Catherine Dobson

Year of call:
2009
Email:
catherine.dobson@39essex.com

Clerks:
+44 (0)20 7832 1111

“Razor sharp and extremely compassionate, she can pick up a case very quickly and get to the heart of the issues. She gives clients confidence, and has an extremely good rapport with judges.”
Chambers & Partners

Catherine Dobson has a broad practice which combines general public law and environmental law.

She was called to the Bar in 2009 and since then has been instructed in some of the leading cases in these fields, including Privacy International v Investigatory Powers Tribunal (the leading Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of ouster clauses), Re Y [2018] UKSC 46 (the landmark Supreme Court decision concerning withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment), Barr v Biffa Waste Ltd (the leading Court of Appeal decision on the relationship between private nuisance and statutory pollution control) and R (London Borough of Hillingdon and others) v Secretary of State for Transport (challenging the Government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow Airport).

Catherine has been ranked as a leading junior for several years by Chambers & Partners. She is a member of the Attorney General’s B Panel of Counsel and the Equality and Human Rights Commission C Panel of Counsel.

Catherine is a Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where she supervises constitutional law.

Environmental Law


Catherine has acted in some of the leading environmental cases in recent years including Barr v Biffa Waste Ltd (the leading Court of Appeal decision on the relationship between private nuisance and statutory pollution control) and Austin v Miller Argent (South Wales) Ltd (a landmark case concerning the Aarhus Convention’s requirements on the cost of litigation in environmental matters as applied to private nuisance claims). She is currently instructed by the coalition of claimants (the Mayor of London, Greenpeace and 5 local authorities) in a challenge to the Government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow.

She has detailed knowledge of international, European and domestic environmental law and is frequently instructed to advise in cases raising issues under the Aarhus Convention, the SEA Directive, the EIA Directive and the Habitats Directive. In addition to this general experience, she has particular expertise in the following areas:

Water resources law

Catherine has considerable experience working in the field of water rights and regulation, having appeared in two of the most important cases in this field in the last decade: Canal & Rivers Trust v Thames Water Utilities Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 342 and Manchester Ship Canal v United Utilities plc [2014] UKSC 40.

She has recently completed a 12 month instruction acting for Southern Water Services Ltd, culminating in a public inquiry concerning the interface between environmental legislation and the water abstraction licensing regime.

She is currently advising another major utility company on issues surrounding Water Resource Management Plans and sustainability reductions.

Air Quality

Catherine has expertise in the legal and scientific issues arising in relation to air quality law. She is currently involved in the high profile legal challenge to the Government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow on, amongst other grounds, the basis that the Government’s approach to air quality was flawed.

Nuisance

Since here involvement in the landmark Barr v Biffa claim, Catherine has gone on to act for a number of claimants and defendants in a group private nuisance claims relating to the operation of a range of businesses including landfill sites, waste treatment sites, food production sites.

Nuclear law

Catherine has a particular interest in the nuclear sector having contributed to the forthcoming edition of Stephen Tromans QC’s Nuclear Law: The Law Applying to Nuclear Installations and Radioactive Substances in its Historic Context. In recent years she has  devised and delivered a six-part training programme for in-house lawyers at a nuclear new-build facility; devised and delivered a one-day round table conference on nuclear cyber liability in conjunction with the Washington DC based Stimpson institute and spoken at a number of industry conferences on the implications of Brexatom.

Environmental cases of note include:

  • R (London Borough of Hillingdon and others) v Secretary of State for Transport instructed by the Mayor of London, Greenpeace and 5 local authorities in a challenge to the Government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow airport. Led by Nigel Pleming QC, Stephen Tromans QC and Ben Jaffey QC.
  • R (London Borough of Hillingdon and others) v Secretary of State for Transport  [2017] EWHC 121 (Admin) – instructed by the Mayor of London and Transport for London in a challenge to the Government’s decision in relation to a proposed third runway at Heathrow. Led by Stephen Tromans (QC).
  • Austin v Miller Argent (South Wales) Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 1012 – landmark case concerning the Aarhus Convention’s requirements on the cost of litigation in environmental matters as applied to private nuisance claims In addition to the matter before the Court of Appeal a communication was made to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. Led by Stephen Tromans QC.
  • Barr v Biffa Waste Ltd [2012] EWCA 312 – appeared in the Court of Appeal for the successful Appellants in this important case on the relationship of the law of nuisance and statutory pollution control. The judgment of the Technology & Construction Court was set aside both on the findings of fact and on the law, and the cross-appeal of Biffa on statutory authority was dismissed. Led by Stephen Tromans QC.

Public Law & Human Rights


Catherine is an experienced public law practitioner and has taught constitutional law at Cambridge University for over ten years.

Judicial review and human rights

Catherine has a broad public law practice, encompassing judicial review and human rights claims across a range of sectors including environmental, healthcare, regulatory, national security, economic sanctions and financial services.

Cases of note include:

  • R (AR) v The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police & Others [2018] UKSC 47. acted on behalf of the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Policy in this appeal concerning the legality under HRA and ECHR of Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate which disclosed the fact that AR had been acquitted of rape. Led by Jenni Richards QC.
  • Re Y [2017] EWHC 2866 (QB) (on appeal to the UK Supreme Court) – appeared for the NHS Trust in claim for a declaration that it is not mandatory to bring before the Court of Protection the withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration from Mr Y, who suffers from a prolonged disorder of consciousness, in circumstances where the clinical team and Mr Y’s family are agreed that it is not in Mr Y’s best interests to continue to receive that treatment. Led by Vikram Sachdeva QC.
  • R (Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee) v Secretary of State for Health [2017] EWHC 1147 (Admin) (on appeal to the Court of Appeal) – appeared for the claimant in a challenge to the lawfulness of funding reductions imposed on community pharmacies. Led by Alison Foster QC.
  • Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and another [2016] EWHC 2208 (QB) (on appeal) – appeared for the Claimant in a challenge to the compatibility of section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 with Article 14 read with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that the exclusion of unmarried cohabiting partners from the scope of those who can claim bereavement damages is unlawful. Led by Vikram Sachdeva QC.
  • Core Issues Trust v Transport for London [2013] EWCA Civ 34; [2014] WLR (D) 35 – appeared for Transport for London in the High Court and the Court of Appeal in a challenge to its decision to refuse to permit an advertisement to be placed on London buses on the basis that it would cause public offence. Led by Nigel Pleming QC.

Constitutional law

Catherine has a particular interest in cases raising constitutional issues and is regularly engaged to assist with cases raising novel questions of constitutional law.

Catherine has taught constitutional law at Cambridge University for over 10 years and was a visiting lecturer in public law at the Paris campus of the Université Catholique de Lille (2014 –2015). She is brought in to advise on cases with a constitutional dimension, including on questions pertaining to devolution and legislative competence.

She recently acted on behalf of the FCO and GCHQ (led by James Eadie QC and Kate Grange QC) before the Supreme Court in the appeal in Privacy International v Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a case which raises important constitutional questions about the effect of an ouster clause in the Regulatory and Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Fertility sector

Catherine has developed a niche experise in healthcare, human rights and regulatory issues relating to the fertility sector having acted in the following matters:

  • Equality and Human Rights Commission v NHS England – acted for NHS England in a discrimination and human rights challenge to NHS commissioning of fertility preservation treatment for trans patients. Led by Fenella Morris QC
  • Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre v The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [2017] EWHC 659 (on appeal to the Court of Appeal) – appeared for the claimant in a challenge to the lawfulness of decisions taken by the HFEA pursuant to its statutory duty to publish information for persons who are receiving fertility treatment. Led by Jenni Richards QC.
  • Warren v CARE [2014] EWHC 602 (Fam) – instructed in an application for a declaration as the lawfulness of the preservation of the applicant’s late husband’s sperm under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and the Embryology (Statutory Storage Period for Embryos and Gametes) Regulations 2009. Led by Jenni Richards QCRose v Thanet CCG [2014] EWHC 1182 (Admin) – acted for CCG in discrimination and human rights challenge to CCG’s policy on fertility preservation challenge.
  • NHS Trust & Ors v FG [2014] EWCOP 30 (COP) – acted for two NHS Trusts in the guidance case on medical treatment applications relating antenatal, perinatal and post-natal care.

Public inquiries

Catherine has been involved in a number of public inquiries (both statutory and non-statutory) including:

  • The Contaminated Blood Inquiry – acting as junior counsel for the Department of Health and Social Care;
  • The New Bermondsey / Lewisham Inquiry (the independent non-statutory inquiring surrounding the alleged misfeasance of local Councillors) – acting as sole counsel assisting Lord Dyson as Inquiry Chair)
  • The Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press: instructed to assist Robert Jay QC and Lord Justice Leveson with drafting the final report

In 2018 convened, with Lord Dyson, a conference on non-statutory public inquiries, covering issues of procedural fairness, data protection and FOIA issues and amenability to challenge.

Court of Protection & Mental Health


Catherine appears regularly in the Court of Protection, acting for local authorities, CCGs and NHS Trusts, the Official Solicitor and family members in welfare and medical treatment disputes. In 2018, she appeared for the NHS Trust in the landmark medical treatment case of Re Y [2018] UKSC 46, in which the Supreme Court held that there was no requirement for the court to decide upon the best interests of every patient with a prolonged disorder of consciousness before withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration.

She has experience bringing applications health and welfare applications under the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction and applications for urgent authorisation for medical treatment (including applications under the Children Act 1989 for urgent medical treatment in relation to children).

International Arbitration & Public International Law


Catherine has a growing international practice with particular interests in energy and infrastructure projects and the interface between public international law and environmental law.

Examples of her practice include:

  • Advising a government department on legal issues surrounding the UK’s potential accession to an international treaty
  • Advising on the implications of US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
  • Appointment as permanent Secretary to an ad hoc arbitration under the UNCITRAL Rules relating to a multi-million pound construction dispute that lasted four years.
  • Communication to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.
  • ICC arbitration proceedings relating to a multi-million pound construction dispute concerning termination and delay issues.
  • Advising in relation to prospective claim arising out of multi-billion dollar construction project in the Middle East involving defects and delay issues.
  • Advising in relation to allocation of risk under a contract for a multi-million dollar construction project in the Middle East.

International Criminal Court

Before coming to the bar, Catherine worked as a legal assistant to the Defence Team of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at the International Criminal Court, working on the first trial to take place before the Court. This included work on the application of the Rome Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Regulations of the Court and Registry; the status of the enrolment of child soldiers as a crime in customary international law; the nature of the armed conflict in the Ituri region of DRC; the existence of a right to interlocutory appeal on a decision to confirm charges in the  Rome Statute; the modalities of victim participation at the ICC; and, the conditions for provisional release under the Rome Statute.

Recommendations


Catherine is ranked in Chambers & Partners for Environmental Law and Court of Protection: Health & Welfare, where clients are quoted as saying:

 Razor sharp and extremely compassionate, she can pick up a case very quickly and get to the heart of the issues. She gives clients confidence, and has an extremely good rapport with judges.”

“Catherine Dobson is fantastic, very clever and very on the ball.”

“She’s incredibly approachable and consistently good.”

“Her skeleton arguments are excellently constructed and she has empathy and understanding for those in difficult circumstances.”

She’s wonderful with clients. She thinks beyond the legal ramifications and considers what the personal impact on the client is.”

She is able to pick up cases quickly and competently.”

She really understands and is sympathetic towards clients.”

Call +44 (0)20 7832 1111 for more information

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