Ian Brownhill

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“A very good advocate who is gifted on his feet”
Chambers & Partners 2022

“Ian is incredibly knowledgeable in many fields.  His advice is always very considered and balanced, and he is adept at putting clients at ease and is always very approachable.”
The Legal 500 2022

Ian specialises in public law, human rights and regulatory law.

Ian has a broad public law and human rights practice which focusses on mental capacity, education law, criminal justice, prison and police law and community care. Ian has particular expertise in safeguarding adults.

Ian’s international practice is varied but primarily focusses on matters relating to mental capacity, criminal justice or wider human rights issues. He has been instructed by, or worked on cases with, lawyers from: Canada, the United States, Germany, Cyprus, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, Ireland and the Isle of Man. In addition, Ian is often instructed by charities, NGOs and companies with an international reach, especially in respect of safeguarding matters.

Ian is ranked as a “band 1” leading junior for Court of Protection (Health and Welfare) by Chambers & Partners and ranked for Court of Protection and Community Care by The Legal 500.

Ian is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Panel of Counsel. Ian acts pro bono for the families of missing people, he acts for the mother of Ben Needham and the mother of Damien Nettles.

Ian sits as HM Assistant Coroner for Kent, is a chair and member of the Football Association’s Safeguarding Review Panel and is Legally Qualified Chair and Hearing Body Panel Member for British Equestrian.

Ian is a Trustee of the Sentencing Academy.

Court of Protection

Ian has acted in Court of Protection cases at every level, up to and including in the Supreme Court. Most of Ian’s Court of Protection work is in respect of health and welfare decisions which are heard by Tier 3 (High Court) Judge. Ian often appears in cases against leading counsel as a junior alone.

Ian’s health and welfare work is split between serious medical treatment cases and complex welfare cases. Often, Ian’s cases have a serious safeguarding aspect. Ian is particularly sought in cases which feature: (i) allegations that P is the victim of physical, sexual or financial abuse; (ii) an assessment that P themselves it at the risk of offending; (iii) concerns that P has been radicalised, brainwashed, trafficked or groomed. Ian is instructed in cases which concern high levels of physical and chemical restraint.

Ian’s serious medical treatment practice is varied. An unusual facet of his practice includes cases involving prisoners who lack capacity to make decisions as to their medical treatment. In recent times, this has included cases relating to dental treatment and those cases where P is on hunger strike. Ian has advised on a number of complex cases arising from the covid-19 pandemic.

Ian is instructed by a broad range of parties in Court of Protection proceedings including the Official Solicitor, NHS bodies and private care providers. Local authorities often instruct Ian in cases with a complex safeguarding issue, or where there is an intersection with another jurisdiction. Ian’s private clients have included a Member of Parliament, high net worth individuals, sporting personalities and an international business leader.

Ian’s property and affairs work is focussed on  the financial abuse of vulnerable adults. Ian regularly appears in cases involving the operation of LPAs, EPAs and Deputyships. In addition, Ian has dealt with cases involving statutory wills and is instructed by the Public Guardian.

Outside of the Court of Protection, Ian appears in applications in the Family Division relating to deprivation of liberty cases for children and serious medical treatment cases. Ian is often asked to appear in cases in the High Court invoking the inherent jurisdiction  in respect of children and vulnerable adults.

Ian’s expertise in respect of mental capacity is also used in judicial reviews with regard to the treatment of vulnerable adult prisoners and inquests involving the deaths of vulnerable adults. Ian has also advised the CQC on prosecutions relating to deaths in care settings.


A Local Authority v JB [2021] UKSC 52 The Supreme Court gave guidance on the approach to determining capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 s.2 and s.3. In relation to determining a person’s capacity to decide to have sexual relations (led by John McKendrick QC)

University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust v AS [2021] EWHC 2927 (Fam) – Withdrawal of life sustaining treatment for a 4 year old with Krabbe Disease

WU v BU [2021] EWCOP 54 – The Court of Protection granted a final injunction to prevent a man from contacting an elderly lady who lacked capacity to decide whether she should maintain contact with him. He had exercised coercive control over her, deliberately intending to secure a financial benefit for himself (led by Parishil Patel QC).

Greenwich RLBC v EOA [2021] EWCOP 20 – mental capacity and bests interests of a young man with autism who had been subject to religious indoctrination.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust v TW [2021] EWCOP 13 – withdrawal of life sustaining treatment.

Livewell Southwest CIC v MD [2020] EWCOP 57 – serious medical treatment case involving covert sedation and a total dental clearance.

A Local Authority v GP [2020] EWCOP 56 – capacity to make decisions as to education.

A Local Authority v JB [2020] EWCA Civ 735 – leading case on capacity to make decisions as to sex (led by Parishil Patel QC)

R. (on the application of EG) v Parole Board [2020] EWHC 1457 (Admin) – judicial review claim in respect of the treatment of prisoners who lack capacity to conduct their parole process (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC)

Re SF (injunctive relief) [2020] EWCOP 19 – the power of the Court of Protection to make injunctions.

Local Authority v P [2019] EWCOP 67 – whether proceedings relating to a learning disabled man with autistic spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder convicted of several sexual offences should be heard in public subject to a transparency order rather than being heard in private.

A Hospital v JJ [2019] EWCOP 41 – serious medical treatment case involving capacity related to diabetes and the validity of an advanced decision.

Public Guardian v TW [2016] EWCOP 18 – appointment of deputies where there is a history of family disputes.


Ian has an established education law practice most of which is centred around: (i) the handling of complaints by schools, colleges and universities; (ii) the exclusion of students; (iii) governance disputes; (iv) safeguarding issues.

Ian has challenged decisions of OFSTED by way of judicial review and has successfully challenged an examination board before an OFQUAL panel. Ian has defended claims for judicial review against schools and universities. In addition, Ian has acted as the legal advisor to the panel at hearings at schools and universities.

Ian has extensive experience in cross examining children and acting for them. Ian has cross examined children as young as 3 and acted for children with a variety of disabilities and special educational needs. Ian is particularly sought after in cases where there are education disputes involving young people who lack capacity to make decisions as to their education.

Ian was the Chair of the governing body at a primary academy and involved in school governance for 8 years across three academies.

Inquiries & Investigations

Ian primarily acts for the families of the deceased or for private companies and charities who have been recognised as an interested party. The majority of Ian’s inquests as counsel involve deaths: (i) where there are questions as to a person’s mental health or capacity; (ii) in custody; (iii) which are related to education or social care settings.

Ian’s advisory practice in respect of coronial law is varied and has included: (i) civil claims against coroners; (ii) Attorney-General’s fiat; (iii) judicial reviews of coroners; (iv) advice as to issues of mental capacity arising in the inquest context. Ian has been instructed to advise inquest participants as well as coroners. Ian is able and is happy to act as counsel to an inquest.

Outside of his inquest practice, Ian is instructed to advise on other safeguarding review processes. In particular, Ian has advised Safeguarding Adult Boards and Domestic Homicide Review panels.

Ian has led independent investigations within a sports club, schools and at major charities. Those investigations primarily arise from whistleblowing complaints in respect of safeguarding issues.

Ian accepts inquest instructions across the country but does not act as counsel in his coronial jurisdiction of Kent.

Deaths involving mental capacity issues

Inquest touching upon the death of GS
Article 2 inquest, acting for the family of the deceased, which included complex issues as to capacity to make decisions as to hospital discharge and conveyance to hospital. Inquest concluded with findings of failings by public bodies and PFDs made.

Inquest touching upon the death of Molly Frank
Jury inquest, acting for the deceased’s employer. Ms Frank died whilst acting as a carer for an individual with dementia who was displaying challenging behaviour.

Deaths in custody

Inquest touching upon the death of Solomon Bygrave
Article 2 jury inquest, acting for the family of the deceased. The jury concluded that the failure to complete checks on Mr Bygrave contributed to his death and that staff were not adequately briefed about the risk of Mr Bygrave self-harming, which the jury also concluded contributed to Mr Bygrave’s death, together with a failure to complete properly an ACCT document.

Inquest touching upon the death of Edward Ham
Acting for the family of deceased. The coroner found that medical arrangements in the prison were sub optimal.

Deaths involving education and healthcare settings

Inquest touching upon the death of Tyrese Glasgow
Acting for a charity who provided counselling to a school student who committed suicide.

Other high profile inquests

Inquest touching upon the death of Phil Townshend
Instructed for the family on a direct access basis

Prison & Police Law

Ian is described by Chambers and Partners as a“highly regarded prison law barrister”, who started his career at the Prisoners’ Advice Service where he was the first man to act as the Women Prisoners’ Caseworker. Through his time at PAS and at the Bar, Ian has dealt with the entire range of prison law cases. Ian has taught on the LAG introduction to prison adjudications course and has edited cases for the prisoners’ legal rights group bulletin. In 2018, Ian was appointed a Trustee of the Sentencing Academy.

Ian still accepts instructions in prison law advocacy matters and is often instructed to act in extremely complex cases (especially those involving large quantities of psychological or psychiatric evidence), or where the prisoner is high profile.

The majority of Ian’s police law instructions are related to the way in which the police have interacted with people with mental or physical disabilities. Ian has succeeded in civil claims in relation to the unlawful use of section 136 of the Mental Health Act and the deployment and use of tasers. Ian is often instructed in respect of complaints against the police, especially on behalf of professionals. Ian has acted in a number of cases which relate to civil applications brought by the police including anti-social behaviour and gang injunctions.

Ian is well known for his pro bono work on behalf of the families of missing people.


R. (on the application of Bousfield) v Parole Board for England and Wales [2021] EWHC 3160 (Admin) – judicial review claim in respect of the proper approach to the presumption of release for extended determinated sentenced prisoners apply the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R (Sim v Parole Board) [2003] [EWCA] Civ 1845 (leading Stuart Withers).

R. (on the application of Stokes) v Parole Board for England and Wales [2020] EWHC 1885 (Admin) – judicial review claim in respect of the operation of the Parole Board’s reconsideration mechanism and the concept of procedural fairness.

R. (on the application of EG) v Parole Board [2020] EWHC 1457 (Admin) – judicial review claim in respect of the treatment of prisoners who lack capacity to conduct their parole process (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC).

Shields-McKinley v Secretary of State for Justice [2019] EWCA Civ 1954 – the calculation of remand time following an extradition from an EU country (led by Philip Rule).

R. (on the application of PL) v Parole Board for England and Wales [2019] EWHC 3306 (Admin) – judicial review challenge where parole board had failed to grapple with the evidence in relation to PL’s personality disorder and the potential detriment to its management in open conditions.

R. (on the application of Steele) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] EWHC 1072 (Admin) – judicial review of refusal to convene a category A review oral hearing.

R. (on the application of Goldsworthy) v Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWHC 2822 (Admin) – judicial review of a terminally ill prisoner’s recall from a care home to prison.

R. (on the application of Coghlan) v Baxter, National Crime Agency [2017] EWHC 3191 (Admin)- Judicial review challenge to the operation of functions and powers of a trustee for civil recovery as defined by s.267 and Sch.7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

R. (on the application of Wallace) v Parole Board for England and Wales [2017] EWHC 295 (Admin)– judicial review challenge of refusal to recommend that a prisoner was moved to open conditions.

R. (on the application of Galiazia) v Governor of Hewell Prison [2014] EWHC 3427 (Admin); [2015] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 13; [2015] A.C.D. 18 Whether an offender had been lawfully recalled to prison for breach of licence, notwithstanding the fact that he had spent more time remanded in custody prior to sentence than the length of the sentence imposed. Led by Judith Farbey QC (as she then was).

R. (on the application of H) v Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court [2014] EWHC 2799 (Admin) Judicial review of Magistrates’ Court’s decision not to delete a person from the sex offenders register.

R. v South [2014] EWCA Crim 1414 – reduction of a sentence for violent offending due to the offender’s age.

R (on the application of E) v Governor of Hatfield Prison [2013] EWHC 775 (Admin) Judicial review of Prison’s sentence calculation following successful appeal in the criminal division of the Court of Appeal.

Jukes v Director of Public Prosecutions [2013] EWHC 195 (Admin) – Whether participants in a protest march on which conditions under the Public Order Act 1986 s.12 were imposed were subject to conditions when they left the protest.

Administrative & Public

Best known for his work in respect of mental health/capacity and criminal justice related matters. Ian has a multifaceted public law practice at 39 Essex. Ian primarily acts for individual claimants but is increasingly instructed by charities and NGOs. Ian has represented a number of schools, universities and local authorities in judicial review proceedings also.

The vast majority of Ian’s international work has been related to administrative and public law.


R. (on the application of EG) v Parole Board [2020] EWHC 1457 (Admin) – judicial review claim in respect of the treatment of prisoners who lack capacity to conduct their parole process (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC).

R. (on the application of Coghlan) v Baxter, National Crime Agency [2017] EWHC 3191 (Admin)- Judicial review challenge to the operation of functions and powers of a trustee for civil recovery as defined by s.267 and Sch.7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Corby Borough Council v Da Silva [2016] EWHC 2503 (Admin) – Challenge to decision of Magistrates Court to set aside council tax liability orders where there was no evidence on which the magistrates could have found a genuine and arguable dispute as to liability.

K v Crown Prosecution Service [2013] EWHC 1678 (Admin) – Youth Court conviction quashed due to appearance of bias.

Kaszowski v Poland [2012] EWHC 2871 (Admin) – Challenge to an extradition to Poland.

Goatley v Netherlands [2012] EWHC 315 (Admin) – Challenge to an extradition to the Netherlands where the Defendant had been released by the Dutch prison authorities.

Grozvos v Lithuania [2012] EWHC 161 (Admin) – Challenge to an extradition to Lithuania based on prison conditions.

Regulatory & Disciplinary

Ian has acted in these matters since he was a pupil and was one of the first barristers to appear in an aggressive trading practices prosecution and has since that time maintained a broad regulatory practice. Ian has represented: (i) two large supermarket chains; (ii) a chain of gyms; (iii) an international airline; (iv) a variety of social care providers.

Much of Ian’s regulatory work is linked to safeguarding. Ian has been involved in safeguarding investigations initiated by local authorities, the Charity Commission and others. Ian has advised on safeguarding at a Championship Football Club, in private schools and at various charities. Ian has been instructed to advise a number of international charities following sexual misconduct concerns overseas.

Outside of safeguarding, Ian has been instructed in a huge range of regulatory matters, these have included the use of community protection notices against a children’s home, noise complaints against supermarkets, various licensing matters and a number of cases which relate to the treatment of animals.


“He is user-friendly, very generous with his time and knows a lot about the way the prisons and probation interface with Court of Protection issues, which is really helpful in complex cases.”

Chambers UK, 2022

‘Ian is incredibly knowledgeable in many fields. His advice is always very considered and balanced, and he is adept at putting clients at ease and is always very approachable.’

Legal 500, 2022

“Ian’s knowledge of this area of law is endless; there is nothing he does not know. In cross-examinations he leaves no stone unturned and always ensures the best job is done for the client.”

Chambers UK 2021

“Ian is a robust and punchy advocate, very well liked and respected, who always gives good, practical advice. Extremely hard working and highly intelligent barrister who works on complex issues quickly and efficiently.”

Legal 500 2021

“He is knowledgeable, takes a no-nonsense approach and he is very good at problem solving. He very quickly gets straight to the heart of the issues.” “An incredibly passionate advocate.”
Chambers UK 2020

“Incredibly bright, articulate, approachable, and responsive.”
Legal 500 2020

“He’s a real rising star in the Court of Protection – he’s always really responsive, is very skilled in cross-examination and he’s easy to work with.” “Ian’s drafting and advocacy is always so concise.”
Chambers UK 2019

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