Last night, at the Chambers UK Bar Awards, Caoilfhionn Gallagher was named Human Rights and Public Law Junior of the Year.
The awards are based on research undertaken by Chambers and Partners for the 2017 edition of Chambers UK Bar, which will be published on 1 November 2016. They state that the awards reflect “pre-eminence in key practice areas [and] notable achievements over the past 12 months including outstanding work, impressive strategic growth and excellence in client service.”
Caoilfhionn was shortlisted along with David Blundell, Landmark Chambers, and Chris Buttler, Matrix Chambers.
Significant cases in which Caoilfhionn has acted in the past 12 months include:
- Benefit Cap: acting for the successful claimants in R (Hurley and Others) v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which established that the failure to exempt full-time carers for the severely disabled from the benefit cap was discriminatory and unlawful, in breach of Article 14 ECHR. Caoilfhionn led Sam Jacobs, and they were instructed by Rebekah Carrier, Hopkin Murray Beskine. More information is available here and details of the resulting change in the law are available here.
- #JusticeforLB: acting for the family of Connor Sparrowhawk, ‘Laughing Boy,’ who drowned when under the care of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, following an epileptic seizure while in a bath. An inquest jury found that Connor’s death was contributed to by neglect due to a number of very serious failings. The Trust has now accepted full responsibility for the death of Connor Sparrowhawk and has admitted that it was negligent and violated both Connor's and his family's human rights. Caoilfhionn was led by Paul Bowen QC and instructed by Charlotte Haworth Hird, Bindmans, and the legal team worked closely with INQUEST. More background is available here. Connor’s death sparked the #JusticeforLB campaign, and more information about that is available here.
- ‘Bedroom Tax’: acting for ‘A’, a victim of life-threatening domestic violence who lives in a specially adapted ‘Sanctuary Scheme’ home for her own safety, in challenging the discriminatory impact of the size criteria for housing benefit / ‘bedroom tax’. The Court of Appeal ruled that the failure to exempt A and others in her position from the criteria was discriminatory and unlawful. More background is available here. A 7-judge Supreme Court has heard an appeal in this case, and a number of joined cases, and judgment is awaited. Caoilfhionn led Katie O’Byrne in the High Court and they are now led by Karon Monaghan QC, with Rebekah Carrier, Hopkin Murray Beskine instructing. Supporting evidence was provided by Women’s Aid.
- Poppi Worthington: acting for 8 media organisations which succeeded in securing publication of details about the death of 13-month-old Poppi Worthington in December 2012, following a legal challenge and rulings by the High Court and Court of Appeal, due to the “very strong public interest” in allowing the media to report details of the "troubling circumstances" of the baby's death. The media were also permitted to report contemporaneously on care proceedings; this was the first time this novel step has been permitted. Caoilfhionn also acted for the media in challenging a 7-minute inquest into the death, which has since been found to be unlawful. She was instructed by Oliver Murphy, RPC. More background is available here.
- Hillsborough Inquests: acting for the family of John McBrien in the Hillsborough inquests, led by Heather Williams QC and instructed by Jules Carey and Lawrence Barker at Bindmans. Following inquest hearings which lasted for more than two years, a majority of the jury found that the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed. The jury also unanimously criticised many aspects of the arrangements for and management of the FA Cup Semi-Final at Hillsborough in 1989, including police planning, decision-making by commanding officers, policing on the day and the emergency response by the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service and the police. The conclusions came more than 27 years after the disaster. More information is available here.
- #NoChildinCells: She currently acts for children in a series of cases concerning the widespread practice of detaining children in adult cells in police stations (post-charge), despite obligations on local authorities and police to ensure that, if children are charged and refused bail, instead of being detained in a police cell they are transferred to local authority accommodation. She is instructed by Jennifer Twite, Hodge Jones and Allen and Just for Kids Law, and in one of the cases (R (B) v. Islington) she leads Mary-Rachel McCabe. You can read more about the #NoChildinCells campaign and the related litigation here.
Irish Legal News has reported on the award, which you can read here.