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Bethan Harris

  • Call: 1990
Bethan Harris
"Always exceptional, even with the most challenging of clients. She is tenacious and spots the subtle points that are sometimes overlooked."

Chambers UK, 2019

"She can deal with a great breadth of issues and puts her all into her cases."

Legal 500, 2019

What the directories say

Bethan is ranked in Chambers UK 2019 for Court of Protection, Community Care and Social Housing. She is also ranked in the Legal 500 2019 for her Social Housing and Court of Protection work.

“She’s an excellent barrister who is very thorough, very detailed, and will give very clear advice on cases. She is able to very quickly absorb the details of a case and provide comprehensive advice.” “Bethan has very good attention to detail, excellent knowledge and is someone who’s very responsive.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2019 (Court of Protection)

“Always exceptional, even with the most challenging of clients. She is tenacious and spots the subtle points that are sometimes overlooked.” “She is very thorough, she always prepares very well, and she is particularly good for cases with an element of client vulnerability.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2019 (Social Housing)

“She definitely knows what she’s doing and is always on top of her brief.” “She’s very good at dealing with challenging clients and she’s really good in exceptionally difficult cases.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2019 (Community Care)

“Able to provide thorough and detailed advice very quickly.”
Legal 500 2019 (Social Housing)

“She can deal with a great breadth of issues and puts her all into her cases.”
Legal 500 2019 (Court of Protection)

“She has a really good attention to detail and can deal with nuanced issues very well. When you’ve got a complex case with many issues, she’s good because she leaves no stone unturned.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2018 (Court of Protection)

“Has a great eye for detail and superior client care skills.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2018 (Community Care)

“Very thorough and willing to assist.”
Legal 500 2017 (Social Housing)

“She’s very good, very tempered, reasonable and insightful.” “She’s dogged and a fighter.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2017 (Court of Protection)

“She clearly garners the respect of her colleagues and the judiciary.”
Legal 500 2016 (Social Housing)

An experienced tenant lawyer with 100% commitment to any case she takes on. Her preparation is second to none and she brings a real interest in equality and disability legislation to her work.”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2017 (Social Housing)


Bethan practises in housing law, community care law and Court of Protection work. She is ranked in Legal 500 2016 and 2015, Chambers UK 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

In her Court of Protection work, she is described as “thoroughly well prepared and reliable. She is good with the client and has a wealth of knowledge that extends beyond Court of Protection work. That’s very useful. She’s quick on her feet and is good at cross-examining witnesses.” She is “very organised and highly responsive. She has a particularly good style when dealing with matters that are very sensitive.”

In the social housing category, it is said that “She has a subtlety of mind and the ability to deal with a great breadth of issues. She puts her all into cases.” “She is very good, thorough, prepares well, is good with clients and doesn’t miss points.” She is “excellent with clients and thoroughly prepares her cases. Her practice is wide and she is particularly adept at handling vulnerability and mental health issues.”

In previous publications of Chambers UK, she is described as “very capable” and praised for her “meticulous and accurate approach” and her “fantastic rapport with clients”. “Detailed yet pragmatic,” “she’ll exhaust every argument and is always robust in court.” Regarding her Court of Protection work, it is noted that “She is very knowledgeable about mental capacity issues in general – her community care knowledge helps a great deal. She is very organised and persuasive in court, and is a solid negotiator with a conciliatory style.”

Her housing work includes homelessness and allocations judicial review and appeals; public law claims for housing and assistance under the National Assistance Act 1948 and the Children Act 1989 or relying on articles 3/8 ECHR; housing benefit; defending claims for possession, using the Equality Act 2010 and mental capacity issues in housing, cases involving an overlap of housing and community care. She recently appeared in a test case on local authority discretion in housing allocations schemes following amendments introduced by the Localism Act 2011. She has advised on and drafted local authority allocations schemes and been instructed as an expert witness in children’s care proceedings.

Her community care work includes community care assessments and service delivery issues such as direct payments, personal budgets and the RAS, decisions on application of eligibility criteria, decision-making in relation to residential care and independent living, delivery of services to persons lacking mental capacity, charging issues, children in need assessments and services, carers’ assessments, the public sector equality duty. In January 2015 she provided a webinar – Care Act 2014 Part 1: What practitioners need to know (January 2015), produced by Practical Law.

Bethan appears frequently in the Court of Protection. Her work includes emergency applications including applications involving deprivation of liberty and section 21A MCA 2005, advising on local authority safeguarding duties, personal welfare applications concerning residence, care and contact, contested appointments of financial/health and welfare deputies, and dealing with complex care package. She can also cover some property and financial affairs issues and applications. Bethan acts for litigation friends, local authorities and family members.

In 2011 she became a member of the panel of preferred counsel of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and was recently re-appointed to the panel (February 2015).

Bethan frequently provides training on Court of Protection work, community care and housing law. She has conducted seminars and training sessions at relevant practitioner organisations (e.g. the Housing Law Practitioners’ Association; Liberty; Shelter; the Public Law Project, the Legal Action Group and Community Care Law Reports conference). She was a panel member of the former Social Security Appeal Tribunal.


She is an editor of the Community Care Law Reports. She co-authors the regular up-date on Housing Benefit Law in the Legal Action Magazine. She contributes to the monthly updates and practice notes on the Garden Court Chambers social welfare law website.

Notable Cases

Hillsden v Epping Forest District Council [2015] EWHC 98 (Admin): whether local authorities retain a residual discretion to allocated social housing outside their normal qualifying rules, following the amendments introduced by the Localism Act 2011 http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2015/98.html

Re X and others (Deprivation of Liberty) [2014] EWCOP 25and [2014] EWCOP 37: represented one of the local authorities in this Court of Protection litigation that determined the procedure for court-authorised deprivation of liberty following the expansion of the concept by the UKSC ruling in Cheshire West.

Islington LBC v QR [2014] EWCOP 26: represented a person challenging an assessment of her capacity and best interests decision to move to supported living; establishing that the person retained litigation capacity although not subject-matter capacity. The judgment contains detailed guidance of capacity to make decisions to enter a supported living tenancy. http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/26.html

R (E) v Walsall Council, Administrative Court, 10 December 2013 (HHJ Plunkett): she represented a child, E, in a claim for judicial review which established that E’s placement with her grandparents, following child protection concerns, was under s 20 Children Act 1989; the grandparents were local authority foster carers and entitled to the foster care allowance.

ACCG and ACC v MN [2013] EWHC 3859 (COP) (Mrs Justice King): acted for the Official Solicitor in relation to the care and residence of a young man with autism and severe epilepsy; a central issue was whether there was a choice between “available options” when the local authority refused to provide them. The judgment contains a full exposition of the principles in this area.

An NHS Trust v Mrs P and Ms P [2013] EWHC 50 COP (Hedley J): she represented the mother of a young woman with learning difficulties responding to an application to the Court of Protection to determine issues of capacity and best interests in relation to whether the young woman, who was at risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, should have a termination or continue with her pregnancy. This case was reported by the BBC.

Toynbee Housing Association v Choudhury, Clerkenwell County Court, 2 February 2011, Legal Action, May 2011, 35: a successful appeal against a decision to evict a disabled tenant and her family due to the drug related behaviour of the son, involving arguments under Article 8 and an argument that the court has full jurisdiction to hear the case when the lower court granted permission to appeal.

Stephens v Kerr [2006] HLR 21 CA : tenant with Rent Act 1977 security retaining her protected status despite prolonged absence from dwelling.

Southwark LBC v Long [2002] HLR 56 CA: council’s obligation to maintain common parts of council estate.

Lambeth LBC v Howard [2001] 33 HLR 58 CA: relevance of Article 8 in possession proceedings brought by local authority on grounds of anti-social behaviour.

Hammersmith & Fulham v Clarke [2001] 33 HLR 77 CA: elderly tenant retaining security of her council tenancy after moving into residential care.

R (G) v LB Barnet [2001] EWHC Admin 5: availability of assistance under s 17 Children Act 1989 for child in need and its mother who was not habitually resident in the UK).

CIS 3325/00 [2001] UKSSCSC CIS_3325_2000 (3 August 2001): social security commissioner appeal on entitlement of people with severe learning disabilities to income support after transfer from hospital care to nursing home care.

De Silva v Social Security Commissioner [2001] EWCA Civ 539: Social Security Appeal Tribunal’s duty to make accurate record of proceedings.

R (Patrick) v Newham LBC (2000) 4 CCLR 48: local authority’s duty to conduct community care assessment for person with mental illness living rough: when duty triggered and requirements of a lawful assessment.

LB Haringey v Jowett [2000] 32 HLR 308: Environmental Protection Act 1990 and noise nuisance caused by traffic.

Bate v Chief Adjudication Officer [1996] 1 WLR 814 HL: anti-test case rules in social security law.


Bethan has been involved in briefing MPs and drafting amendments on behalf of pressure groups in relation to housing and social security legislation. She has worked in Kosovo and Macedonia documenting human rights violations on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights and visited Montenegro to speak to lawyers on behalf of the Bar Human Rights Committee. Bethan comes from South Wales and speaks Welsh. She has appeared on Welsh TV and radio on many occasions commenting on current legal affairs.