Alison Pickup

Year of Call

Alison Pickup
What others say

"An outstanding public lawyer, incredibly hard-working, writes really well and legally solid." "The quality of her work is outstanding. She is focused and committed, processes huge amounts of evidence like a computer and produces beautifully drafted and tight analysis." (Chambers UK 2016, Administrative and Public Law)


"She is extremely reliable, well organised, calm, focused and able to think strategically." (Chambers UK 2015, Immigration)


‘‘Extremely able; she punches well above her weight given her call.’ (Legal 500 2016, Civil Liberties and Human Rights) 



Alison is a public law practitioner specialising in immigration, asylum and migrants’ rights in the wider contexts of unlawful detention, community care, asylum support, and access to justice. The cross-disciplinary nature of her claimant-focused work means that she is able to advise on several different aspects of a client’s case, such as their immigration status, the lawfulness of any detention, and their rights and entitlements to community care and other benefits including asylum support. 


Alison is concerned to protect access to justice for vulnerable people and is junior counsel in two of the leading challenges to the legal aid cuts – R (Public Law Project) v Lord Chancellor [2014] EWHC 2365 (Admin) and [2015] EWCA Civ 1193 (the challenge to the proposed ‘residence test’ for legal aid: Supreme Court judgment pending) and R (Gudanavicience & Others) v Director of Legal Aid Casework & Lord Chancellor [2014] EWCA Civ 1622 (which has established that Article 8, ECHR may require legal aid to be provided in immigration cases). In July 2015 she was awarded the Legal Aid Barrister of the Year award by the Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group in recognition of her work on these and other cases and in October 2015 was awarded Human Rights and Public Law Junior of the Year at the Chambers and Partners Bar Awards. She is also involved in campaigning against the legal aid cuts more generally and is happy to advise on the availability of exceptional case funding.


Alison has been appointed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to its panel of preferred counsel. 

Immigration Asylum and Personal

Alison is regularly instructed in publicly and privately funded appeals in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (First-tier and Upper Tribunals) and in immigration judicial review claims. Before coming to the Bar Alison had worked as an immigration caseworker since 2001, including over three years at the Refugee Legal Centre. She has co-authored (with Mark Henderson) online updates to the Best Practice Guide to Asylum and Human Rights Appeals published on the Electronic Immigration Network (in 2012 and in 2015). She is experienced in handling urgent judicial review challenges to removal as well as unlawful detention claims. Alison advises on all aspects of immigration law and on issues relating to migrants’ rights in other areas of her practice, such as claims for damages for immigration detention, prisoners’ rights, asylum support and community care including age dispute judicial reviews in the Upper Tribunal. Alison has been recommended for immigration in the Legal 500 every year since 2010 and in Chambers and Partners since 2011.

Significant cases include:

  • Alison acted as co-counsel (with Alasdair Mackenzie) for the appellant MP in the most recent Country Guidance case on Sri Lanka in the Upper Tribunal, GJ & Others [2013] UKUT 00319 (IAC), and on appeal to the Court of Appeal in MP and NT (Sri Lanka) [2014] EWCA Civ 829 (led by Raza Husain QC). GJ & Others led to a radical change in the Country Guidance on the safety of return to Sri Lanka and the Upper Tribunal heard five days of evidence. MP’s appeal to the Supreme Court was heard in May 2016 and judgment is pending on the question of whether he is entitled to humanitarian protection under the Qualification Directive as a result of the finding of the Upper Tribunal that his removal to Sri Lanka would breach Article 3, ECHR because of the impact on his mental health.
  • Alison acted between February 2010 and July 2012 as junior counsel (led by Mark Henderson and (in the Court of Appeal) Dinah Rose QC) in R (NS) v SSHD [2013] QB 102, the leading authority on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the UK. The CJEU’s judgment made a number of significant findings about the application of the EU Charter, including that the UK/Polish Protocol is not an “opt out”, and that governments are not entitled to apply a conclusive presumption that other EU Member States comply with EU law when transferring asylum seekers to other EU States under the Dublin Regulation. The Government subsequently accepted that it would be unlawful to transfer any asylum seekers to Greece until there are significant improvements in the Greek asylum system.
  • Alison also represented the appellant in SK (Zimbabwe) [2012] EWCA Civ 807; [2012] 1 W.L.R. 2809 (led in the Court of Appeal by Richard Hermer QC), in which the Court of Appeal considered the application of the exclusion clause in Article 1F(a) of the Refugee Convention on the grounds of involvement in crimes against humanity in the case of a woman who had been a member of a Zanu-PF youth militia and involved in invasions of white farms in Zimbabwe.

Administrative and Public Law

Alison regularly acts for claimants in judicial review proceedings challenging the decisions of public authorities. These including judicial review claims relating to immigration matters, unlawful detention under immigration powers, asylum support, community care particularly relating to the Children Act 1989, and prisoners’ rights.

Alison has a particular interest and expertise in the implications of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’) for the availability of legal aid in the fields of immigration, asylum and asylum support. She has provided advice and training to NGOs and others on the scope of legal aid under the Act and use of the exceptional funding provisions. She has spoken to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid, Young Legal Aid Lawyers and the No Recourse to Public Funds Network on the implications of LASPO. She contributed to the immigration section of the Bar Council's Civil Legal Aid Committee response to the consultation on Legal Aid Reform in 2010 and drafted the response of Doughty Street's Immigration Team. As well as the cases referred to below Alison acts on behalf of The Children’s Society in an ongoing challenge to the lack of legal aid for non-asylum immigration cases of unaccompanied and separated children.

Significant current and recent cases include:

  • R (Public Law Project) v Secretary of State for Justice [2014] EWHC 2365 (Admin); [2015] EWCA Civ 1193 – Alison is junior counsel for Public Law Project in its challenge to the Government’s decision to introduce a residence test for civil legal aid. PLP was successful before a three-judge Divisional Court, which held that the residence test would be ultra vires and unjustifiably discriminatory. The Court of Appeal allowed the SSJ’s appeal but on 18 April 2016, at the end of the first day of the hearing, the Supreme Court announced that it was allowing PLP’s appeal. Judgment is awaited.
  • R (SF) v SSHD [2015] EWHC 2705 (Admin) – a successful challenge to a negative ‘conclusive grounds’ decision by the National Referral Mechanism finding that SF was not a victim of trafficking. The High Court gives important guidance on the level of scrutiny required of trafficking decisions which engage the protection of the prohibition of slavery servitude and forced or compulsory labour under Article 4 ECHR.
  • R (Gudanaviciene & Others) v Director of Legal Aid Agency & Lord Chancellor [2014] EWHC 1840 (Admin); [2014] EWCA Civ 1622 – The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s findings as to the existence of a procedural obligation under Article 8 to grant legal aid in immigration cases where necessary to ensure effective access to a fair procedure, and rule the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on Exceptional Funding under LASPO unlawful. Alison was junior counsel for the claimant ‘B’, an Iranian refugee, who sought legal aid in relation to an application for family reunion with her husband and son.
  • R (Refugee Action) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 1033 (Admin) – Alison was junior counsel in this successful challenge by the NGO Refugee Action to a decision by the Home Secretary not to increase the rate of cash support paid to asylum seekers for the third successive year. The High Court quashed the Secretary of State’s decision as irrational and ordered a reconsideration of the amount currently paid, £36.62 per week for single adults.


Alison is ranked in Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 in Administrative and Public Law.

Actions Against the Police and Public Authorities

Alison is especially interested in issues arising out of unlawful detention under the Immigration Acts. She has extensive experience of bail hearings in the First-tier Tribunal, and acts pro bono for Bail for Immigration Detainees as well as in privately and publicly funded cases. She frequently advises on unlawful detention claims (both judicial review and civil claims for damages) and has successfully settled many damages claims against the Home Office for periods of detention ranging from a few days to more than two years. She acted with Paul Bowen for Medical Justice in its intervention in R (MD (Angola) & Others) v SSHD [2011] EWCA Civ 1238, which challenged the detention and treatment of immigration detainees who were HIV positive. She also represented the claimant in R (M) v SSHD [2012] EWHC 1424 (Admin), establishing that a Somali man who had been separated from his wife and children had been unlawfully detained for ten months, and for the claimant in R (N) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 1593 (Admin), securing the release of a mentally ill man of disputed nationality who had been detained for two years following the end of a prison sentence.

Alison also advises on claims for damages for false imprisonment and related breaches of human rights arising in other contexts, and is particularly interest in the obligations of public authorities towards victims of trafficking. Alison was junior counsel to Paul Bowen acting on behalf of the Interveners (Inquest, JUSTICE, Liberty and Mind) in Rabone v Pennine Care NHS Trust [2012] UKSC 2 [2012] 2 AC 72 (whether there is an operational obligation under Article 2 ECHR to take reasonable steps to protect psychiatric in-patients who are not detained from taking their own lives).

Since 2010 Alison has acted as junior counsel in a series of claims brought by Iraqi civilians against the Ministry of Defence for damages arising out of their arrest, detention, ill-treatment and in some cases the death of their relatives during the occupation of Iraq and while the British army remained in Iraq until 2009. During 2014-2015, the High Court has considered a series of preliminary legal issues in relation to the outstanding claims. In one such case, Al-Waheed v MOD [2014] EWHC 2714 (QB), the High Court granted a leapfrog certificate to the Supreme Court in order for it to determine whether domestic courts should follow the decision of the House of Lords in Al-Jedda [2007] UKHL 58, or of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (2011) 53 EHRR 23. The appeal was heard on 1-4 February 2016 together with the appeal of the MOD in Serdar Mohammed.

Alison is recommended in Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 in civil liberties and human rights.

Community Care and Health

Alison frequently advises on issues arising from asylum support provision. She also acts in challenges to decisions made by local authorities in connection with the provision of accommodation and services under part 3 of the Children Act 1989 and has been particularly involved in cases involving migrant families. She regularly appears as a pro bono advocate at the First-Tier Tribunal (Asylum Support) on behalf of the Asylum Support Appeals Project. She acted with Mark Henderson in an intervention by Refugee Action in R (MK and AH) v SSHD [2012] EWHC 1896 (Admin), in which the High Court held that the Home Office policy of delaying consideration of applications for support made by asylum seekers who had made a subsequent claim for asylum was unlawful as it created an unacceptable risk of Article 3 breaches and was junior counsel for Refugee Action in its successful challenge to the asylum support rates in 2014. Alison is an active member of the Housing and Immigration Group. In R (MG (Iran)) v SSHD [2015] EWHC 3142 (Admin) the High Court upheld a challenge to the refusal of the SSHD to pay additional support to the claimant, an asylum seeker in receipt of asylum support of £36.95 per week, to enable him to travel the distance of more than 120 miles to visit his British son who lived with his mother, the claimant’s ex-partner. The Court held that the given the SSHD’s inability to provide the Claimant with accommodation any closer to his son, the refusal to assist with the costs of travel was unlawful and a breach of Article 8, ECHR.

Alison is instructed in cases raising issues of EU law particularly in the context of entitlement to social security benefits. She was junior counsel to Simon Cox in Patmalniece v SSWP [2011] UKSC 11; [2011] 1 WLR 783 (whether the restriction of State Pension Credit to those with a right to reside in the UK was unlawfully discriminatory on grounds of nationality against other EU citizens who were habitually resident in the UK) and R (Tilianu) v SSWP [2010] EWCA Civ 1397 (whether a worker who, after a period of self-employment followed by a period of illness during which he was hospitalised, was involuntarily unemployed retained a right of residence).

Prison Law and Criminal Justice

Alison acts in Parole Board cases and advises on legal issues arising from imprisonment including claims for disability and race discrimination, and challenges to categorisation and allocation decisions. She has provided training on adjudication appeals and challenges at the Association of Prison Lawyers’ conference and on foreign national prisoners and discrimination for the Prisoners Advice Service. She has a particular interest in the rights of foreign national prisoners and the application of policies on temporary release and allocation to open conditions to prisoners facing deportation.

In R (Baybasin) v MOJ (November 2010), Alison was instructed as junior to Paul Bowen. The MOJ settled this claim for unlawful disability discrimination by a paraplegic wheelchair user who had been held in appalling conditions in HMP Belmarsh since February 2004 the week before a five-day hearing in the High Court. The MOJ accepted that it had unlawfully discriminated against Mr Baybasin by failing to provide him the means to use the toilet and bathe independently, apologised to him, and paid him compensation for the injury to his feelings. 

Equality and Discrimination

Alison has a keen interest in equality and discrimination issues. In 1998 – 1999, she spent a year as a research intern at the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) in Budapest researching discrimination against Roma in employment among other issues. She has been instructed to advise on potential discrimination claims arising in the prison, mental health, immigration detention, education and public authority fields. These have included the claim in Baybasin, noted above.

Alison has been appointed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to its panel of preferred counsel.


  • Wise et al, "Children in Need: Local authority support for children and families" (LAG,  2nd edition, 2013) – lead author for chapter on migrant children and their families
  • Henderson and Pickup, "Best Practice Guide to Asylum and Human Rights Appeals" (2015 electronic edition on EIN website please see here.)
  • Clements and Thompson, "Community Care and the Law" (5th Edition, LAG, 2011) – revised and updated chapter on Asylum seekers and other overseas nationals
  • Chapter 7: Arrest and Detention (with Ruth Brander) in Colvin & Cooper (Eds), "Human Rights in the Investigation and Prosecution of Crime" (OUP, 2009).  

Alison regularly delivers training on the areas of law in which she specialises to lawyers, NGOs and others. She is happy to consider providing bespoke in-house training packages and webinars. 



BA (Hons) (Cantab) Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Hungarian)

MA (London) in Understanding and Securing Human Rights (Distinction)

PgDL (Distinction)

Middle Temple Queen Mother Scholar 


Alison’s BA degree was in French and Hungarian. She also speaks Slovak to a very high standard and conversational Brazilian Portuguese. 



Alison is a member of the following professional associations:

  • Administrative Law Bar Association
  • Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association
  • Discrimination Law Association

Alison is a member of the Expert Panel of the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Young Migrants 

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