Sarah Hannett QC - Matrix Chambers

Sarah Hannett QC

“She is really outstanding, and her ability to both bring and defend claims with equal effectiveness is rare.”

Chambers & Partners 2021
Called: 2003 | Silk: 2021

Sarah was appointed Queen’s Counsel in March 2021. She practises in all areas of public law, equality law and human rights. Sarah is a member of the A-Panel of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel.

Before taking silk, Sarah was a member of the Attorney-General’s A panel of Counsel. Sarah was ranked as a leading junior in six practice areas in Chambers and Partners (four in band 1) and in four practice areas in Legal 500 (two in band 1). In 2019 Sarah was shortlisted for Public Law Junior of the Year in the Legal 500 UK Bar Awards. In 2020 Sarah was shortlisted for the Human Rights and Public Law junior of the year in the Chambers Bar UK Awards.

Sarah appears regularly on behalf of claimants (including individuals and commercial organisations), local authorities, the Secretary of State and regulators. She has particular expertise in claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and under the Equality Act 2010.

Recent work includes:

  • Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party: junior counsel to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
  • R (Steinfeld and Keidan) v. Secretary of State for International Development [2020] AC 1 (SC): the exclusion of heterosexual couples from civil partnerships constituted an unlawful interference with Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR (junior counsel for the appellants).
  • R (McConnell) v. Registrar General [2020] 3 WLR 683 (CA): the requirement for a trans man to register as the mother of the child he gave birth to was not contrary to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 or Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR (junior counsel for the Registrar General and the Secretaries of State).
  • R (Elan-Cane) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] 3 WLR 386 (CA): the policy precluding the issue of passports with an X sex marker did not breach the ECHR rights of the non-binary claimant (junior counsel for the Secretary of State; appeal pending before the Supreme Court).
  • R (Heathrow Hub) v. Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWCA Civ 213: judicial review of the Airports NPS proposing a third runway at Heathrow Airport (counsel for the Speaker of the House of Commons).
  • Re K (Forced Marriage: Passport Order) [2020] 1 FLR 904: the Court of Appeal gave guidance on the approach to Articles 3 and 8 of the ECHR when considering making forced marriage protection orders for adult women with capacity (counsel for the Secretary of State).
  • R (Ouselice) v. Secretary of State for Defence: successful challenge to the refusal by the Ministry of Defence to return the claimant’s medals after his discriminatory dismissal from the Royal Navy (junior counsel to the claimant).
  • Privacy International & Ors v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2019] UKIPTrib IPT_17_186_CH: the IPT held that MI5’s policy of “authorising” its agents to participate in criminality was not unlawful (junior counsel to the Tribunal).
  • P (Transgender Application for Declaration of Valid Marriage) [2020] 1 FLR 807the Family Court held that a marriage entered into between a trans man without a gender recognition certificate and a woman before same sex marriages were lawful was void (advocate to the Court).
  • First Protocol 16 Advisory Opinion by the European Court of Human Rights (2019): the recognition in domestic law of a legal parent-child relationship between a child born through a surrogacy arrangement abroad and the intended mother (counsel for the United Kingdom Government).
  • R (AB) v. Secretary of State for Justice [2019] 4 WLR 42 (CA): whether the segregation of a child detained in a Young Offender Institution constituted a breach of Article 3 of the ECHR (junior counsel for the Secretary of State; appeal pending before the Supreme Court).
  • R (DSD and NBV) v. Parole Board of England and Wales [2018] 3 WLR 829: the decision to release the convicted rapist John Worboys was unlawful (junior counsel for the Mayor of London).
  • Big Brother Watch v. United Kingdom (2018) ECHR 58170/13: the European Court of Human Rights held that the regime for bulk interception of communications and for acquisition of communications data violated Articles 8 and 10 ECHR (junior counsel for the intervener, Human Rights Watch).
  • In the Matter of M (Children) [2018] 4 WLR 60 (CA): whether the decision of the Family Court that a trans father could not have direct contact with her children complied with the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 (junior counsel for Stonewall, the intervener).

Sarah has particular expertise in all aspects of education law. She acts on behalf of a wide range of clients (including local authorities, parents, schools, higher education institutions, the Schools Adjudicator, Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency, and the Secretary of State for Education). Sarah acted as junior counsel to Just for Kids in R (Tigere) v. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2015] 1 WLR 82 (SC). She is currently instructed by Ofsted in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, and has advised the EHRC on its inquiry into racial harassment in higher education institutionsSarah acted on behalf of the successful claimants in the St Olave “off-rolling” case.

Sarah was awarded the Bar Pro Bono award in 2013 for her work on the School Exclusion Project, an organisation that provides pro-bono representation to parents appealing against the permanent exclusion of their child from school. She is the author (with Aileen McColgan and Elizabeth Prochaska) of Special Educational Needs and the Law (LAG, 2017) and wrote the chapter on Special Educational Needs in Richard McManus QC, Education and the Courts (Jordan’s, 2012). She is currently co-authoring the chapter on education in National Security: Law, Practice and Procedure (Jones, Ward and Stone). Sarah was a member of the Justice working party on school exclusions, and is a parent governor of a primary school in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Recent education cases include:

  • R (Shaw) v. Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWHC 2216: the amendments to the special educational needs legislation made as a result of the Covid pandemic were lawful (counsel for the Secretary of State).
  • R (Ngole) v. University of Sheffield[2019] ELR 443 (CA): whether the removal of a student social worker from his course for comments about LGBT people on Facebook breached Article 10 ECHR (counsel for the University).
  • R (Simone) v. Chancellor of the Exchequer [2019] EWHC 2609 (Admin): approach taken to funding special educational needs at the Budget was not unlawful (junior counsel for the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Education).
  • R (NHS West Berkshire CCG) v. First-tier Tribunal [2019] UKUT 44 (AAC): judicial review of the FTT’s refusal to grant the CCG the status of a party in a SEN appeal (counsel for the CCG).
  • Reilly v. Sandwell MBC [2018] ELR 435 (SC): the governing body of a School did not unlawfully dismiss/breach the Article 8 rights of a headteacher who failed to disclose her relationship with a convicted sex offender (counsel for the local authority and the governing body).
  • R (Al-Hijrah School) v. Ofsted [2018] 1 WLR 1471 (CA): the segregation of girls from Year 5 in a mixed sex school constituted direct discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010 (junior counsel for Ofsted).
  • C & C v. The Governing Body of a School [2018] ELR 552 (UT): regulation 4(1)(c) of the Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010 (tendency to physical abuse) breached Article 14 of the ECHR (counsel for the Secretary of State for Education).

Sarah has significant election law experience. She has advised and acted for a number of political parties. Recent cases include:

  • R v. Mackinlay[2018] 3 WLR 556 (SC): correct approach to declaring notional election expenses (junior counsel for Marion Little).
  • Foster v. McNichol and Corbyn[2016] EWHC 1966 (QB): whether the Labour Party Rules 2016 require an incumbent leader to obtain nominations from 20% of the MPs in order to appear on the ballot (counsel for Mr Foster, led by Gavin Millar QC).
  • Erlam v. Rahman[2015] 1 WLR 231: application by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets to strike out an election petition (junior counsel to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets).

Sarah has a wide ranging health and social care practice. She acts for claimants, doctors, local authorities, NHS bodies and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. She is ranked as a leading junior in community care and local government law, and acted on behalf of South Gloucestershire Council in R (Cornwall Council) v. Secretary of State for Health [2016] AC 137 (SC) (test for determining the ordinary residence of a person who lacks capacity).

Recent cases include:

  • R (Cornerstone) v. Ofsted [2020] EWHC 1679 (Admin): the refusal of a foster care agency to recruit same sex carers breached the Equality Act 2020 (junior counsel for Ofsted).
  • R (A) v. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care [2019] 1 WLR 2979 (CA): whether the directions prioritising transplanted organs to patients who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom are ultra vires the National Health Service Act 2006 (junior counsel for the Appellant).
  • R (H) v. Secretary of State for Health [2019] EWHC 2095 (Admin): statutory bar on the genetic father of a child born pursuant to a surrogacy agreement being named as the father on her birth certificate did not breach Articles 8 or 14 of the ECHR (counsel for the Secretary of State).

In 2008 Sarah was a Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, funded by a Pegasus Scholarship awarded by Inner Temple where she undertook work relating to Guantanamo detainees. Prior to coming to the Bar, Sarah was a lecturer in law at King’s College London from 2000 until 2005. She has taught at University College London, Queen Mary University of London and the University of New South Wales in Australia, and has been a visiting professor at McGill University.

Sarah has acted as an independent reviewer of complaints for the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and between 2011 and 2013 Sarah was a member of the Bar Standards Board Complaints Committee.

Sarah graduated from the University of Nottingham in 1998 with a LLB (Hons) (First Class). She has a LLM in Human Rights and Comparative Law from McGill University (for which she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship).

Sarah is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy. In order to provide legal services to her clients, including advice and representation services, Sarah needs to collect and hold personal data. This includes her client’s personal data and the personal data of others who feature in the matter upon which she is instructed. To read Sarah’s privacy notice in full, please see here.

Sarah is regulated by the Bar Standards Board and accepts instructions under Standard Contractual Terms. To find out more information on this and the way we work at Matrix, including our fee transparency statement, please see our see our service standards


"Possibly the best public law senior junior at the Bar currently. She can do government- and claimant-side work to the same very high standard and is a delight to work with – clients think that she’s brilliant."

"Brilliant on education, discrimination and special educational needs."

Chambers & Partners 2021 (Administrative and Public Law)

"She is very bright and switched on."

"Her legal analysis is rigorous, practical and helpful."

Chambers & Partners 2021 (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)

"She’s thorough in her preparation and very good in court."

"An impressive barrister who is excellent on paper."

Chambers & Partners 2021 (Local Government)

"An outstanding education law barrister."

"She is a thoroughly knowledgeable barrister who clients naturally warm to. She always goes the extra mile and her written advice is clear, immediately understandable and always on time."

Chambers & Partners 2021 (Education)

"She is really outstanding, and her ability to both bring and defend claims with equal effectiveness is rare."

"She’s very experienced and has the trust of the court."

"An impressive advocate."

Chambers & Partners 2021 (Community Care)

"An experienced barrister who makes excellent written submissions."

Chambers & Partners 2021 (Election Law)

"An exceptionally bright administrative lawyer. The submissions she drafts grapple with complex points of law in a way that enables the court to understand the importance of that detail. She is also extremely approachable and a very pleasant opponent."

Legal 500 2021 (Administrative and Public Law)

"A real heavyweight lawyer in the field of education law. Great to work with and she adds a lot of value to court and tribunal preparation."

Legal 500 2021 (Education)

"A great junior counsel."

Legal 500 2021 (Court of Protection and Community Care)

"Can utilise the more esoteric pieces of legislation when trying to develop arguments for novel situations."

Legal 500 2021 (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)

"An extremely impressive junior and a rising star."

"Conscientious, thorough and very good at putting clients at ease."

"Bright, personable, hard-working and clever."

Chambers & Partners 2020 (Administrative and Public Law)

"An excellent barrister; very thorough."

Chambers & Partners 2020 (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)

"She is really excellent and knows the law thoroughly. Her written submissions are very clear and concise, and she has a good manner in court."

"She is very bright."

"She is sharp, innovative and has a good breadth of knowledge."

Chambers & Partners 2020 (Local Government)

"She’s very straightforward, extremely hard-working and very good at communicating. She has an excellent manner with clients."

"She’s very client-friendly and gives really practical advice."

"She’s responsive and incisive. She really has a grasp of the issues affecting the sector and provides clear and concise opinions, pleadings and advocacy."

Chambers & Partners 2020 (Education)

"She is really outstanding, and her ability to both bring and defend claims with equal effectiveness is rare."

"She’s very experienced and has the trust of the court."

"An impressive advocate."

Chambers & Partners 2020 (Community Care)

"An experienced public lawyer with involvement in many election cases, who is bright and good with clients."

Chambers & Partners 2020 (Election Law)

"A very able advocate with excellent judgment."

Legal 500 2020 (Administrative and Public Law)

"The best education law junior around."

Legal 500 2020 (Education Law)