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About Maria O’Connell

Maria specialises in civil liberties litigation primarily focussing on claims against the police and other detaining authorities, prisoner right litigation and associated public law challenges in a criminal justice context. She presently acts in various claims for false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, misfeasance, discrimination and breaches of human rights and data protection legislation.

Alongside her private law practice, she has experience of successfully bringing associated public law litigation challenging the basis of police investigations, their outcomes and disciplinary decision-making in respect of officers facing misconduct proceedings.

Maria further acts for families in inquest proceedings, predominantly those involving deaths in police and prison detention and increasingly following the involvement of mental health services. She ahs a small caseload of litigation arising from historic child abuse and neglect

She regularly receives referrals from solicitors, previous and existing clients to represent them. She prides herself on her excellent client care and approachable nature, bringing a human face to the law. Maria has an interest in the interplay between mental health and police contact.

Maria was a recognised in Legal 500 between 2015 and 2018 where she was described as ‘thorough and experienced’ and ‘excellent’.

Outside of her domestic practice, Maria is presently researching in connection with her Masters in International Human Rights. Her research has looked at the reluctance of International Tribunals to prosecute sexual violence within conflicts; the right to housing and the use of land in international development practice, the effectiveness of UK policies in protection and prevention of female trafficking, and more recently the available legal remedies when food deprivation is used as a means of warfare or political suppression of a populus.

Notable Cases

Prison Service

ES v Ministry of Justice [2023] – ongoing litigation for multiple assaults upon client in custody leading to significant physical and psychiatric injuries.

Various v Ministry of Justice [2023] – ongoing investigation of allegations of sexual harassment and assault by male prison officer/s of women resident at two female prisons.

MO v Ministry of Justice [2023] – ongoing investigation and claims arising from several incidents of force by prison officers causing significant injuries and allegations of religious discrimination

MN v Ministry of Justice [2023] – successful recovery of damages arising from involvement in group litigation arising from extensive unlawful strip searching of women at HMP Low Newton between 2018 and 2020.

PJ v Ministry of Justice [2023] – successful claim for detention following unlawful recall to custody due to Claimant’s pregnancy.

PC v Sodexo Justice Services [2023] successful claim for damages following prison officer punched female client to face and head whilst she awaited transfer to psychiatric hospital.

Various v Ministry of Justice [ 2019-2023] successfully brought over 35 individual cases against Prison Service in connection with the unlawful strip searching of women across the female prison estate.

CT v G 4 S Plc [2021] – allegations of serious assault and strangulation by prison officer at HMP Parc

Various v Sodexo Justice Services [2021] acted for several women in litigation arising from unlawful strip searching at HMP Peterborough following earlier successful challenge of the underlying policy.

SK v MOJ [2017] successful claim arising from failure to protect client from serious injuries following attempt upon own life following disclosure by authorities of his identity as an intelligence source.

Police Service

CZ v Sussex Police [2023] – ongoing investigation and claim arising from arrest of child at school CA v Sussex Police [2023] – ongoing litigation arising from mistaken armed entry to property and threats to shoot family dog.

GR v Sussex Police [2022] – successful claim for discriminatory arrest of client on allegations of rape after suspect of same ethnicity entered a shared building after being followed by officers.

MR v Sussex Police [2019] challenge by victim right of review against failure to charge traffic officer whom caused severe leg fracture following dispute over parking

FK v Chief Constable of Sussex Police [2017] – civil claim against Sussex Police arising from the client’s arrest arising from his social media content with arguments of unjustified political interference. Further litigation challenging the use of parliamentary privilege by politician commenting on the arrest.

ZM v Metropolitan Police [2017] secure damages and relocation for women whose location was disclosed to her abusive partner following arrest for treats to kill.

PR v CC of Sussex Police [2016] – claim for unlawful discrimination following arrest resultant from racial stereotyping of client.

BN and 4 minors v Hertfordshire Police [2016] Successful claim in damages following father being tazered in front of his 4 children in their own home following arrest in mistaken belief that he was in breach of a restraining order. Significant damages secured for all, and by negotiation local arrangements put in place for children to meet officers to re-build trust in local police.

SA and 2 others v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2016] -Secured dismissal of police officers from force with others subject to other disciplinary action following a investigation into the violent assault of the clients whom included a teenager and male with learning disabilities. Reported here. A civil action was thereafter successful recovering significant damages for the numerous injuries sustained by the clients. Reported here.

DP v Sussex Police [2015] challenge to stop the destruction without proper judicial oversight of lawfully held electronic goods /property seized during criminal proceedings.

AH v Metropolitan Police [2015] – claim for psychiatric injuries arising from mistaken armed entry to client’s property who had previously experienced trauma arising from the shooting of his family during international conflict.

BK v Metropolitan Police [2015] – claim for damages arising from client’s unlawful arrest and search of property in mistaken belief that he was in breach of an expired restraining order in circumstances in which he was receiving end of life care at home.

Mental Health

HB v Sussex Partnership NHS Trust [2016] unreported. Maria acted for a vulnerable voluntary mental health patient in a claim in false imprisonment and claim in damages under Human Rights Act 1998 for violation of Article 3, 5 and 8 following enforced medical treatment under restraint together with detention against his will.

CC v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2011] – judicial review and associated civil claim for damages for violations of a women’s Article 3 and 8 rights under ECHR after she was left in a state near naked in a CCTV police cell whilst experiencing a serious mental health crisis. The settlement outcome included an apology and scheme of retraining of the officers on the needs of the public experiencing mental health crisis.


Death of GL in community [2022] – ongoing investigation into death of female in which the involvement of a third party is being considered. Associated judicial review of Coroner’s decision to proceed with previous inquest successfully brought leading to fresh Inquest being granted.

Death of PC at a HMP Prison [2011] – Maria acted in the inquest and subsequent civil claim arising from the unnecessary death of a father whom died in custody after a failure by the Prison Service to implement earlier recommendations to ensure access to defibrillators within the prison.

Disability Discrimination

CD v University of East Anglia [2014] – successfully secured damages for unlawful disability discrimination arising from failure to make reasonable adjustments for underlying dyslexia during their training as a doctor.

Data Protection

PS v Ministry of Justice [2023] – ongoing claim for damages arising from disclosure of spent convictions.

AZ v A Police Force [2020] – successful claim for unlawful disclosure and sharing of personal medical records by a police officer.

A Child v A London School [2014] unreported. Maria was successful at trial in a claim under the Data Protection Act 1998 against a school following the insecure transfer of sensitive data concerning child abuse allegations resulting in wider disclosure to known third parties.

OM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] unreported. Maria secured Injunctive relief halting the removal of client to pursue an associated civil claim in damages against the Metropolitan Police following disclosure of his identity as a covet intelligence source previously assisting police in combating gun crime in South London.

Child Abuse

TNL v A Council [2023] successful in recovering substantial damages for abuse whilst in residential care leading to over a decade of compulsory psychiatric admission and significant injuries arising from consequent self harm.

KD v Gaisford [2019] EWHC 339(QB); [2019] EWHC 3722 Acted in civil claim for an anonymous victim of the sexual offending of ex DCI Philip Gaisford following his conviction for 25 offences in 2013 against predominantly minors. Including on associated appeals following failure of the Defendant to attend trial.

WN v Liverpool City Council and 2 others [2016] Successful claim in damages for historic physical and sexual abuse whilst in a child in statutory care in Liverpool during the 1980s.

AN v Newcastle City Council [2017] Successful claim for damages following from historic child abuse whilst in the statutory care of Newcastle social service in the 1960/70’s against multiple Defendants.

Articles & Publications

  • Present– The deliberate use of starvation as a method of warfare and/or to control a populus: exploring the parameters of the law on the right to food. ‘
  • 2023, A critical evaluation of the effectiveness of the UK’s policies in the protection and prevention of trafficking to female victims of trafficking.
  • 2022, Does the engagement of different types of actors and at different levels (e.g. domestic, regional and international) enhance the effectiveness of international human rights law?
  • 2022, Critical review of systemic ‘problems’ within international human rights law
  • 2022, The challenges of the International Criminal Courts and Tribunals in interpreting the concept of crimes against humanity, with reference to sexual violence.
  • 2021, A critical discussion of the role of recognition in the determination of statehood.
  • 2021, What is meant by universality in International Law? – A Marxist perspective


  • Police Action Lawyers Group
  • INQUEST Lawyers reference panel
  • Centre for Women’s Justice femicide reference panel

Career & Education


  • Oct 2023 – Present – Hodge Jones Allen – Partner
  • Dec 2018 – Oct 2023 – Scott Moncrieff & Associates – Consultant CILEX Practitioner
  • Dec 2018 – July 2021- Mathew Gold & Company – Senior Consultant Lawyer
  • Nov 2011 – Dec 2018 – Matthew Gold & Company – Partner & Compliance Officer
  • Mar 2010- Nov 2011 – Matthew Gold & Company – CILEX Lawyer
  • Jun 2009-Oct 2009 – The Dispute Service – Freelance Housing Adjudicator
  • Aug 2003- Feb 2010 – Legal Services Commission – Case Manager (Very High Cost Cases)
  • Oct 2000- May 2003 – Adams & Remers LLP – Litigation Executive
  • Jan 1998- Oct 2000 – British Airways Holidays Ltd – Legal Relations Executive


  • 2023 – LLM in International Human Rights (classification pending)
  • 2022 – CILEX Litigator & Advocate (Civil)
  • 2012 – Graduate Diploma in Law, De Montfort University
  • 2005 – Admission as Fellow of CILEX
  • 2002 – Admission as Member of CILEX
  • 1997 – Accountancy Foundation Course, Brighton University
Further Reading Civil Liberties & Human Rights