“A very experienced, thoughtful and creative barrister who achieves very good results for his clients." Chambers and Partners 2022
Steve is a public lawyer with particular expertise in health, education and social care and disability and children’s rights cases. He is a discrimination specialist and is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission ‘A’ Panel.
Steve is instructed in the High Court and above in applications for judicial review, in the Court of Protection for cases involving the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and in the First-tier and Upper Tribunals in education and other appeals. He frequently advises clients on safeguarding issues. He is also regularly instructed in human rights and discrimination claims.
Steve is ranked in four categories by Chambers and Partners, including in Band 1 for Community Care and Education. He has appeared in many reported cases, including leading Supreme Court cases on disability issues. Steve was named Young Barrister of the Year at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2011 and ‘Future Leader: Diversity & Inclusion’ at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2021.
Steve is co-author of Disabled Children: A Legal Handbook (Legal Action Group) and is an editor of the Community Care Law Reports. He previously worked in the voluntary sector in senior roles relating to disability and children’s rights.
Areas of expertise
Community Care and Mental Health
Steve has acted in many of the leading community care cases of the past decade, including the Supreme Court cases of McDonald v Kensington and Chelsea and KM v Cambridgeshire. He is ranked in Band 1 in Chambers and Partners in this area, where he is described as “a go-to barrister for community care work”. Steve both acts for claimants, generally disabled children or disabled adults but also businesses and charities, and advises public authorities, particularly in relation to policy development. Steve co-edits the leading practitioner text on disabled children and young people (Disabled Children: A Legal Handbook).
Cases of note:
- R (KM) v Cambridgeshire CC  UKSC 23 - KM is the leading case on the use of ‘Resource Allocation Systems’ in the social care context. Steve was junior counsel for the claimant.
- R (McDonald) v RB Kensington and Chelsea  UKSC 33 - McDonald was a high profile and controversial case involving a disabled woman who was forced to use incontinence pads to meet her night-time toileting needs, although she was not in fact incontinent. Steve was junior counsel for Mrs McDonald. The appeal failed in the Supreme Court by a 4-1 majority, but the Article 8 claim succeeded in part in the European Court of Human Rights (McDonald v UK).
- Cheshire West and Chester Council v P  UKSC 19 - Cheshire West is the leading authority on the approach to "deprivation of liberty’ where disabled people’s freedom of movement is restricted by reference to their care needs. Steve was instructed by the National Autistic Society and Mind as interveners.
- R (Article 39) v Secretary of State for Education  EWCA Civ 1577 - Steve was first junior counsel in this successful challenge to the process by which statutory protections for looked after children were removed by amending regulations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To date this remains the only successful challenge to secondary legislation introduced in response to Covid-19.
Steve is a specialist in the complex and evolving law on consultation by public bodies. Many of his cases push the boundaries in this area, for example, in Article 39 the Court of Appeal’s judgment established that selective consultation can be unfair, and Binder v SSWP is now the leading case on the voluntary assumption of a duty to consult fairly at common law.
Cases of note:
- R (Article 39) v Secretary of State for Education  EWCA Civ 1577 - Steve was first junior counsel in this successful challenge to the process by which statutory protections for looked after children were removed by amending regulations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Court of Appeal held that the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully in failing to consult with the Children’s Commissioner and the wider sector of children’s rights organisations before laying the relevant regulations.
- R (Binder and others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 105 (Admin) - As lead counsel, Steve persuaded Mr Justice Griffiths that the Secretary of State had voluntarily chosen to consult in the run-up to the publication of the National Disability Strategy, but had not done so in accordance with the requirements of fairness at common law. This is now the leading case on the voluntary assumption of a duty to consult fairly.
- R (Electronic Manufacturers Association) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  EWHC 2813 (Admin) - Steve was instructed as lead counsel in this commercial judicial review, concerning the policy decision to ban the use of electronic pet collars. The judgment of Mr Justice Morris is now frequently cited for its summary of the principles in relation to the law on consultation.
Steve is an education specialist and is ranked in Band 1 in this area by Chambers and Partners. His particular area of expertise is the law in relation to children and young people with special educational needs. He co-authors the leading practitioner text in this area (Disabled Children: A Legal Handbook). He has been instructed in the highest profile recent cases concerning this group, including Simone (a challenge to the national Budget) and Shaw (a challenge to statutory instruments introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic).
Cases of note:
- R (L, M and P) v Devon CC  EWHC 493 (Admin) - As lead counsel, Steve acted for three children in a case which established that there is a fixed timeframe for the production of amended education, health and care plans following annual reviews. Steve’s submissions on the proper construction of the relevant regulations were accepted by The Honourable Mrs Justice Foster DBE. The judgment will benefit thousands of children and young people with significant special educational needs each year.
- R (WC and BB) v Somerset CC  EWHC 2936 (Admin) - Steve was lead counsel for both claimants in this complex challenge to a local authority’s reorganisation of its school system, involving the deletion of the ‘middle school’ tier of schooling in a significant area of the county. The two claims were brought on a total of seven grounds of judicial review, with permission granted on all grounds.
- R (Shaw and another) v Secretary of State for Education  EWHC 2216 (Admin) - Steve was instructed as lead counsel in this high-profile challenge to a number of statutory instruments which downgraded the entitlements of children and young people with special educational needs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- R (Simone) v Chancellor of Exchequer and Secretary of State for Education  EWHC 2609 (Admin) - Steve was first junior counsel in this challenge to the national funding allocation for special educational provision, which included a challenge to the national Budget. This case remains the only occasion the court has granted to permission to apply for judicial review in relation to a challenge to the Budget.
- "He's creative, clever and passionate as well as being a delight to work with." Chambers and Partners, 2022
- "He's very accessible to lawyers and the public, and he really feels like part of the team when you're working with him." Chambers and Partners, 2022
- “A very talented barrister and one of the hardest-working people at the Bar, full stop." Chambers and Partners, 2022
- "He has excellent knowledge of law relating to special educational needs, public law and issues affecting young people generally. He also provides very clear advice and is a good advocate. He's very approachable and excellent at reassuring nervous clients." Chambers and Partners, 2022
- "Steve is incredibly good at understanding disability issues." Chambers and Partners, 2022
- “Very strong academically and a very good advocate, he’s a go-to junior.” Chambers and Partners, 2021
- “His advice is excellent. He’s forceful and his submissions carry weight. He’s also good at dealing with clients – he understands their needs and translates them into good outcomes.” Chambers and Partners, 2021
- “Unbelievably committed and conscientious. Very knowledgeable about special educational needs and the rights of disabled children.” Chambers and Partners, 2021
- “An excellent advocate, able to clearly present the case to the judge in a measured way and respond to judicial questioning calmly, maintaining a high standard of presentation of the case.” The Legal 500, 2021