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Heather specialises in employment law and in human rights cases, including civil actions, judicial review and inquests.

She is known for her involvement in complex civil tort claims and public law challenges against prosecuting and detaining authorities; and for her employment and discrimination work.  In recognition of her standing in these areas, she is ranked in the 2021 Chambers & Partners Directory as a “Star Individual” in the Police Law: Mainly Claimant category and as a Band 1 Leading Silk for her Civil Liberties and Human Rights work. She is also a ranked Silk in the Inquests & Inquiries, Administrative & Public Law, Employment Law and Protest Law sections and in the equivalent categories in the Legal 500 Directory. Heather led a team acting for a bereaved family at the Hillsborough Inquests and is lead counsel for the Hillsborough claimants in their misfeasance claims against the police. Heather has appeared in recent leading employment law cases, including Smith v Pimlico Plumbers in the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Robinson v His Highness Al Qasimi in the Court of Appeal.

She sits as a Deputy High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court and Employment Appeal Tribunal) and as a Recorder in both Crime and Civil on the Northern Circuit. She has sat as a part-time Employment Judge, an Assistant Coroner and as a QC Member of the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service’s Disciplinary Pool. She is a former Chair of the Royal Mail’s National Appeals Panel and the Legal Aid Agency’s Special Controls Review Panel. Heather is a London School of Mediation trained commercial mediator and has experience as a judicial mediator in the Employment Tribunal.

She is the leader of the Doughty Street Chambers’ Actions Against the Police & other Public Authorities Team and the Employment & Discrimination Team.

What the Directories Say

“She’s utterly outstanding; she picks up the issues in a heartbeat.” (Chambers & Partners Directory 2021, Employment – London (Bar) category)

“She’s a brilliant legal mind whose unswerving commitment to her clients is matched by her highly organised approach to managing the case” (Chambers & Partners Directory 2021, Police Law, Mainly Claimant category)

“She has the full respect of the court and that is invaluable. She is also extremely intelligent and very much to the point” (Chambers & Partners Directory 2021, Protest Law category)

“Heather is brilliant; she’s really smart and a very powerful advocate.” (Chambers & Partners Directory 2021, Civil Liberties & Human Rights category)

“She cannot be faulted: she’s brilliantly clever, extraordinary at writing and very reliable. I have complete faith in her.” (Chambers & Partners Directory 2021, Inquests & Public Inquiries – London (Bar) category)

“She is incredibly well prepared and very effective.” (Chambers & Partners Directory 2021, Employment – London (Bar) category)

“One of the foremost silks of her generation”  (Legal 500 Directory 2020, Civil Liberties and Human Rights category)

Publications/Seminar

Heather is currently a contributing author to the leading employment law loose-leaf textbook, Harvey on Industrial Relations and Employment Law. She co-authored the textbook on police law, “Police Misconduct: Legal Remedies” (4th ed) published by the Legal Action Group in 2004. 

Actions Against the Police and Public Authorities

For the last decade Heather has been consistently ranked as one of the leading practitioners in the country for Police Law claimant-based work in the Chambers & Partners Directory and she is currently one of only two Silks rated as a “Star Individual”.  

Over the years, she has appeared in a number of the leading appellate cases in this area including: Copeland v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (when a police officer can be a ‘prosecutor’ for the tort of malicious prosecution); Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex (police’s duty  to victims  of crime); Austin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (legality of the police tactic of “kettling”); and ZH v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (first successful disability discrimination claim and first successful breach of Article 3 ECHR claim by a member of the public against the  police).

Heather led a small team of lawyers acting for a bereaved family at the Hillsborough Inquest. She questioned all of the senior police officers who gave evidence and made legal submissions on multiple issues. She now acts as lead counsel in the group litigation misfeasance damages claims brought by over 600 claimants in relation to the cover-up after the disaster.

Heather represents a number of core participants in the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry, including: (1) Neville Lawrence, father of Stephen, who she has acted for and advised over many years; (2) victims of deceptive sexual relationships initiated by undercover officers; and (3) families who discovered the identities of their deceased children had been used as fake identities by undercover officers. She has given the live-streamed opening statements on behalf of each of these groups of clients. She also acted in related civil litigation, including: AJA v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, a compensation claim brought by women who were deceived by undercover police officers into having sexual relationships; for a woman who was left to bring  up a child after the undercover officer who fathered him disappeared, whose claim settled for £425,000; and in successfully resisting the police’s attempt to strike out her son’s High Court claim: TBS v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

Heather acts for Sam Hallam, who spent over seven years in prison before his murder conviction was quashed. She argued in the Supreme Court that the restrictive definition of a “miscarriage of justice” used for statutory compensation purposes, offends the presumption of innocence contained in the European Convention on Human Rights: R (Hallam & Nealon) v Secretary of State for Justice. She is now involved in his application to the European Court of Human Rights, pursuing this issue.

She was lead counsel for the claimants in the first case to establish that police owed a duty under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to take reasonable care to protect life in relation to real and immediate risks arising from a police pursuit: Seddon v Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.

Heather also represented anti-fracking protestor, Joe Boyd, in his successful Court of Appeal challenge to injunctive relief obtained by INEOS: Boyd v INEOS Upstream Ltd, which is now one of the leading cases on when injunctions can be obtained against ‘Persons Unknown’. More recently she acted for HS2 protestor Elliott Cuciurean, persuading the Court of Appeal to half his suspended sentence of imprisonment for contempt of court.

Administrative and Public Law

Heather’s judicial review work focuses upon discrimination issues and coronial, policing and prosecutorial decisions.

She successfully persuaded the Divisional Court to quash the Coroner’s determination that Article 2 ECHR was not engaged in relation to potential failings to protest the life of Susan Nicholson, before she was murdered by her partner Robert Trigg: R (Skelton) v HM Coroner for West Sussex.

She acts for Sam Hallam, who spent over seven years in prison before his murder conviction was quashed. She argued in judicial review proceedings in the Supreme Court that the restrictive definition of a “miscarriage of justice” used for statutory compensation purposes, offends the presumption of innocence contained in the European Convention on Human Rights: R (Hallam & Nealon) v Secretary of State for Justice. She is now involved in his application to the European Court of Human Rights, pursuing this issue.

Heather led the legal team acting for anti-fracking protestor Joe Boyd in his successful Court of Appeal challenge to the wide-sweeping injunction granted by the High Court (Boyd v INEOS Upstream Ltd). This is now one of the leading cases on when pre-trial injunctive relief can be granted against ‘persons unknown’.

She acted as leading counsel for interveners, Humanists UK in R (A & B) v Secretary of State for Health, the Supreme Court appeal concerning the lack of free abortions on the NHS to women and girls who travel from Northern Ireland because of the very restrictive abortion laws that operate there.

Heather has acted as leading counsel in judicial review applications concerning failures to suspend police officers to prevent them from retiring and thereby rendering disciplinary proceedings impossible: R (L) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and R (AB) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

She represented the claimants in their judicial review challenge to failures to take effective action in response to the high number of prisoner suicides at HMP Woodhill: R (Scarfe) v Governor of HMP Woodhill and acted for INQUEST in their intervention in SSHD v HM Senior Coroner for Surrey (use of public interest immunity powers in relation to inquests).

Examples of Heather’s earlier successful judicial review  work include: acting for Neville Lawrence in his challenge to the  Crown Prosecution Service’s earlier conclusion not to prosecute further in relation to his son’s murder (before the recent successful re-investigation and prosecution); R (Miller) v Independent Assessor (a leading authority on the valuation of compensation for long-term unlawful detention); and R (Houchin) v Secretary of State for Justice (unprecedented mandatory relief granted in respect of the Secretary of State’s refusal to accept the Parole Board’s recommendation to return the claimant to open prison conditions).

Her cases have also included: R (Miller & Ors) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (a judicial review challenge which secured an agreement for a further investigation into the collapse of the criminal prosecution against police officers who allegedly brought about her clients wrongful convictions for the murder of Lynette White); R (Dowsett) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (legality of rub down searches of male prisoners); and R (O’Brien) v Director of Public Prosecutions (a challenge to a CPS’ decision not to prosecute an officer for apparently fabricating a confession).

Employment Law and Industrial Relations

Heather has acted in a number of recent high profile appellate cases. Smith v Pimlico Plumbers, where her submissions were described as “outstanding” by the President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, concerned the circumstances in which an entitlement to annual leave can be carried forward where an employer denies the existence of the right. She appeared in Robinson v His Highness Al Qasimi, which raises the scope of the illegality defence in employment cases after the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Patel v Mirza and tis he first time the Court of Appeal has considered the unfair dismissal interim relief jurisdiction. She also acts in a test case regarding the status of DPD drivers.  

Heather is also particularly known for her discrimination work. She represented television presenter Miriam O’Reilly in her successful landmark age discrimination claim against the BBC. She has acted for a number of senior lawyers and City analysts who have attained substantial financial settlements or awards in gender discrimination claims. She acted for the claimant television news producer in Grisanti v NBC News, obtaining a significant ruling on the applicable limitation period in contractual claims in Employment Tribunals (before settlement of the case was reached). 

She has considerable experience of conducting employment cases at an appellate level. She acted for the successful claimant in Singh v Governors of Moorlands Primary School before the Court of Appeal, who ruled that the Employment Tribunal had wrongly applied the scope of judicial proceedings immunity in striking out her claims. She also appeared in the Court of Appeal for the claimant in Turner v East Midlands Trains the leading case on the interface between Article 8 ECHR and the conventional approach of Employment Tribunal’s to unfair dismissal claims. She acted for the claimants in X & M v Y in their successful appeal to the EAT challenging the imposition of a lengthy stay of their tribunal claims.

Her earlier appellate cases include Ministry of Defence v Cartner (sex discrimination in relation to a non sea-going female naval officer), Oyarce v Cheshire County Council (burden of proof in victimisation claims) and O’Hanlon v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (sick pay policies and disability discrimination).  

Equality and Discrimination

Heather has been described in the Chambers & Partners Directory as “a leader in the field of discrimination”. She has extensive experience of bringing discrimination claims both in the employment and in the public law and services contexts.

In terms of her employment work, she represented television presenter Miriam O’Reilly in her successful, landmark age discrimination claim against the BBC. She has also acted in a number of significant appellate cases, including Singh v Governors of Moorlands Primary School (whether employer’s conduct in defence of discrimination claims was caught by judicial proceedings immunity in respect of a subsequent constructive unfair dismissal claim); Ministry of Defence v Cartner (sex discrimination in relation to a non sea-going female naval officer), Oyarce v Cheshire County Council (burden of proof in victimisation claims) and O’Hanlon v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (sick pay policies and disability discrimination). Over the years, Heather has acted for a number of senior lawyers and City analysts who have attained substantial financial settlements or awards in gender discrimination claims.

Heather also has substantial experience of discrimination claims in the public law sphere. She acted as leading counsel for interveners, Humanists UK, in R (A & B) v Secretary of State for Health, the Supreme Court discrimination appeal concerning the lack of free abortions on the NHS to women and girls who travel from Northern Ireland because of the very restrictive abortion laws that operate there.

She has brought discrimination claims in respect of failures to protect or support victims of crime, arrests, police stop and search powers and prison conditions. Her cases include: ZH v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (the first successful claim for disability discrimination in relation to police officers’ treatment of a member of the public); and R (Dowsett) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (a challenge to the Prison Service’s policy on rub-down searches of male prisoners as sexually discriminatory). She recently acted in a disability discrimination claim against Nottinghamshire Police for a client with autism and ADHD.

Heather is currently leading counsel in a cutting edge disability discrimination claim arising from a student’s suicide, concerning the extent of a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the way components of a physics degree course were tested, Abrahart v University of Bristol.

She also acted for Liberty in its intervention in judicial review proceedings challenging the conditions for detainees at Brook House IRC as discriminatory on religious grounds: R (Hussein) v SSHD.

Immigration Detention

Heather has acted in a number of cases relating to unlawful immigration detention, including both judicial review applications and private law claims for damages.  She acted for the successful claimant in R (A Iraq) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, securing his release from detention on the basis that he could not be deported to Iraq within a reasonable time given the political situation at the time and she then acted in respect of the subsequent resolution of his compensation claim. 

She was instructed by Liberty in its recent intervention in judicial review proceedings challenging the conditions for detainees at Brook House IRC as discriminatory on religious grounds: R (Hussein) v SSHD.

In advising on quantum in relation to claims concerning unlawful immigration detention, she is able to deploy her considerable experience of acting for victims of miscarriages of justice who have suffered long periods of wrongful imprisonment.  She appeared in R (Miller) v Independent Assessor, a leading authority on the valuation of compensation for long-term unlawful detention.

Inquiries and Inquests

Heather has extensive experience of inquests and public inquiries.

She led a small team of lawyers acting for a bereaved family at the Hillsborough Inquest and questioned all of the senior police officers who gave evidence and made legal submissions on multiple issues. She acts as lead counsel in the group litigation misfeasance damages claims brought by over 600 claimants in relation to the cover-up after the disaster.

Having persuaded the Divisional Court to quash the Coroner’s decision that Article 2 ECHR was not engaged in R (Skelton) v HM Coroner for West Sussex, Heather acts for Susan Nicholson’s family in relation to the inquest which will explore the potential failures to protest Susan from being murdered by her then partner, Robert Trigg.

She acted for bereaved families in the resumed 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings Inquest, where the jury considered the roles played by the police and other agencies and found that the deceased had been unlawfully killed by the IRA.

Heather has acted for bereaved families at a number of other Inquests where deaths occurred in a policing context.  She has particular experience of cases involving deaths following high-speed police pursuits and shootings by firearms officers (including the inquests into the deaths of Dean Joseph and Richard Davies). 

Heather has secured neglect findings in respect of the failings of Health Trust personnel in inquests concerning the deaths of vulnerable people with mental health problems (Christopher Brennan and Natalie Gray).  She also represented the parents of Elliott Johnson, the young Conservative activist who died in 2015, at the high-profile inquest into his death.

Heather acts for a number of core participants in the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry, including: (1) Neville Lawrence, father of Stephen, who she has acted for and advised over many years; (2) victims of deceptive sexual relationships initiated by undercover officers; and (3) families who discovered that the identities of their deceased children were used as fake identities for undercover officers. Heather recently gave the live-streamed opening statements on behalf of these groups of clients.

Prison Law and Criminal Justice

Heather has substantial experience of unlawful detention and related issues in the prisons context. Her cases include both applications for judicial review and private law claims for damages. She acted for the successful claimant in R (Houchin) v Secretary of State for Justice, regarding the Secretary of State’s refusal to accept the Parole Board’s recommendation to return him to open prison conditions; and she also represented him in his subsequent misfeasance claim arising from his transfer to closed conditions, successfully persuading the Court of Appeal to overturn the striking out of this claim: Houchin v Lincolnshire Probation Trust (the case subsequently settled for a significant sum). 

She also acted in relation to damages claims for prisoners who were “ghosted” out of HMP Wandsworth to avoid prison inspectors, in which substantial settlements were secured. 

She has undertaken discrimination claims in the prison context including R (Dowsett) v Secretary of State for Justice (a challenge to the Prison Service’s policy on rub-down searches of male prisoners as sexually discriminatory) and race and religious discrimination claims arising from treatment of prisoners. 

Heather has been instructed to advise the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to several cases involving prosecutions / potential prosecutions arising from deaths in custody and other alleged police misconduct.  She has also acted for claimants in public law challenges to decisions not to prosecute, including for Neville Lawrence when he judicially reviewed the CPS’ earlier decision not to bring a further prosecution in relation to his son’s murder and in R (O’Brien) v Director of Public Prosecutions where the CPS decided not to prosecute a senior police officer in respect of alleged fabrication of a confession.