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Sarah practises in all areas of public law, equality law and human rights. She is ranked in Chambers & Partners in five practice areas: education, administrative and public law, local government, community care and planning. She is ranked in education law and public and administrative law in the Legal 500. Chambers & Partners 2015 describes her as being “a rising star”, as being “expert on the crossover between public law and education”, as having “excellent” oral and written advocacy and as “very client-friendly”. Legal 500 2015 describes Sarah as being “great with clients and an excellent advocate”.

Sarah was appointed to the Attorney-General’s B Panel of Counsel in 2012, and to the B-Panel of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel in February 2015.

Most of Sarah’s practice involves judicial review, human rights claims and claims under the Equality Act 2010. She acts for claimants, a wide range of public authorities and central Government. In the last year she has appeared in three successful appeals in the Supreme Court: Taiwo v. Olaigbe [2016] UKSC 31; [2016] 1 WLR 2653, R (Tigere) v. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2015] UKSC 57; [2015] 1 WLR 82 and R (Cornwall Council) v. Secretary of State for Health [2015] UKSC 46; [2016] AC 137.

Sarah has a significant international element to her practice: in the last year she has advised clients (including public authorities) in Jersey, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Education Law

Sarah is particularly renowned for her expertise in all aspects of education law. Her clients include local authorities, parents, maintained schools, Academies, independent schools, higher education institutions, the First-tier Tribunal, the Schools Adjudicator, Ofsted, Ofqual, the Education Funding Agency, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Secretary of State for Education. As well has her Administrative Court practice, Sarah has undertaken a significant amount of work in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (both in SEN appeals and in disability discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010), and in the County Court (involving disability discrimination claims and breach of contract claims against higher education institutions).

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, forthcoming) and wrote the chapter on Special Educational Needs in Richard McManus QC, Education and the Courts (Jordan’s, 2012). Recent education cases include:

  • R (the IEB of X School) v. Ofsted [2016] EWHC 2004 (Admin): Stuart-Smith J granted an injunction restraining the publication of an Ofsted report (junior counsel for Ofsted).
  • R (JG) v. Kent County Council [2016] EWHC 1102 (Admin): the responsibility of a local authority for the maintenance of a child’s statement of SEN after the child has left their area (counsel for the child).
  • R (HA) v. Hampstead School [2016] EWHC 278 (Admin); [2016] ELR 125: the lawfulness of a decision to send a child for education “off-site” for behavioural reasons (counsel for HA, the child).
  • Weald of Kent Grammar School Expansion: advised a campaign group on the prospects of challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to allow expansion of a grammar school onto a “satellite” site.
  • R (Tigere) v. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2015] UKSC 57; [2015] 1 WLR 82; [2015] ELR 455: the eligibility criteria for student loans unlawfully discriminated against applicants with Discretionary Leave to Remain contrary to Article 14 of the ECHR read with Article 2 of Protocol 1 (junior counsel for the intervener, Just for Kids Law).
  • R (Wiggins and Jones) v. Neath and Port Talbot County Borough Council [2015] EWHC 2266 (Admin): whether the closure of two primary schools contravened the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the relevant code of practice (counsel for the parents).

Public Law/Human Rights

Sarah has considerable experience appearing in the Administrative Court and statutory tribunals for a wide range of clients. She regularly appears on behalf of claimants (including individuals, as well as commercial organisations), local authorities, the Secretary of State, HMRC and regulators (such as Ofqual, Ofsted, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Local Government Ombudsman and the Disclosure and Barring Service). She has particular expertise in claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and under the Equality Act 2010. Recent cases include:

  • R (Steinfeld and Keidan) v. Secretary of State for Education (listed to be heard by the Court of Appeal in November 2016): whether the exclusion of heterosexual couples from civil partnerships constitutes an unlawful interference with Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR (junior counsel for the appellants).
  • R (Bolton and Cooper) v. HMRC (judicial review pending): whether the Finance (No 2) Act 2015, which removes the ability of individual residential landlords to set off the costs of their mortgage from their income, breaches Article 1 of Protocol 1 and/or Article 14 of the ECHR and/or amounts to unlawful state aid (junior counsel to the claimants).
  • R (Dennehy) v. Secretary of State for Justice [2016] EWHC 1219 (Admin): whether the segregation in prison of the serial killer Joanna Dennehy was lawful, including whether it breached her rights under Article 8 of the ECHR (junior counsel for the Secretary of State for Justice).
  • R (TH) v. Chapter and Bishop of Worcester Cathedral [2016] EWHC 1117 (Admin): whether the decision to place limits on a bellringer ringing in the Cathedral and other churches in the Diocese was unlawful, and in particular, whether it breached his rights under Article 8 of the ECHR (counsel for the Charter and Bishop of Worcester Cathedral).
  • Big Brother Watch v. United Kingdom (European Court of Human Rights): whether the receipt of intelligence by the UK Security Services from the PRISM and UPSTREAM programmes in the United States interferes with Article 8 of the ECHR (junior counsel to the intervener, Human Rights Watch).
  • Chilcot Inquiry: instructed by the families of soldiers killed in Iraq in their proposed application for judicial review of the Chilcot Inquiry for the serious and significant delays to which the report was subject (junior counsel to the families).
  • Re K and H (Children) (Lord Chancellor Intervening) [2015] EWCA Civ 543; [2015] 1 WLR 3801: the Family Court had no jurisdiction to order the Lord Chancellor to provide funding for legal representation outside of the legal aid scheme and the lack of legal aid did not breach Articles 6 and 8 of the ECHR (junior counsel for the Lord Chancellor).

Local Government and Election Law

Sarah is ranked as a leading junior in local government law. She has acted for over 70 local authorities, but also undertakes work for claimants across the full range of local government functions (including community care and planning and environmental law). Sarah has significant election law experience: she appeared as junior counsel to Michael Foster in the recent case concerning the Labour Leadership election, and acted as junior counsel to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets in his application to strike out an election petition (see Erlam v. (1) Rahman, and (2) Williams [2014] EWHC 2676 and 2766 (QB); [2015] 1 WLR 231, 245). Recent cases include:

  • Foster v. McNichol and Corbyn [2016] EWHC 1966 (QB): whether the Labour Party Rules 2016 requires an incumbent leader to obtain nominations from 20% of the MPs in order to appear on the ballot (junior counsel for Mr Foster).
  • R (Cornwall Council) v. Secretary of State for Health [2015] UKSC 46; [2016] AC 137: the Supreme Court identified the correct test for determining the ordinary residence of a person who lacks capacity (junior counsel for South Gloucestershire Council).

Employment and Discrimination Work

Sarah acts for both claimants and respondents in the Employment Tribunal and in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. She is familiar with employment disputes arising in the public sector (particularly in the education sphere), and often represents local authorities, schools and central government. She has particular expertise in discrimination claims. Recent cases include:

  • Taiwo v. Olaigbe [2016] UKSC 31; [2016] 1 WLR 2653: the Supreme Court held that mistreatment of persons because of their positions as vulnerable migrant domestic workers dependent on their employers did not constitute race discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010 (junior counsel for the respondent).
  • A v. B Local Authority and C Governing Body [2016] EWCA Civ 766: whether the governing body of a School had unlawfully dismissed a headteacher who failed to disclose her relationship with a convicted sex offender and/or infringed her rights under Article 8 of the ECHR (counsel for the local authority and the governing body).

Sarah is a member of the advisory board for the Centre for Access to Justice at University College, London. She acts 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.

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 also taught at University College London, Queen Mary University of London and the University of New South Wales in Australia.

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 accepts instructions under the Bar Council Standard Contractual Terms, details of which can be found here.


Chambers & Partners, 2015:
Recommended junior in Administrative & Public Law:

• “really efficient, very good with clients and expert on the crossover between public law and education”
• “excellent, hard-working and very thorough”

Recommended junior in Community Care:

• “her oral advocacy and written submissions are both excellent”
• “she’s got a lot of community care experience… She’ll pick up the main issues very quickly, even at short notice, and
her drafting is excellent”

Recommended junior in Education law:

• “she inspires confidence and has the ability to turn papers around quickly”
• “she’s very approachable and knowledgeable, and has a lot of sympathy for the client”

Recommended junior in Local Government Law:

• “a very experienced local authority barrister”
• “she has good communication skills and an easy manner. She is a very competent advocate and demonstrates a
sound understanding of the subject”

Recommended junior in planning law, 2013:

• “a rising star, she’ll go far quickly”
• “excellent, client-friendly and good value; her written advice is very clear and her advocacy and client handling are both
very good”