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Crime - Band 3
This expanding set of more than 100 tenants is most typically associated with public law work and the rights of the individual. As its numbers might suggest, however, it gets into many areas, crime being one. With a sizeable contingent of lawyers handling criminal matters, it is respected by solicitors for its "tremendous strength and undoubted zeal." Its many committed members include Courtenay Griffiths QC. This "passionate advocate blows juries away with his hugely intelligent and heartfelt speeches." A full career has seen him acting in trials relating to the murder of PC Blakelock and both the Harrods and Brighton bombings. Henry Blaxland QC has a practice consisting almost exclusively of defence matters. "A real pro who is incapable of being deceived," he recently handled R v Kemi Adeyoola, where he defended a 17-year-old girl charged with the murder of an 84-year-old woman. He is one of a crop of valued silks that includes Michael Turner QC, a "fearless" performer who has acted on a number of high-profile cases throughout his career, such as the appeal of Jeremy Bamber and the murder of Carl Bridgewater. Another solicitors' favourite is Icah Peart QC. He has a busy practice and "achieves the difficult art of being a likeable brief whilst also refusing to pull any punches in court." David Spens QC is a recent arrival at the set. Solicitors observed that this former chairman of the Bar Council is "a tremendously hard worker" who is "both impressive and witty before judge and jury."
Housing - Band 2
Garden Court is hard to match for tenants' work in London. The well-known human rights and civil liberties set has solicitors raving about the "quick and helpful clerks" and the "uniformly expert and amenable tenants." No small part of the firm's appeal, the "inspirational" Jan Luba QC was praised for being "a walking encyclopaedia" of housing law and its connection with other areas of social welfare law such as community care. He is also an "efficient advocate who has the ear of the court" and his peers and clients are unanimous in regarding him as "exceptional." In 2006, he handled Bristol City Council v Hasan & Anor, which has become the leading case on the correct procedure regarding issuing possession orders against council tenants. An "absolutely fantastic advocate," Stephen Knafler is thought of as "a real star" and especially when housing cases overlap with community care and asylum issues. Clients comment that he "thinks around the subject and is always prepared to come up with innovative arguments." Peers describe Liz Davies as a "tough but sensible opponent" who is "able to distil complex situations down to their legal essence." Instructing solicitors commended her manner commenting that she is "very straight with clients and has a good bedside manner." In the past year she appeared in the Court of Appeal on Kilby v Basildon District Council. New to the rankings this year, Beatrice Prevatt "possesses a deep legal knowledge which helps her to formulate watertight arguments off the cuff." She is best known for her housing disrepair work and peers insist that she is "always a pleasure to deal with." David Watkinson has "impressive levels of knowledge about housing law" and is "prepared to fight cases robustly where others would be reluctant." In June 2006 he appeared at the Olympic 2012 Public Inquiry, where he successfully advocated that the confirmation of the Compulsory Purchase Order for the Olympic land should be delayed until the gypsies who were living on the official travellers' sites in Newham and Hackney had been appropriately relocated, although this decision was subsequently overruled by the Secretary of State.
Civil Liberties and Human Rights - Band 2
Garden Court Chambers is one of the largest sets around and tackles a vast array of different practice areas. ECHR points tend to crop up in each and every one of those sectors, ensuring that cumulatively the set has plenty to offer in the civil liberties sphere. Mark Muller QC has acted on a number of freedom of expression and terrorism-related cases, and regularly conducts cases before the ECHR. "He has been to the ECHR literally hundreds of time and never let anyone down." "Hugely respected in the public law field," Stephen Knafler has "won countless cases in the area of community care, and done much to develop the law in this area." His practice is wide-ranging, and commentators agree that he has been equally successful in the areas of asylum support, mental health, education, prison law and travellers' rights. Stephanie Harrison specialises in work relating to immigration and asylum. She appears in hearings before the Adjudicator and the Immigration Appeals Tribunal as well as before the higher courts. The ECHR is an integral part of this area of law, and Harrison is experienced in applications direct to the ECHR. Solicitors describe Kathryn Cronin as "just wonderful: thorough, inventive and committed." She is experienced in immigration, asylum, nationality and family matters. Dexter Dias has worked on several Article 2 challenges following deaths in custody. He represented the family of Zahid Mubarek at the inquest into his death and is "nothing if not determined to seek out the best result for his client." Nadine Finch is particularly recommended for cases relating to children's rights. She specialises in immigration and asylum, with a particular interest in cases involving the crossover with family and childcare law, mental health issues and discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Edward Grieves is also highly regarded. His practice includes domestic public law, international human rights law and, specifically, law relating to terrorism, immigration and asylum matters. He has been advising on a six-month joint project between the Department for Constitutional Affairs of the United Kingdom and the Turkish Ministry of Justice to evaluate the impact of the implementation of the 2005 Turkish Penal Code reforms. Interviewees detected "a shrewd thinker who knows what he's talking about."
Immigration - Rank 1
If ever a chambers could be said to specialise in all aspects of one sector, then Garden Court might just fit that billing. The combined specialisations of individual members of chambers constitute a formidable range and depth of experience in all facets of immigration. A "great set with evident quality," interviewees especially commend its strength on difficult cases and those needing an urgent speed of response. Its members advise on a full mixture of private and publicly funded immigration, asylum and nationality cases for claimants. They handle a sizeable number of statutory appeals in the Court of Appeal and tackle significant entry clearance immigration work right up to the House of Lords. A substantial tranche of its caseload concerns appearances on first instance court deportation work, and its tenants take cases to the ECHR. The set can also boast criminal experience and prison law expertise, and operates contracts from the LSC to provide advice and representation in the fields of housing and employment law, as well as immigration.
The market strongly identifies Laurie Fransman QC with particular expertise on nationality issues. However, this is in fact a relatively small area of practice for him, taking in advice on policy matters and assistance to those present on former British Caribbean islands, including US tax exiles. The majority of the rest of his time is taken up dealing with complex immigration and asylum cases both in the UK and in the European courts, particularly in relation to Russia. He remains a top pick for the majority of interviewees. "He is a genius, really," one summarised. Others were more loquacious, describing him as "a walking textbook" who nevertheless explains things in lay terms. "A man with immense academic knowledge allied to the human touch," he has the "skill to isolate essential facts and home in on key issues" whilst also utilising "real political insight when required." He is "extremely well known to the Home Office," a fact that gives him an advantage from the start.
Ian Macdonald QC's reputation for sector-defining work in immigration and race relations is assured through his authorship of the leading immigration textbook and his long-term influence on the sector through his own case law. Sources recognise him for his work on the overlap between crime and immigration, noticing his work defending alleged terrorists and appearing on control order appeals in the British and European high courts. Nicola Rogers' prolific activity at the ECJ on asylum and immigration law issues and their interaction with the EU has markedly raised her profile among observers. A European specialist - "her knowledge is extraordinary" - she advises on those areas where immigration intersects with EU issues. She works on a good proportion of human rights-related counsel, including the rights of British citizen children whose parents are not British or are from an EU accession country. Lawyers agree that "the British government always gives a conservative interpretation to European directives and she is the leading thinker to ensure that the other side gets a push." Interviewees were unanimous in their portrayal of her as "a lateral-thinking, innovative advocate with great clarity of thought." Rick Scannell is one of the immigration bar's most committed and adept senior juniors. His immigration and asylum advice includes noted expertise on refugee law, human rights and EU free movement cases. "Easy to work with, thorough, thoughtful, imaginative and efficient," satisfied solicitors clearly value his expertise and "solid, determined counsel" highly. Of particular note is his ability to extract value out of a case, notably when dealing with foreign clients and complex issues.
Law firms greatly appreciate Duran Seddon's analysis of huge amounts of documentation and his skills in bringing it into a coherent whole. Able on immigration, asylum and human rights cases as well as family-related applications and EU free movement rights issues, his "energetic and enthusiastic" approach is "everything you would want from a counsel." One solicitor commented: "It's nice to know that someone who has been working in this area for some time can still be so impassioned about what he does." Among Frances Webber's recent work is the leading House of Lords case Fornah v Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD), an asylum claim also dealing with female genital mutilation and the protection afforded under Articles 3 and 8 of the ECHR. She musters admiration among solicitors for her simplification of matters and her persuasive advocacy in court. "She is not afraid to take on difficult areas using her own, quiet style, but she gets her point across effectively." Kathryn Cronin also acted on the Fornah case. Her undoubted specialisation is cases concerned with gender and minors, including those that crossover with family law. A "clear appellate lawyer who is bright and compassionate, she looks at the way in which the law can develop." Her many supporters point to her "maturity and authority," signalling that "she understands when she needs to be accommodating to a judge and when she needs to be more forceful." Nadine Finch's portfolio incorporates immigration and asylum cases involving family and childcare issues, including disputes involving unaccompanied minors or women and children who have been the victims of criminal traffickers. She appeared on AA (Afghanistan) v SSHD, concerning the correct approach to the return of unaccompanied minors to their countries of origin. She additionally deals with cases involving a mental health element or discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Public and administrative expert Stephanie Harrison's strong appellate practice in immigration and asylum incorporates counsel on EC Association Agreements and international human rights law. Of particular note is her ability on immigration cases with a noted family law crossover. She appeared on the House of Lords case Janusi v SSHD, involving the interpretation of the Refugee Convention and the issue of internal flight. Fellow counsel concede: "She is the lawyer I would consider if I needed asylum; a leading light, she has intelligence and perseverance plus experience."
Fellow asylum specialist Peter Jorro's detailed knowledge on Article 8 of the ECHR and related issues is highly regarded. "He does not waste time in cutting right to the heart of an issue and is able to give clients reality checks when required before hearings." Also recommended is Patrick Lewis who runs immigration, asylum and human rights law cases and further provides in-house training for different law firms and voluntary sector organisations. "Good with clients, thorough, knowledgeable and approachable," solicitors are "comfortable instructing him with vulnerable clients" and believe that his approach "can get the empathy of the tribunal." Navita Atreya deals with entry clearance appeals and European immigration law matters. Her other work includes assistance on inquests. "Personable and productive, she can be relied on to turn around papers quickly and effectively." Previously recognised for her counsel on Kosovan refugee cases, Louise Hooper's current activity has widened considerably to include all aspects of immigration and refugee work. She now specialises in working on cases involving trafficked girls and unaccompanied children and is especially known for her abilities with vulnerable clients on welfare and immigration-related family matters. In common with several of her fellow tenants, lawyers consider her a "thorough and detailed" counsel for cases involving vulnerable clients. One confirmed: "She can put them at ease and make them feel comfortable, without compromising the way she represents them in front of the tribunal." David Jones is visibly active on actions concerning the detention of foreign national prisoners where the claimant is seeking damages for unlawful detention in contravention of domestic law and the ECHR. Law firms report that "his written work is excellent and he fights very hard for his clients." All in all, he is "a tough, formidable opponent willing to stick his neck out against the Home Office." Sonali Naik is skilled on family reunion cases and those that involve policy considerations or human rights principles, an area on which she concentrated even before joining the set. Lawyers agree that she handles especially difficult cases "sensitively and realistically." Femi Omere combines a generalist immigration practice with specific expertise on nationality, mental health and human rights matters. Recent Court of Appeal cases include J v SSHD, a case concerning an Iranian homosexual. A new dimension to Ronan Toal's work has been a greater concentration on the policy-driven side. For example, he has given evidence to the Home Affairs Committee concerning new legislation relating to Britain's borders. Prior experience as an immigration caseworker has assisted his practice and he has notable experience of Somalian refugee cases.
Administration & Public Law - Band 3
This large claimant set leads the way in housing, immigration and criminal law, and draws its public and administrative law work from these areas. Barristers here have a reputation for being "clever, likeable and approachable." "Mr Housing Law" Jan Luba QC continues to be recognised as the leading silk for housing-related public law matters. "He has an amazing ability to marshal complicated facts and arguments and present them in a simple, effective way," reveal sources. Meanwhile, Stephen Knafler is dubbed "one of the leading juniors in the country for community care issues." He is likened to Jan Luba QC in terms of his "fantastic advocacy, which hinges on his sheer ability to put a point across clearly." Clients also value his speed of response. He acts for both claimants and public bodies, including a large number of health authorities. "Knowledgeable and hardworking" SStephanie Harrison is a "robust" junior who is being increasingly recognised as a public lawyer, as well as an immigration expert.
Police Law- Band 2
Such is this set's commitment to this area of the law that it has a number of members who devote themselves to the area exclusively. In addition, there is a solid core of practitioners who handle false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution claims against the police as part of their wider practices. Stephen Simblet is someone who has "done really well," according to sources. "A natural advocate," he is said to be completely at ease in this area of law and immerses himself in it with gusto. Civil claims against the police and public authorities, particularly deaths in custody, are his forte, and "he has achieved some great results." Recently, he acted in Keegan v United Kingdom, obtaining compensation for breaches of human rights following a police search. Leslie Thomas is a specialist in torts against the police and handles all aspects of police litigation. He has acted on some of the highest profile cases in the area and has earned a reputation as someone who is "dedicated to his clients - it is more than just a job to him, it is his passion." Thomas is a "persuasive advocate who is great at communicating the case to a jury in a way that they will understand." He acted in the leading damages case Hill v Metropolitan Police. Inquests are an especial strength for Colin Hutchinson. He acted in the case of Darren Faney which involved an unlawful killing on the basis of gross negligence manslaughter as a result of actions by the police.
Family - other notable sets
Jo Delahunty QC at Garden Court Chambers most frequently represents parents in public law care proceedings. She has also acted for alleged perpetrators in sex abuse cases who were themselves minors, thus subject to the Children's Act. "I find her a challenging opponent and admire her very much for it," commented one opposing counsel. Joining her in the rankings this year is colleague Maggie Jones. "Thorough and committed, with a nice manner with lay clients," she also predominantly represents parents during Children Act hearings.
Employment - Other notable sets
Rajeev Thacker of Garden Court Chambers is "always very helpful" and demonstrates "great technical analysis when tackling difficult concepts in discrimination law." He acts mainly for individuals, and has appeared in cases supported by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission.