I represent people who seek to hold to account those acting on behalf of the state. I have particular expertise in representing people whose loved ones have died in state care or detention, those who suffer injustice in prison and individuals with learning disabilities who are caught up in the criminal justice system. My caseload includes claims and challenges against the police, the Ministry of Justice and local authorities. I have extensive experience of public law challenges.
I specialise in acting for individuals with learning disabilities who have become caught up in the criminal justice system, people who have suffered discrimination on grounds of race, gender and disability, prisoners and the families of people who have died in police or prison custody or in mental health detention. I have a particular interest in challenging unlawful decisions by public authorities on behalf of political or campaigning groups in any of these areas.
After qualifying as a solicitor at Clifford Chance 2000 I moved to Liberty where I gained experience of claims against prison authorities, the police and deaths in custody. I became the senior solicitor at the Prisoners’ Advice Service in 2001 where I developed my expertise in prison law. In 2007 I joined Bhatt Murphy Solicitors where over the course of 6 years I expanded my knowledge of prison law, civil claims against detaining authorities and inquests. I joined the public law team as an Associate at Irwin Mitchell LLP in 2012 where I headed up the civil liberties team and worked on complex inquests into the deaths of individuals with learning disabilities held in mental health detention, claims against the police and public law challenges. I joined Hodge Jones & Allen in 2016.
I am listed in Chambers & Partners as an associate to watch in the field of prison law. I co-wrote the prison law updates in the Legal Action Group Journal for over 6 years. I have also contributed two chapters to the Legal Action Group book Prisoners and the Law. I am also ranked as a ‘recommended lawyer’ and have been described as “very compassionate and knowledgeable; hard working, intelligent and well-informed; very supportive of her clients.”
I am currently representing a number of Hillsborough families under the “Hillsborough Victims’ Misfeasance Litigation” – claims being brought for misfeasance in public office against the Chief Constables of South Yorkshire and West Midlands Police in relation to the investigations made by the police following the Hillsborough tragedy in April 1989.
1997 – 1998: Legal Practice Course, BPP
1996 – 1997: Postgraduate Diploma in Law, BPP
1992 – 1996: French and Italian BA, University of Leeds
2016: Partner, Hodge Jones & Allen
2013 – 2016: Associate, Irwin Mitchell LLP
2007 – 2013: Solicitor, Bhatt Murphy
2001 – 2007: Senor Solicitor, Prisoners’ Advice Service
2001 – 2001: Locum Solicitor, Liberty
1998 – 2001: Trainee Solicitor and then newly qualified solicitor, Clifford Chance LLP
“Having you as our solicitor has been a real blessing for us”
“Your knowledge of the law, your understanding of how to fight a case like ours, your kindness to us on a personal level and your steadfast approach is something that we will never forget”.
Edwards v United Kingdom (Application No 447/99) – Christopher Edwards was remanded into prison custody for inappropriate behaviour associated with his diagnosis of schizophrenia. He was placed in a cell with Richard Lindford, a man with a history of violence, including an assault on another prisoner and who was also a schizophrenic. Richard stamped and kicked Christopher to death. A private, non-statutory enquiry was held into his death, which found there had been a systemic collapse of the protective mechanisms which should have been in place to protect Christopher. There were no civil proceedings and no criminal charges were pursued. Christopher’s parents complained that the authorities had failed to protect the life of their son. The Court found that the agencies had failed to share information relating to Richard Lindford and that this amounted to a violation of Article 2. They also found that there had been a breach of the investigative obligation under Article 2 as the inquiry held into the death was not held in public, witnesses were not required to attend and the applicants were only able to attend for three days and had to wait until the publication of the report to discover the substance of the evidence.
Daniel v St George’s Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and London Ambulance Service  EWHC 23 (QB) – Claim arising from the death in custody of a man detained at HMP Wandsworth during the London riots. The Court accepted the arguments advanced on behalf of the Claimants concerning the engagement of the operational duty under Article 2 and the relevant causation test to be applied. The judgment clarifies the definition of victims under section 7 of the Human Rights Act.
Claim against Serco (2016) – Claim against Serco arising from the death of a young man at HMP Doncaster. The claim was settled following a ten day inquest at which the jury returned a highly critical conclusion noting the failure of prison and mental health care staff to provide the deceased with appropriate care to manage his clear risk of suicide and self-harm. I acted for the mother of the deceased and the estate. The case settled for £15,000.
Claim for judicial review against the National Probation Service (2016) – Successful public law challenged based on breaches of the Equality Act 2000. The challenge concerned the requirement that my client should complete a community offending behaviour programme where cameras would be used, despite it being recognised that my client had a phobia of cameras. Following the issuing of the claim for judicial review, the probation service consented to amend the client’s parole licence to remove the requirement that he complete the programme in the presence of cameras.
Inquest touching upon the death of LM (2016) – LM rang 999 alleging that she was being beaten. The line was cut. The call handler returned the call and graded the call as priority, requiring a police response within an hour. The police controllers failed to dispatch police resources within the hour. The call was subsequently downgraded in breach of force policy and the incident was deferred until the next morning. The following morning LM was found dead. At the inquest the jury found that LM had suffered deliberate third party trauma, which had caused her death. The jury returned a critical narrative conclusion finding that multiple police errors and omissions contributed to her death.
Claim against Metropolitan Police (2015) – Claim for assault and false imprisonment for a man with severe learning disabilities who the police tasered whilst he was out for a walk with a piece of wood, which he failed to put down. The case settled for £6,000 plus an apology.
Claim against Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and East and North Herts NHS Foundation Trust (2015) – Claim for breaches of the Human Rights Act arising out of the death of a young woman (RJ) who was detained under s136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 when she was found wandering on the railway tracks. Those responsible for the RJ’s care failed to properly assess and monitor her and she was able to escape from the secure ward and access a flat roof from where she fell. I acted for her parents, brother and sister at the inquest and in the related civil claim. The jury made a finding of neglect and we secured a settlement of [£40,000] and an apology from the Trusts. The conclusion of the inquest was reported in the Sunday Times as part of the papers ‘Young Minds’ series.
Inquest touching upon the death of SB (2014) – SB was a young woman with severe autism. She died in a secure hospital after her weight reached 25 stone. SB spent seven years in a padded environment during which time she was constantly observed by three members of staff. The hospital was privately run by the Huntercombe Group in East Yorkshire, where the average cost of a weekly placement is £4,500. SB’s placement was funded by the NHS. Delivering a narrative conclusion, the Coroner said the hospital failed to come up with a cohesive plan to address SB’s weight gain. The civil claim arising from SB’s death settled during the course of the inquest. SB’s tragic death and the findings of the inquest were widely reported and the family received the support of Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation which have called for there to be an inquiry into the deaths in state care of those with learning disabilities.
Inquest touching upon the death of NR (2014) – NR was a profoundly disabled young man with athetoid cerebral palsy. He died by aspirating gastric contents in the early morning of 22 August 2012 while being cared for at supported living accommodation privately funded under the auspices of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. At the end of the inquest, the Coroner ruled that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights was engaged on facts of NR’s case and found that had NR been more regularly monitored, there was a possibility that he would still be alive. The Coroner noted the lack of specific risk assessment dealing with NR’s well-documented and potentially life threatening risks of early morning vomiting, reflux and aspiration. The Coroner’s Article 2 ruling was opposed by the Trust, and marked a recognition that enhanced and positive duties to protect life are owed by care providers to vulnerable residents in supported living, even if they are a private organisation.
Claim for judicial review against the Metropolitan Police and Camden Local Authority (2013) – Successful public law challenge based on breaches of the Equality Act 2000 of a decision to impose an acceptable behaviour agreement on a young man with learning disabilities who was subject to verbal abuse from his neighbours as a result of his learning disability. The agreement was revoked and an apology was given.
Inquest touching upon the death of BS (2013) – BS was a young man with Asperger Syndrome and ADHD. He was held at Aylesbury YOI where he committed a fatal act of self-harm. During the inquest an expert psychiatrist gave evidence that there had been a failure by prison staff to properly respond to Billy’s complex needs and his extremely high risk of self-harm. I acted for BS’s family in the inquest and associated civil claim which settled after the inquest for [£15,000].
“The Government should introduce a significantly simpler and more generous scheme for legal aid.”Among the observations and recommendations in the Bach Commission’s ‘The right to justice’ report published last autumn, the call for a more generous legal aid scheme was rightly highlighted as one of the most pressing concerns. Unfortunately, for those waiting to see whether the Government will similarly acknowledge this call in its review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), the wait will likely be extended. This is because of recent reports of doubts over the feasibility of the Ministry of Justice’s summer deadline as published in their post-legislative memorandum last October.
The fire at the Grenfell Tower block on 14 June 2017 was the type of appalling tragedy that no-one would expect to happen in one of world’s richest countries in the 21st century. A 24-floor tower block in North Kensington, West London was destroyed by a blaze that started in one of the flats. At the time of writing, 80 people have been confirmed dead but local residents believe the real numbers are likely to be significantly higher. Shortly after the fire it emerged that a local residents’ association had raised safety concerns in early 2016, which included the chilling premonition: ‘It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.’