Stephen Abberley > Chambers of David Berkley QC > Birmingham, England > Lawyer Profile

Chambers of David Berkley QC
B4 6AT

Work Department

Family Barrister


Stephen Abberley thrives on challenges. He enjoys a complicated set of facts, or a legal conundrum, or indeed a problem that appears to be without solution. Stephen enjoys being up against stellar performers, being put through his paces, helping him to hone his own craft.

Stephen is thorough in his preparation but can manage time when up against it. He is empathic and compassionate with clients, but will not shrink from delivering difficult advice, telling it how it is with a sensitive but firm manner.

Stephen’s Courtroom manner is quietly tenacious, premised on careful thought as to how best to present a difficult case. His cross-examination is bespoke, fitting the occasion.

Stephen has now built a store of knowledge in relation to cases involving familial homicide, sexual abuse, serious cranial and other injuries, international law and cross-cultural issues. He enjoys learning about matters of cultural diversity, having represented clients from all walks of life, many creeds and many more ethnic backgrounds.

With a practice evenly split between representing parents, children and authorities, Stephen brings perspective on how to meet the challenges in the case likely to be presented by the opposing side.

Stephen’s practice encompasses public law cases – care, placement and adoption proceedings. He also acts for parents and children in private law cases. He enjoys the intellectual rigour required of cases in the High Court and hopes for more opportunities to take cases to appeal.

Reported Cases:

  • Re D-S (Contact with Children in Care: Covid-19) [2020] EWCA Civ 1031
  • Re C (A Child) (Application by Dr X and Y) [2015] EWFC 79 – [2017] 1 FLR 82
  • Disclosure – Re C (A Child) (Application by Dr X and Dr Y) [2015] EWFC 79 – [2015] Fam Law 1457
  • In the Matter of C (A Child) (Application by Dr X and Y) [2015] EWFC 79
  • Re J (A Child) (Fact-finding) [2015]
  • Re Y [2014] EWHC 3601 (Fam) – Lexis Citation 31

Recent Cases:

  • A local authority v A, B and C (2019) – acted for a local authority in seeking findings against a step-father for causing significant brain injury to an older child in the context of complex and ambiguous medical expert opinion evidence.
  • A local authority v C (2018) – acted for a parent from a travelling community who, in a second set of proceedings, was accused of physical and emotional abuse of a number of children.  Achieved a settled position on threshold which did not feature allegations of physical abuse.
  • A local authority v A (2018) – acted for a mother accused of over forty allegations of fabricating or inducing illness in a sick child.  Whilst findings were made, they numbered less than ten.  The mother maintains a relationship with the child, who was placed with family.
  • A local authority v X, Y and Z (2018) – acted for a mother accused of administering medication to a school aged child and fabricating illness.  Proceedings concluded with the child and its siblings remaining at home in the mother’s care, with assistance with medical issues from other family members.
  • A local authority v D and E (2018) – acted for a local authority in respect of case wherein allegations of inter-generational fabricated illness were made.  Able to compromise the case on agreed facts whilst retaining the subject child in foster care with supervised contact to mother and other relatives.
  • A local authority v H [2018] – Acting for a local authority in a case where Ehlors Danlos syndrome is in issue, but where it might be a mitigating factor in respect of NAI/Head and retinal injuries- Cohen J and Baker J (as he then was)
  • A local authority v B & C [2017] – Acting for a local authority and successfully establishing as true historical allegations of sexual and physical abuse by a step parent, by calling older children as live witnesses
  • A local authority v Z [2017] – Acting for a child in care proceedings who, it transpired, was a trafficked child from an EU member state for the purposes of sexual and domestic exploitation. Heard by Keehan J.
  • A local authority v A [2017] – Acted for a local authority in respect of an application to adopt an older child from a pacific country who was approaching his majority and who could have an international sports career in the UK. Heard by Cobb J.
  • A local authority v Z [2017] – Acted for children of a deceased father who had been murdered by their mother. Advanced placement of the children in the care of the deceased’s family against, for a period, opposition by the relevant local authority and the maternal family. Heard by Francis J.
  • A local authority v AZ [2017] – Acted for a local authority in case involving protracted immigration issues arising out of the successful assessment of family members in Pakistan, whom the Home Office was reluctant to permit into the UK for the purpose of introductions. Heard by Keehan J.
  • A local authority v N [2017] – Advised a local authority in respect of proceedings brought on the basis of FII allegations against mother. Advised the local authority to withdraw.
  • A local authority v W [2016] – Acted for children in a complex case of suspected suffocation of two children. Acted alone in a multi-prty case in which all other parties had silk and junior Counsel. Heard by Hayden J.
  • A local authority v P & C [2016] – Acted for a local authority in reconstructing evidence in relation to an historical child death, previously deemed by a Coroner to have been accidental in an attempt to prove that it was homicide. Heard by Wood J and King J (as she then was)
  • A local authority v H [2016] – Lead by the then Alistair MacDonald QC (now MacDonald J) for a local authority in successfully resisting an application by an expert medical witness in historical care proceedings who sought disclosure of material in the proceedings for use in articles in the press in order to re-establish his reputation after defending an action before the GMC. Heard by Munby P.
  • A local authority v R [2016] – Represented a father in care proceedings accused of inflicting a shaking injury. Child in question had a twin with enlarged sub-arachnoid spaces. Findings made but children returned to parents.
  • A local authority v S [2015] – Acted for a father in care proceedings accused of tampering with medical equipment for a sick child. Case ultimately withdrawn. Heard by Russell J.
  • A local authority v W [2015] – Acted for a mother in care proceedings involving fractures and NAI to head. Cross examined father who admitted shaking the child. Child returned to mother despite opposition from the local authority, which was represented by leading counsel.


Stephen represents local authorities, parents and children in the County Court, High Court and at appellate level.

He has particular strength and expertise in cases involving complex medical issues and in those involving vulnerable adults with severe mental health illness or personality disorders. Furthermore, he has vast experience in Factitious Illness cases involving poisoning and induced suffocation.

He undertakes serious fact-finding cases and complex outcome hearings involving serious physical and sexual abuse, including cases involving shakes and resulting in baby fatalities.

As well as conventional public law children cases, Stephen also advises and appears in those with sensitive medical and ethical aspects for example, cases where the lawfulness of whether to resuscitate a child is at issue or where one parent has killed the other. These cases will routinely involve the cross examination of a number of medical experts from multi disciplines.

Stephen has represented parents from differing economic, cultural, social background and ages. Some may have issues such as drug, alcohol dependency, mental health difficulties, language difficulties or a combination of these problems. This frequently means he is involved in cases where there has been or evidence suggests :

  • Parental homicide
  • Child homicide
  • Alleged Non-Accidental Injury, including brain injury and fractures
  • Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Factitious Illness

International Children Cases

Stephen has considerable experience of cases involving:

• International Child Abduction
• Transfer issues across the EU
• Transfer Issues beyond the EU
• International Adoption.

Private Law Children Proceedings (privately funded)

Stephen has notable experience in applications for internal and international relocation.


Called 2000


  • LLB (Hons) University of Nottingham

Lawyer Rankings

Regional Bar > Midland Circuit > Family and children law

(Leading Juniors: Child Law (Public and Private)) Ranked: Tier 3

Stephen Abberley3PBHe provides thorough and detailed advice in a calm and reassuring manner.

3PB is primarily known in the Midlands for its contingent of care-focused barristers, whose practice involves serious non accidental injuries, sexual abuse allegations, adoption orders and more for the full range of parties including local authorities, parents and children. However, the set also houses several barristers with experience in financial remedy proceedings, such as Elizabeth McGrath QC and Vanessa Meachin QC, both of whom have seen recent substantial cases involving private clients with large asset portfolios in addition to their child law practices. Turning to the set’s the junior ranks, Michael George is praised for his ‘exceptional aptitude for financial remedy work, particularly cases involving company law, complex accounts and pensions‘; on the care side, key juniors include Lawrence MesslingSuzanne Coleclough , and Stephen Abberley, while practitioners such as Poonam BhariAimee Fox, and Nicola Martin spread themselves across both areas.