Caoilfhionn Gallagher

Year of Call

Caoilfhionn Gallagher

Caoilfhionn Gallagher is a public law specialist, with particular expertise in prison law, community care, children’s rights and inquest law. The majority of her work involves urgent human-rights related judicial review.


She is recognised as a Leading Junior in Public Law, Human Rights and Civil Liberties by the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. She has been described as “focused and deeply knowledgable about human rights” and a “tough negotiator” (Chambers & Partners 2010);  “one of the most hardworking and knowledgeable counsel” and “passionate about fairness and social justice” (Legal 500, 2011); a “talented advocate and absolute workaholic” who is “excellent with clients” (Chambers & Partners 2011); second to none when it comes to attention to detail," “in demand,” and “standing out for her ability to handle short-notice judicial reviews and her expertise” (Chambers and Partners 2012, which also states that, “one solicitor commented: "I don't need leading counsel with her as she is more than capable of holding her own"”).


Many of her cases and clients are high-profile and sensitive: for example, recent cases include acting for bereaved 7/7 families in the London Bombings inquests and related judicial review proceedings; representing Learco Chindamo, convicted of a high profile murder as a child, in a judicial review against the Parole Board; and acting for national media organisations in the Gareth Williams inquest. She is a Council of Europe expert in Articles 10 and 11 ECHR and has expertise and interest in open justice issues. She has authored a number of books and before coming to the Bar, she worked as an academic and civil liberties campaigner.

Community Care and Health

Caoilfhionn is one of a small number of individuals nationwide regularly instructed for claimants in urgent community care judicial reviews: for children in or leaving prison; children whose lives or well-being are at risk due to gang warfare or trafficking; children who are street homeless or otherwise in need of support or accommodation; disabled children without appropriate care packages; vulnerable adult prisoners seeking support whilst in custody or resettlement packages; and cases involving separation of mothers from newborn babies.

She has acted in many of the leading community care cases under ss. 17 and 20 Children Act 1989, including R (S) v Sutton (s. 20 duty triggered prior to a child leaving custody) and R (G) v Nottinghamshire CC & Nottingham University Hospital (unlawful removal of newborn baby from his mother, a care leaver; Article 8, common law and Children Acts: see coverage in the Guardian and Family Law Week. Many of her cases settle favourably at an early stage, achieving practical, speedy results for her vulnerable clients.

Caoilfhionn is currently acting in a number of novel and ground-breaking cases, instructed by the Official Solicitor to represent children of extraditees, relying on their rights under Article 8 ECHR and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  In these cases Caoilfhionn has used community care law (s. 17, Children Act 1989) to obtain evidence from social services of the likely impact of extradition upon the children, and to ensure that social services have proper contingency plans in place in the event that extradition proceeds. She has secured permission to file evidence and submissions on the children’s behalf in the Administrative/ Divisional Court pursuant to CPR r. 52.12A, the first time this provision has ever been used in this context. The Supreme Court has recently given judgment in the lead cases, HH & PH v. Deputy Prosecutor of the Italian Republic, Genoa; F-K v. Poland [2012] UKSC 25 (Caoilfhionn acted for the children X, Y and Z, who face being orphaned and the permanent break-up of the family unit due to the simultaneous extradition of both their parents).

She has written (with colleagues from Doughty Street) the leading text on Part III of the Children Act 1989, the key community care provisions for children and care-leavers: Children in Need: Local Authority Support for Children and Families (LAG, 2011).  She regularly writes on community care issues for journals such as the New Law Journal and provides training.

Administrative and Public Law

Caoilfhionn has a wide-ranging claimant public law practice at all levels. She regularly appears in the High Court and Court of Appeal (usually alone but occasionally led), and has also been instructed in House of Lords, Supreme Court, Privy Council and European Court of Human Rights cases.

Much of her judicial review work concerns vulnerable children, including those whose lives or physical safety are at risk from gang violence (such as former gang members fearing reprisals, and girls who have experienced gang-related sexual violence or sexual exploitation).  She has acted for many anonymous clients, in conjunction with Maxwell Gillott solicitors and Kids Company, in cases involving overlapping duties under Articles 2, 3 and 8 ECHR and the Children Acts 1989 and 2004.  She also acts for child trafficking victims in judicial review and related civil proceedings.

Caoilfhionn acts for claimants and third party interveners in public law cases raising human rights issues in a range of contexts. For example:

Guantanamo Bay

  • Intervention for a coalition of NGOs in R (Al Rawi and Others) v Secretary of State for the FCO and Secretary of State for the Home Department: UK's obligations concerning non-national UK residents detained in Guantanamo, settled prior to hearing in the House of Lords.

Misbehaviour in Public Office

  • Lawrence v. AG for Grenada [2007] UKPC 18, [2007] WLR (D) 76: constitutional definition of 'misbehaviour in public office'/ fair trial, led by Edward Fitzgerald QC.
  • In Re Chief Justice of Gibraltar: inquiry regarding the Chief Justice of Gibraltar, led by Edward Fitzgerald QC.

Electoral Law

  • Ali v Hacques (Re Election Petitions in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets) [2006] All ER (D) 113 (alleged impropriety in the conduct of local elections, with Gavin Millar QC).

Inquiries and Inquests

Caoilfhionn regularly acts in inquests for bereaved families whose loved ones have died in prison, or in other forms of state care. She also acts in inquests and inquiries which raise concerns about the failures of State agencies.

Caoilfhionn has acted for bereaved families and survivors of the 7/7 London Bombings since 2007. She acted for them in relation to their campaign for a public inquiry and full inquest, including the now-settled judicial review of R (Rachel North and Others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (review of government's refusal to institute an independent inquiry into intelligence failures prior to the bombings, and the adequacy of existing mechanisms of review and inquiry: see BBC News coverage and their submissions to the Intelligence and Security Committee.  She was  instructed in the inquests heard before Lady Justice Hallett at the Royal Courts of Justice (October 2010 – May 2011), which resulted in a Rule 43 report of unprecedented detail, making important recommendations for changes of practice and policy to many public agencies,  including MI5/ the Home Secretary, the London Ambulance Service, Transport for London and the London Underground. She also acted for her bereaved clients in R (Home Secretary) v HM Coroner for Inner West London [2010] EWHC 3098 (Admin) (whether a coroner has the power to exclude interested persons and their legal representatives from proceedings in the interests of national security).

Caoilfhionn also acted in the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry (an independent public inquiry into the murder of a solicitor in Northern Ireland, including questions of possible RUC collusion in her death), representing an NGO, British Irish Rights Watch, seeking intervenor status (with Andrew Nicol QC); the Gareth Willliams inquest (regarding the unexplained death of a GCHQ employee, found dead in a holdall in his flat), acting for national media organisations; and she has been instructed in relation to specific issues arising in the Leveson Inquiry.

Caoilfhionn’s Article 2 ECHR expertise means she is well-placed to act in inquests and related judicial review and civil claims.  She has acted in a series of high-profile claims concerning domestic violence/ stalking victims who died following inaction/ inadequate action by the police (led by Nicholas Bowen QC).

Prison Law and Criminal Justice

Caoilfhionn regularly undertakes prison-related judicial reviews. This includes:

  • judicial reviews of adjudications and appeals to the Ministry of Justice;
  • issues relating to healthcare and disability (Articles 3 and 8 ECHR, and the Equality Act 2010);
  • emergency Children Act 1989 cases concerning homeless, self-harming and vulnerable young people in and leaving custody;
  • Article 5 and Article 6 challenges to the Secretary of State and Parole Board;
  • separation of mother and baby, and placements in Mother and Baby Units;
  • challenges to sentence miscalculations;
  • challenges to revocation of licences and recalls to custody;
  • matters arising in privately run/ 'contracted out' prisons.

She has given expert evidence to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on electronic tagging, and has particular expertise in the structural and logistical flaws in the recall procedures for individuals on licence with a 'tag'.

In addition to prison-related judicial review, Caoilfhionn regularly represents lifers, IPPs and recalled prisoners before the Parole Board. She also represents prisoners wishing to transfer jurisdiction, including many UK-based Irish prisoners who wish to serve the remainder of their sentences in Ireland

Media, Privacy and Information Law

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