John Friel > Chambers of David Berkley KC > London, England > Lawyer Profile

Chambers of David Berkley KC

Work Department

Education, Public & Regulatory


John Friel is a highly experienced practitioner with particular expertise in public law issues. He has developed a strong practice with extensive experience acting for local authorities, private applicants, charities, independent schools, maintained schools governing bodies and provides a prompt response to instructions.

He has won leading cases in the House of Lords, Court of Appeal, and High Court. He is available for direct client access in certain cases.


John has handled a large number of highly complex, complicated and difficult cases in the Special Education Needs Tribunal. The amount of tribunal cases has increased, and the cases have increased in complexity, and in difficulty.  John has achieved a commendable degree of success in such cases.

Special Needs and Legal Entitlement: The Essential Guide to Getting out of the Maze, written by John Friel and Melinda Nettleton, is a straightforward and comprehensive guide to the legal rights of children and young people with special educational needs, and to the Children and Families Act 2014.

Recent cases:
K v The School and the Special Needs Tribunal, Court of Appeal [2007] ELR 234
John represented the school which established the nature of the defence of justification in Disability Discrimination.  It is the leading case on Justification.

L v Clarke and Somerset [1998] ELR 128
This is the leading case on the rights of children with statements of special educational needs.

School Admission Appeals Panel for the London Borough of Hounslow v The Mayor & Burgesses of the London Borough of Hounslow (2002) ELR 602
This case establishing at long last, despite contrary dicta in the Court of Appeal, and some first instance decisions to the contrary that the Human Rights Act does have a significant effect upon school admission appeals, and education law generally. At p.602 May LJ specifically singled out Mr Friel’s submissions for favourable comment. Confirmed Gloucestershire LEA.

Gloucestershire Local Education Authority v Gloucestershire Schools Appeal Panel (2002) ELR 309
John appeared for the parents, successfully.

O v The London Borough of Harrow & Sherwin (2002) ELR 195
Court of Appeal allowed the parents appeal, John representing the parents, on the issue of the structure of the appellate process under the 1996 Education Act.

B v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2008] EWHC 2094 (Admin)
John represented a child who appealed against a decision that the respondent local authority had correctly decided to place her at a maintained special school for pupils with a range of special educational needs rather than an independent school for pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties.

B County Council v H [2008] EWHC 1070 (Admin)
An appeal by a LEA against the decision of a Special Needs Education Tribunal to move a child with ADHD and Autism to another school.


Disciplinary and Regulatory Proceedings 
John’s work in this area naturally overlaps with his work in Judicial Review and Local Government. His wide ranging practice encompasses all areas of reviewing professional conduct for which he has received significant recognition.

John has continued to deal with a large number of professional negligence cases, the majority of which settled favourably prior to coming to court and two of which settled in court.  Since the House of Lords’ decision in Phelps v Hillingdon (2001) AC 611, few such cases have been fought to the finish.  The trend continues.  However, in other areas, despite a high degree of success in settling favourably administrative law cases, there have been a number of significant developments.

Recent cases:
H v Isle of Wight Council 2001 WL 825780
Allegations that a local education authority had negligently failed to protect a dyslexic pupil from bullying or take adequate steps to maintain and support her educational progress were entirely baseless.

Phelps v Hillingdon LBC [2001] 2 A.C. 619
House of Lords case concerning the duties of a teacher and whether a local education authority could be vicariously liable for the acts of its employees. It was held that there was no justification for a blanket immunity policy in respect of education officers performing the authority’s functions with regard to children with special educational needs.


John is an expert in all aspects of education law, particularly complex cases involving Special Education Needs, and in disciplinary and regulatory proceedings. His wide ranging and successful track record encompasses professional conduct disputes, professional negligence and administrative law cases.


Year of call 1974

Lawyer Rankings

London Bar > Education

(Leading Juniors)Ranked: Tier 4

John Friel3PB