the public in housing and family law, and other projects run by the Pro Bono Centre. He believes that all people must be able to access advice and justice, and campaigns against laws which marginalise the most vulnerable in society.

Winnie Schmidt
Trainee Solicitor
020 7324 2981

Winnie first joined Release as a legal volunteer in the summer of 2017 and became a trainee solicitor through the Justice First Fellowship in January 2019. She has a passion for working directly with vulnerable communities; over her time with Release she has gained experience in welfare benefits, housing, and debt law. 

Born in the USA and raised in the UK, Winnie earned a BA in Sociology from Reed College, Oregon, USA. She moved back to London in 2011 and started work in the PR industry, first for Brixton Market Traders Federation CIC, and then moving into music PR. She developed a keen interest for law and studied at the University of Law in London, where she earned a distinction on her Legal Practice Course.

She looks forward to continuing work toward increasing access to justice and pursuing a career in social welfare law. In her spare time she enjoys listening to podcasts, learning languages, and producing music. 

James Bunn
Paralegal
020 7324 2985

James volunteered for Release over summer 2017 whilst completing his Law degree at the University of East Anglia. During his time at university, James became aware of how legal processes create barriers for the most vulnerable and stigmatised people within society, limiting their access to the most essential of commodities - such as safe and suitable accommodation. After completing his LLB, James began working at the Beckley Foundation to greater facilitate research around psychedelic drugs. In early 2019, James became a full-time employee for Release.

James has previously contributed articles for TalkingDrugs, and lobbied for evidence-based drug policy for the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (UK).

Drugs

Daniel Williams
Drugs Researcher
020 7324 2987

Dan joined the drugs team at Release in the summer of 2011. He is currently researching for the Release website and Expert Witness Team. Dan has a legal background, having attained a Diploma in Law and currently completing his LLB. He has a long history of political interest and activism and is passionate about all human rights and social justice issues.

Administration

Avinash Tharoor
Policy and Communications Officer
020 7324 2978

Avinash joined Release in May 2016 as Policy and Communications Officer. He has previously worked as a journalist, and holds a postgraduate degree in International Public Policy from UCL.

Avinash manages TalkingDrugs, oversees Release's communications streams, and contributes to policy work and research.

Amal Ali
Youth Lead & Associate Researcher
020 7324 2990

Amal recently obtained an MA in Human Rights from University College London. She became fascinated in drug policy and the policing of drugs whilst undertaking a BSc in Public Health. In 2014, Amal joined Release as a voluntary peer trainer, and has since facilitated the Y-Stop programme in a number of settings - including referral units, universities, and many other youth-focused organisations. Amal has also presented Y-Stop's work internationally at the YOUth ACTivism Shaping Our Intercultural Europe conference 2015 in Budapest, Hungary.

Zoe Carre
Policy Researcher
020 7324 2997

In her role as Policy Researcher, Zoe regularly contributes to policy briefings, written submissions and consultation responses related to drug policy. She has also co-authored ‘Finding a Needle in a Haystack’, ‘The Colour of Injustice’ and ‘Taking the Hit’. Prior to joining Release, Zoe completed an MSc in Social Policy (Research) at the London School of Economics and Political Science and an LLB (Law) at Newcastle University, was a youth activist for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (UK), and worked in harm reduction and substance misuse services across the North East of England.

zoe