Catherine Dobson

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

Clerks:
+44 (0)20 7832 1111

“A genuine rising star – highly intelligent and extremely thorough, she is always willing to go the extra mile.”
The Legal 500 

“The level of technical detail that she can absorb, digest and quickly turn around advice on is phenomenal. Whatever the subject and whatever the issue, she just gets it instantly.”
Chambers & Partners

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

She 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), R (Miller) v The Prime Minister (challenging the prorogation of Parliament on behalf of the Shadow Attorney General), Friends of the Earth v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (challenging the Government’s Net Zero Strategy) 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, the Attorney General’s Public International Law C Panel of Counsel and the Equality and Human Rights Commission C Panel of Counsel.

In 2020 Catherine was named Environmental and Planning Law Junior of the Year in the Chambers UK Bar Awards.

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

Public Law & Human Rights


Catherine brings together academic qualities with a strong sense of the practical, making her the ideal public lawyer.” The Legal 500 2021 (Administrative and Public, Leading Juniors)

Catherine is an experienced public law practitioner and has taught constitutional law at Cambridge University for over ten years. She 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) and R (Miller) v The Prime Minister (challenging the prorogation of Parliament on behalf of the Shadow Attorney General). Her broad public law practice encompasses judicial review and human rights claims across a range of sectors including environmental, healthcare, regulatory, national security, economic sanctions and financial services.

Catherine carried out a significant amount of advisory and litigation work for the Cabinet Office, the Department for Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Justice relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. This included a challenge to the Government’s decision to authorise the administration of the Covid-19 vaccination to children under 18, a proposed challenge by Lloyd Weber Theatres to the Government’s decision to postpone relaxing Covid-19 measures in relation to theatres, and a proposed challenge by the Howard League for Penal Reform to the response to Covid-19 in prisons.

Cases of note:

Privacy International v Investigatory Powers Tribunal [2019] UKSC 22
Acted for the Government (led by Sir James Eadie QC and Kate Grange QC) in a challenge to the lawfulness and constitutionality of ouster clauses.

R (Miller) v The Prime Minister [2019] UKSC 41
Acted for the Shadow Attorney General (led by Deok Joo Rhee QC) in a challenge to the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament.

Jennings v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [2022] EWHC 69 (Fam)
Acted for the claimant (led by Jenni Richards QC) in a successful application for a declaration that a widower could lawfully use an embryo with a surrogate following the death of his wife. The claim was brought on the basis that preventing the use of the embryo would constitute a disproportionate interference with his Article 8 Convention rights.

AB v Secretary of State for Health & Social Care [2022] EWHC 1996 (Admin)
Acted for the Secretary of State in a challenge to decision to authorise the use of Covid-19 vaccines on children and young persons under the age of 18 on public law and human rights grounds.

Dawson v United Lincolnshire Trust [2021] EWHC 928 (Admin)
Acted for the Claimant (led by Vikram Sachdeva QC) in a successful challenge to an NHS Trust’s decision to close and Accident & Emergency department on the ground that the Trust had failed to involve service users in decision-making about services in breach of its obligation under section 242 of the National Health Service Act 2006.

Re Y [2018] UKSC 46
Acted for an NHS Trust (led by Vikram Sachdeva QC) in the landmark Supreme Court decision concerning withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment.

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 (led by Jenni Richards QC) in this appeal to the Supreme Court concerning the legality under the Human Rights Act of Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate which disclosed the fact that AR had been acquitted of rape.

R (Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee) v Secretary of State for Health  [2018] EWCA Civ 1925
Appeared for the claimant (led by Alison Foster QC) 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   [2017] EWCA Civ 1916
Appeared for the successful claimant (led by Vikram Sachdeva QC) 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.

Core Issues Trust v Transport for London  [2013] EWCA Civ 34, [2014] WLR (D) 35
Acted for Transport for London (led by Nigel Pleming QC) in 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.

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 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 and reproductive rights

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

Jennings v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority  [2022] EWHC 69 (Fam)
Acted for the claimant (led by Jenni Richards QC) in a successful application for a declaration that the claimant can lawfully use an embryo with a surrogate following the death of his wife. The claim was brought on the basis that preventing the use of the embryo would constitute a disproportionate interference with his Article 8 Convention rights.

Equality and Human Rights Commission v NHS England
Acted for NHS England (led by Fenella Morris QC) in a discrimination and human rights challenge to NHS commissioning of fertility preservation treatment for trans patients.

Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre v The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [2017] EWHC 659 Appeared for the claimant (led by Jenni Richards QC) 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.

Warren v CARE [2014] EWHC 602 (Fam)
Acted for the claimant (led by Jenni Richards QC) 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 QC

Rose v Thanet CCG [2014] EWHC 1182 (Admin)
Acted for a 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.

Environmental Law


Catherine has acted in some of the leading environmental cases in recent years including Friends of the Earth v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (acting for Friends for the Earth in the successful challenge to the Government’s Net Zero Strategy and R (London Borough of Hillingdon and others) Secretary of State for Transport (the Government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow Airport).

She has detailed knowledge of international, European and domestic environmental law and has advised 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 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 : Canal & Rivers Trust v Thames Water Utilities Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 342 and Manchester Ship Canal v United Utilities plc [2014] UKSC 40. She worked on 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.
  • Air Quality Catherine has expertise in the legal and scientific issues arising in relation to health-related air quality limits. Recent work has included advising on the application of the National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2018, acting for the claimant in a human rights challenge arising from hydrogen sulphide pollution and challenging 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 her involvement in the landmark case of Barr v Biffa [2012] EWCA 312, 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 and food production sites.
  • Nuclear law Catherine has a particular interest in the nuclear sector. She has advised both Government departments and private companies on issues relating to domestic and international law regulation of the sector. In addition, she devised and delivered a six-part training programme for in-house lawyers at a nuclear new-build facility and 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.

Cases of note:

R (Friends of the Earth and others) v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [2022] EWHC 1841 (Admin)
Acted for Friends of the Earth (led by David Wolfe QC) in a successful challenge to the Government’s net zero strategy.

R (London Borough of Hillingdon and others) v Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWCA Civ 214
Acted for the Mayor of London, Greenpeace and 5 local authorities (led by Nigel Pleming QC, Stephen Tromans QC and Ben Jaffey QC) in a high profile environmental law challenge to the Airports National Policy Statement, which supports the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Richards v Environment Agency [2021] EWHC 2501 (Admin), [2022] EWCA Civ 26
Acted for the claimant, Mathew Richards, (led by Ian Wise QC) in a human rights challenge to the lawfulness of the Environment Agency’s response to hydrogen sulphide emissions from a landfill site.

Wild Justice v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Acted for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (led by Stephen Tromans QC) in a challenge to the regulation of game bird release on grounds of non-compliance with the EU Habitats Directive.

Humane Being v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Acted for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, successfully resisting a human rights challenge to the Government’s approach to intensive farming.

Group opposed to Expansion of Southampton Airport Ltd v Eastleigh Borough Councils [2022] EWHC 1221
Acted for the respondent (led by Paul Stinchcombe QC) in successfully resisting an application for judicial review of the grant of  planning permission for a runway extension at Southampton Airport.

Austin v Miller Argent (South Wales) Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 1012
Acted for the claimant (led by Stephen Tromans QC) in a 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.

Public International Law & International Arbitration


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

She was recently instructed on behalf of the Government of Myanmar for the Provisional Measures phase of The Gambia v Myanmar proceedings, concerning the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

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.
  • Advising on instituting proceedings before the International Court of Justice.
  • Advising in relation to the scope of the foreign act of state doctrine in UK domestic law.
  • Communication to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.
  • 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.
  • 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 on 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

Court of Protection


Catherine is phenomenally clever – she has an impeccable grasp of the case law and legislative framework and is able to apply this to novel or unusual circumstances in a way which is clear and highly effective. Her written work is extremely clear and elegantly worded. She is always accessible and fantastic with clients.’ The Legal 500 2021 (Court of Protection and Community Care, Leading Juniors)

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 in relation to urgent medical treatment in relation to children).

Art and Cultural Property


Catherine has developed a niche expertise in historic environment matters, and has acted for owners and interest groups on art and antiquities matters, in particular on issues relating to the removal of art from historic buildings. She acted (led by Richard Harwood QC) for the successful for the former owner in Dill v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2020] UKSC 20, where the Supreme Court clarified the test for what can constitute a listed building. She has recently advised on the lawfulness of removal of a high value statue from a listed building. She has lectured on these topics at the Institute of Art and Law.

Catherine is the co-author (with Richard Harwood QC and David Sawtell) of Contested Heritage – Removing Art from Land and Historic Buildings (2022), a practitioner’s guide to the regulatory and property law issues that arise when dealing with heritage assets.

Recommendations


“Catherine brings together academic qualities with a strong sense of the practical, making her the ideal public lawyer.” The Legal 500 2021 (Administrative and Public, Leading Juniors)

“Catherine is extremely industrious, able to filter and analyse a mass of information, and produce (often at very short notice, and under great pressure) first class pleadings and written arguments.” The Legal 500 2021 (Administrative and Public, Leading Juniors)

“A superb senior junior, she takes incredibly technical information and creates a clear, decisive understandable path and does it without any arrogance.” The Legal 500 2021 (Environment, Leading Juniors)

“She provides immensely helpful technical advice.” The Legal 500 2020 (Administrative and Public, Leading Juniors)

“A genuine rising star – highly intelligent and extremely thorough, she is always willing to go the extra mile.” The Legal 500 2020 (Environment, Leading Juniors)

“She is quick to grasp often very technical detail and to give well-crafted advice to tight deadlines.” “Her advocacy was phenomenal.” Chambers and Partners 2022 (Environment, London Bar)

“Every time I’ve seen her I’ve been impressed.” Chambers and Partners 2022 (Administrative and Public Law, London Bar)

“The level of technical detail that she can absorb, digest and quickly turn around advice on is phenomenal. Whatever the subject and whatever the issue, she just gets it instantly.” Chambers and Partners 2020 (Environment, London Bar)

“Very quick to grasp often very scientific and technical details and to give well-crafted technical advice to tight deadlines.” Chambers and Partners 2020 (Environment, London Bar)

“Catherine is phenomenally clever – she has an impeccable grasp of the case law and legislative framework and is able to apply this to novel or unusual circumstances in a way which is clear and highly effective. Her written work is extremely clear and elegantly worded. She is always accessible and fantastic with clients.” The Legal 500 2021 (Court of Protection and Community Care, Leading Juniors)

“She is very meticulous and analytical, and has a robust approach. She puts a lot of effort into preparing cases.” Chambers and Partners 2020 (Court of Protection, London Bar)

“She is extremely bright but also caring and kind. She has the perfect balance and approach for vulnerable clients.” Chambers and Partners 2020 (Court of Protection, London Bar)

“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.”

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

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