Before coming to the Bar, Desmond worked as a welfare rights adviser at Citizens Advice, 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.
Desmond has provided written opinions in complex family law proceedings, particularly those involving EU migrants. His written opinion in an immigration matter was described as "very helpful" in Yarce (adequate maintenance: benefits)Colombia  UKUT 425 (IAC).
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v JS (IS)  UKUT 490 (AAC)) - (junior counsel) - on 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 .
HB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (IS)  UKUT 443 (AAC) - (co-counsel) 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 permission to appeal.
R (Sanneh) v Secretary for State for Work and Pensions & Anor  EWHC 793 (Admin) (junior counsel) - 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.
 UKUT 17 (AAC) ) - Income Support - right to reside test - Proportionality- claimant detained under Mental Health Act refused income support.
CIS/2358/2006 - Income support - Right to reside - Claimant working in UK for over three years - did not return to work after maternity leave - Proportionality and Article 18 of EC Treaty.
Burnip v Birmingham City Council & Anor  EWCA Civ 629 (junior counsel) - 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.
CP v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKUT 157 (AAC) - 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 (Hook) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 1705 (Admin) (R(IS) 7/07) (junior counsel) - whether the application of the notional capital rules were disproportionate under Article 8 ECHR.
CJSA/2663/2006 Jobseeker's Allowance - Exemption for full-time students during summer vacation - whether discriminatory against lone parents - Article 14 and A1P1 ECHR.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Payne & Cooper  UKSC 60,  2 WLR 1, (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').
R (S) v Social Security Commissioner and ors  EWHC 2221 (Admin),  PTSR 1785, (junior counsel) - 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.
PB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SPC)  UKUT 0069 (AAC) - State Pension Credit - Housing Costs - Whether capping of entitlement to help with mortgage interest at £100,000 in breach of artice 14 ECHR based on age.
SS v Birmingham City and Secretary of State (HB)  UKUT 418 (AAC) - (junior counsel) 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 (junior counse) - 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.
Scott v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 103 (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.
Sandhu v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 962 - Disability Living Allowance - Higher rate of the mobility component for a claimant who could only walk with the aid of crutches - see Memo DMG 47/10.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Bhakta  EWCA Civ 65 - Income Support - Habitual residence test and the use of the advanced awards provisions
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Doyle  EWCA Civ 466 - Incapacity Benefit - Calculation of permitted earnings.
Austin v London Borough of Southwark  UKSC 28,  1 AC 355 (junior counsel) on whether a former tenant's right to apply to postpone the date for possession and thus revive a secure tenancy under section 85(2) of the Housing Act 1985 survives death and passes to the estate of the deceased former tenant.
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.
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
Desmond also makes regular contributions to Free Movement on welfare benefit issues and to the Social Welfare Law website
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 and CPAG.
- Social Security Law Practitioners' Association (SSLawPA)
- Legal Action Group (LAG)
- Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
- Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA)
Profile updated March 2014