Before coming to the Bar, Desmond worked in the Advice Sector from 1993 until 2003 in a number of organisations including Citizens Advice Bureaux in Clerkenwell, Fulham, Kilburn and Wandsworth, LEAN and Welcare. He became a volunteer at the Free Representation Unit in 1992 and was employed as the Social Security Caseworker in 1995/6. Desmond joined Garden Court Chambers in 2004 (after completing a 12 months pupillage). He was short-listed for Young Legal Aid Barrister of the Year in 2007 for his work in social security.
Desmond's main areas of practice are public law and welfare benefits. He provides advice and representation on a variety of issues which include:
- written advice on applications for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) against decisions of a First-tier Tribunal;
- representation at oral hearings before the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) (where exceptional funding is available);
- representation in the Court of Appeal in appeals against the Upper Tribunal; and
- representation in proceedings for judicial review against the DWP.
Desmond advises on welfare benefit decisions that are susceptible to judicial review. Desmond also advises in housing cases where there are underlying benefit issues: for further details see article on the Garden Court Blog (click here for link) in which Desmond considers various scenarios where housing benefit issues are susceptible to judicial review.
Desmond accepts instructions to provide written opinions on social security benefits in complex family law proceedings, particularly those involving EU migrants. His written opinion on the income and capital rules for means-tested benefits was described as "very helpful" by the Immigration and Asylum Upper Tribunal in Yarce (adequate maintenance: benefits)Colombia  UKUT 425 (IAC) on the proper approach to be taken.
Public Law and Human Rights
HB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (IS)  UKUT 443 (AAC) - Income Support - on whether the abolition on 14.06.07 of reg 21ZB of the IS Regs (the rule backdating income support awarded to a refugee to the date his or her asylum application had been made) is contrary to EU law under article 28 of Directive 20044/83/EC or a breach of the appellant's human rights. The claimant has applied for permision to appeal.
R (Sanneh) v Secretary for State for Work and Pensions & Anor  EWHC 793 (Admin) (10 April 2013) - Test case on whether a 'Zambrano carer' who has been denied access to mainstream welfare benefits should, as a matter of EU law, be provided with interim relief, pending the outcome of her substantive welfare benefit appeal.
R (Knowles) v Secretary Of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 19 (Admin) (17 January 2013) - Test case based on a human rights challenge on behalf of two Romani Gypsies who were faced with a significant shortfall in their rent due to the way Housing Benefit ('HB') is calculated for privately owned caravan sites. The Court held that any differential treatment of Romani Gypsies under the HB scheme is objectively justified. (Led by Marc Willers).
R (Nicholas) v Upper Tribunal & Anor  EWHC 2724 (Admin) (26 July 2012) - Judicial review of refusal of permission by the Upper Tribunal - Application of the Cart test in an incapacity benefit appeal where previous medical assessments were not included in the papers. Aikens LJ granted permission to appeal on 1 March 2013 by reference to ST v SSWP  UKUT 469 (AAC). Click here for transcript. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal as Aikens LJ had refused to grant permission on the Cart point  EWCA Civ 799.
Burnip v Birmingham City Council & Anor  EWCA Civ 629 (15 May 2012) - Test case on whether a failure of the housing benefit rules to differentiate between the disabled and able-bodied amounted to a breach of article 14 of the ECHR under the Thlimmenos principle. The judgment was described in the 'Welfare Rights Bulletin' as "a rare, important, and very welcome victory for a discrimination argument in a social security context" (WRB 228 June 2012).
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Payne & Anor  UKSC 60,  2 WLR 1, (14 December 2011) (junior counsel) - Test case on whether the Secretary of State has the power to recoup social fund loans and benefit overpayments by deduction from current benefit payments where those debts are listed on a debt relief order ('DRO').
CP v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKUT 157 (AAC) (7 April 2011) - Whether compensation paid to a disabled claimant for death of mother when she was a child should be ignored as capital / whether failure to make special provision breached her human rights.
RM v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SF)  UKUT 220 (AAC),  AACR 8 (1 July 2010) - Human rights - funeral payment - whether statutory scheme discriminatory contrary to Article 14 of the Convention in the case of an orthodox Jewish funeral.
R (S) v Social Security Commissioner and ors  EWHC 2221 (Admin),  PTSR 1785, (3 September 2009) - Housing benefit - Claimant with mild learning disability living in supported housing - test for "exempt accommodation" -care provided by or on behalf of social landlord - Sch.3 para.4 HB/CTB (consequential provisions) Regulations 2006.
R (Hook) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 1705 (Admin) (R(IS) 7/07) -(3 July 2007) (junior counsel) -whether notional capital rules disproportionate under Article 8 ECHR.
CJSA/2663/2006 (14 June 2007) Jobseeker's Allowance - Exemption for full-time students during summer vacation - whether discriminatory against lone parents - Article 14 and A1P1 ECHR.
Welfare Benefit Appeals
PB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SPC)  UKUT 0069 (AAC) (10.2.14) - State Pension Credit - Housing Costs - Whether capping of entitlement to help with mortgage interest not in breach of Human Rights Act 1998.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v JS (IS)  UKUT 490 (AAC)) - whether a Zambrano carer is entitled to income support. On 18 December 2013, Pitchford LJ granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal - click here for further details .
SS v Birmingham City and Secretary of State (HB)  UKUT 418 (AAC) - Housing Benefit - Women's Refuge - Exempt Accommodation - Whether rent charged by charity with no funding is unreasonably high by comparison with the rent charged by publically funded charities in respect of suitable alternative accommodation elsewhere.
Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council v Salisbury Independent Living Ltd  EWCA Civ 84 (09 February 2012) - Whether a landlord has a right of appeal against a housing benefit decision as a "person affected" where it has lost contact with the tenant or the tenant has died.
AD v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKUT 307 (AAC) (29 July 2011) - Whether alcohol and drug dependency constitute 'mental condition' - conflict between different UT judges.
DK v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKUT 230 (AAC) (26 May 2011) - Recovery of overpayment - Tribunal procedure - decision to go ahead with hearing in claimant's absence / whether failure to disclose decision was properly made.
Scott v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 103 (21 January 2011) (junior counsel) - on whether a Benedictine nun was excluded from any entitlement to state pension credit under the rule that she was a member of a religious order and was fully maintained by her order.
CH/872/2009 - SD v Newcastle City Council  UKUT 306 (AAC) (17 August 2010) - Housing Benefit - Overpayment decision valid, but legally ineffective if not notified to the claimant - Anufrijeva considered.
Sandhu v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 962 (10 June 2010) - Disability Living Allowance - Higher rate of the mobility component for a claimant who could only walk with the aid of crutches - Court's power to re-make a decision. The Department of Work and Pensions has issued new guidance (Memo DMG 47/10) in light of the case, reminding decision-makers to take into account the case-law on the use of crutches and 'weight bearing'.
Desmond is a contributor to Housing Law Handbook, (Cottle ed, 2009, 1st ed) and Macdonald's Immigration Law and Practice (Macdonald and Toal, 2010, 8th ed). He is a co-author of the annual housing benefit update in Legal Action and has written articles for the Adviser. He was the Digest Editor of the Journal of Social Security Law (Sweet and Maxwell) for ten years (between 2001-2012). Desmond is the co-author of the Housing Benefit Update published in the Legal Action Group magazine. Click here to view updates.
Judicial Review and Welfare Benefits - Papers delivered at the Judicial Reivew North Conferences in 2010 and 2012 organised by the Public Law Project. Click here for link to PLP resources page.
Housing benefit overpayments: Part one: -'Official error' - Adviser 133 p.11-14 May/Jun 2009
Housing benefit overpayments: Part two - the 'reasonably realise' test - Adviser 134 p.10-14 Jul/Aug 2009
Acquiring and retaining the status of a worker and the habitual residence test (2009) 16 Journal of Social Security Law - D96-D103
Backdating for good cause - Adviser 113 Jan/Feb 2006, 9
Living Together Appeals Revisited - recent case law on the cohabitation test - Adviser 81, Sept/Oct 2000
Training and Seminars
Desmond has provided training on a range of subjects within social welfare law and has been a guest speaker at the Housing Law Practitioners' Association, the Social Security Law Practitioners' Association, Legal Action and events organised by the Public Law Project and the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers. Desmond recently delivered a seminar on Latest Developments in EU Law for Housing and Social Assistance for Migrants and their Children. Click here for the seminar notes.
- Social Security Law Practitioners' Association (SSLawPA)
- Legal Action Group (LAG)
- Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
- Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA)
Profile updated March 2014