Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC appointed as Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection

Doughty Street Chambers is proud to announce that the Irish Government has appointed Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC as Special Rapporteur on Child Protection for a three-year term. Her appointment has been announced today by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman. The appointment follows an open process run by the Public Appointments Service. The Government’s announcement can be viewed here.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC is a barrister and international human rights lawyer, specialising in human rights law, public law, inquests, community care, prison law and media law. She has particular expertise in children’s rights, arbitrary detention and State accountability for wrongful deaths, and she is a leading international expert in journalists’ safety and the deaths of journalists. She has acted in many landmark cases, including acting for bereaved families and survivors of the 7/7 London Bombings and the Hillsborough Disaster; leading the international legal team for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist assassinated in Malta in 2017; and in a series of test cases before the UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights concerning the adverse impact of benefit cuts and the UK’s ‘austerity agenda’ upon single parents, disabled children, carers and survivors of domestic violence.

In the field of children’s rights, Caoilfhionn has acted in many of the leading cases in the UK, before the European Court of Human Rights and internationally. Some examples of her work include: 

  • HH v Italy [2013] 1 AC 338: a landmark case before the Supreme Court, establishing the right of children to be heard in extradition proceedings concerning their parents. Acting for the Official Solicitor, litigation friend to the children;

  • R (HC) v SSHD [2014] 1 WLR 1234: acted for the claimant, Hughes Chang, in this test case on treatment of 17-year-olds in police custody as adults rather than children. It has resulted in a change to the law, affecting 70,000 17-year-olds in custody every year;

  • R (T and JB) v. Secretary of State for Justice and Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] AC 49: the Supreme Court considered the illegality of the criminal records regime, and the disclosure of childhood cautions. Acting for the Equality and Human Rights Commission;

  • Ibrahim Halawa v. Egypt, 2017: Acting for Ibrahim Halawa, the Irishman arrested in Egypt in August 2013, aged 17, and held in arbitrary pre-trial detention for over four years. In 2017 he was acquitted of all charges and returned home;

  • Re Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission [2018] UKSC 27: the Supreme Court (by majority) held that the then almost total ban on abortion in Northern Ireland breached Article 8 ECHR in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or fatal foetal abnormality. Acting for intervener;

  • A and B v. United Kingdom, 2019: Acting for a mother and daughter from Northern Ireland who were forced to raise funds to travel to a private clinic in England for an abortion, as they were not covered by the NHS because of being based in Northern Ireland, before the European Court of Human Rights. The UK Government has paid compensation to the women;

  • Acting for over 100 Core Participants (child sexual abuse survivors and organisations) in the UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

Caoilfhionn regularly advises governments, NGOs and individuals on issues concerning the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This includes, for example, advising the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime regarding international standards of protection for children’s rights in respect of child soldiers and Boko Haram. She has published widely on human rights and children’s rights issues.

Caoilfhionn co-leads the Doughty Street Chambers' Children's Rights Group, which brings together practitioners, Academic Experts and associate tenants, across all practice areas, working on crucial children’s human rights issues.

Welcoming today’s news, Professor Aoife Nolan, who jointly heads the Children’s Rights Group with Caoilfhionn, said:

“This is a superb appointment. Caoilfhionn will bring her exceptional commitment to and experience in child rights practice and advocacy to bear in this vital role. In doing so, she will undoubtedly play a central part in ensuring enhanced protection for children and their rights in Ireland.”

Caoilfhionn will continue her practice as a barrister, alongside this role.