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Catherine O’Donnell

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Catherine O'Donnell
"Calm and focused with an acute attention to detail." "Patient and understanding." "Very approachable and good with clients." "Highly recommended in sensitive cases involving vulnerable clients."
Legal 500 UK


Catherine is a member of the Housing and Civil teams. She previously worked in the voluntary sector where she campaigned on issues of social justice and equality which has very much influenced her career at the bar.

Since coming to the bar Catherine has built up extensive experience in a range of courts and tribunals including the Court of Appeal and has dedicated her practice to defending individuals’ economic, social and human rights.

“A meticulous advocate with a broad housing practice.”
Legal 500 2019

“Highly recommended in sensitive cases involving vulnerable clients.”
Legal 500 2017

“Calm and focused with an acute attention to detail.”
Legal 500 2016

“Patient and understanding.”
Legal 500 2015

“Very approachable and good with clients.”
Legal 500 2014


Catherine’s housing practice spans the whole range of tenancy and housing matters, including possession (anti-social behaviour, rent, breach of tenancy, tenancy status, sub-letting, succession, beneficial interests), anti-social behaviour injunctions, unlawful eviction, and disrepair.

Catherine is regularly instructed in complex possession trials, especially those involving mental health issues, where she brings to bear her extensive knowledge of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Catherine also acts and advises in the whole range of homelessness work, including county court appeals and claims for judicial review.

She has recently expanded her practice into property law.

Mental health and capacity

Mental health issues are a thread running through much of Catherine’s practice in all the fora in which she works. She regularly advises and acts in cases where capacity is an issue including where the Official Solicitor has been appointed. She has also appeared before the Mental Health Tribunal. She has provided training to practitioners in mental health and housing, and in disability discrimination. She is keen to continue to develop this area of her practice, including in the Court of Protection where she has acted in relation to deputyship in property and affairs proceedings.

General civil

Catherine has a varied general civil practice. She has experience in a range of cases involving Protection from Harrassment Act injunctions, nuisance, trespass and negligence.


Catherine came to the Bar from the voluntary sector where she was a senior researcher at the Low Pay Unit and carried out extensive campaigning work for the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and for improved employment rights. She worked with a variety of organisations, including trade unions, the Low Pay Commission and the European Commission, on issues surrounding pay, working conditions, equality and child workers.

Catherine also previously lectured in European Social Policy at Southbank University and University of Westminster.

Notable cases

Lawal & Anor v Circle 33 Housing Trust [2014] EWCA Civ 1514
Save in exceptional circumstances an Article 8 defence ought to be raised during the possession proceedings and in particular at the trial. To raise an Article 8 argument at the enforcement stage, when it could and should have been raised earlier, will almost always be an abuse of process.

Luke v Stoke-On- Trent City Council [2007] IRLR 777, Court of Appeal
Implied terms in employment contracts.

Rydqvist v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2002] 1 WLR 3343, Court of Appeal
Jurisdiction of Social Security Appeal Tribunal after appeal withdrawn.

Smith et al v Trustees of Brooklands College [2011] Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Transfer of Undertakings. Whether a contract term is void due to transfer.

Best v. St Austell China Clay Museum Ltd [2004] UKEAT
Section 44 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 ‘Voluntary Workers’. Meaning of week’s pay where free accommodation provided in return for work done under a contract of service.

Mingeley v Pennock & Ivory (trading as Amber Cars) [2003] All ER (D) 90 (Jun), Employment Appeal Tribunal
A self-employed taxi driver was not an employee of the respondent within the definition in s 78(1) Race Relations Act1976 as the dominant purpose of the contract was the provision of a service to him to allow him to ply his trade.

Pagetti v Cobb (2002) IRLR 861, Employment Appeal Tribunal
Compensation for unfair dismissal must be calculated in accordance with the employee’s right to be paid the national minimum wage even if the employer had not in fact paid it.


Catherine has extensive experience as a trainer. Since joining chambers she has been involved in designing and delivering training, in a variety of formats, for solicitors and advisers throughout the country. She regularly speaks at seminars and training events organised by Garden Court Chambers in the fields of employment and housing law.


Help for council tax payers – Part 1: appeals about reductions, Legal Action Gazette, July/August 2013