Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC KC > Doughty Street Chambers > London, England > Lawyer Profile

Doughty Street Chambers

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Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in human rights and civil liberties.

She has acted in many of the leading human rights cases in the UK in recent years, including acting for bereaved families and survivors of the 7/7 London bombings and the Hillsborough disaster, and acting in a series of cases which have established that the UK Government’s welfare changes are discriminatory. Caoilfhionn undertakes many ‘test cases’ which secure results for her clients but also achieve wider change in the law.  For example, her recent cases include acting in a number of successful challenges to the Department of Work and Pensions’ benefit changes, R (Hurley and others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] PTSR 636 (benefit cap unlawfully discriminates against the severely disabled), R (A and Rutherford) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] HLR 8 (social sector size criteria, ‘bedroom tax,’ unlawfully discriminate against women) and R (MA) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2013] PTSR 1521 (Regulations required to correct discriminatory impact of the bedroom tax on severely disabled children).

Caoilfhionn has particular expertise in freedom of expression and open justice. She regularly advises and acts for newspapers and broadcasters in the UK concerning journalistic access to the courts and public interest reporting. She has acted, for example, for media organisations in the inquests into the deaths of Alexander Litvinenko and Gareth Williams (the GCHQ employee found dead in a holdall), ensuring that these hearings were open to public scrutiny and could be freely reported. She worked with the Media Lawyers’ Association and the Chief Coroner in the development of new guidelines on open justice in the coroners’ courts. She also regularly acts for journalists worldwide who are imprisoned, prosecuted, sued or subjected to travel bans due to their journalism; her current and recent case load includes work for journalists, bloggers, cartoonists, peaceful protestors and human rights defenders in Egypt, Turkey and Equatorial Guinea. She leads the international legal team for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the award-winning journalist assassinated in Malta in 2017, and she is leading counsel to 152 BBC Persian journalists persecuted by Iran due to their work. She is a member of the UK Advisory Board to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and regularly works with Index on Censorship and other NGOs specialising in freedom of expression.

Women’s rights is another area of particular interest for Caoilfhionn. Much of her work in relation to austerity and welfare cuts concerns the disproportionate impact of those cuts upon women, particularly BAME women and victims and survivors of domestic violence. She has also acted in a series of cases concerning the almost total ban on abortion in Northern Ireland, including R (A and B) v Secretary of State for Health [2017] UKSC 41 and Re Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission [2018] UKSC 27.

Caoilfhionn also has expertise in children’s rights and she has acted in many of the leading cases in this field, including HH v Italy [2013] 1 AC 338 (right of children to be heard in extradition proceedings concerning their parents) and R (HC) v SSHD [2014] 1 WLR 1234 (acted for Hughes Chang in this test case on treatment of 17-year-olds in police custody as adults rather than children; it has resulted in a change to the law, affecting 70,000 17-year-olds in custody every year). Internationally, she acts in many cases concerning children’s rights, particularly in Strasbourg and before the UN Special Procedures, and she has provided consultancy services to the UN on child soldiers and Boko Haram.




Howard League for Penal Reform
Association of Prison Lawyers
Police Action Lawyers Group
British Irish Rights Watch
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Irish Penal Reform Trust


BCL (University College Dublin)

BL (Honorable Society of the King’s Inns, Dublin)

LLM (Cambridge, Gonville & Caius College)

Lawyer Rankings

London Bar > Inquests and inquiries

(Leading Silks)Ranked: Tier 1

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KCDoughty Street ChambersOne of the most impressive senior barristers representing bereaved families in major inquiries and inquests.  Her legal knowledge and acumen, especially in public law and human rights, are of the highest quality and enable her to produce inventive arguments. She is always on top of the detail of a case, and this shows in her highly effective submissions and examination of witnesses.

Representing ‘the gold standard for its quality of barristers and clerking‘, Doughty Street Chambers is well known for its assistance to bereaved families during significant inquests and public inquiries, while the set is also increasingly instructed as counsel to Inquiries and Inquests. With extensive expertise in inquests, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC secured the sought-after instruction by Facebook in relation to the Molly Russell inquest, while Maya Sikand KC‘s long history of involvement in public inquiries includes the current Undercover Policing Inquiry. Within the junior pool, the recent experience of Fiona Murphy, includes being instructed in the Inquiry into the circumstances of Jermaine Baker’s death during a 2015 Metropolitan Police Service operation. Boosting the set further, public law and human rights expert Jude Bunting KC took silk in 2022.

London Bar > Court of Protection and community care

(Leading Silks)Ranked: Tier 3

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KCDoughty Street Chambers ‘In court Caoilfhionn is a relentless opponent, quick minded, confident and lethal.’

Doughty Street Chambers has an ‘excellent expertise and depth of knowledge in community care and health and welfare Court of Protection matters’. Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC in R (EG) v Secretary of State for Justice and the Parole Board acted for the Official Solicitor in a series of cases concerning prisoners who lacked the capacity to engage in Parole Board proceedings. Mary-Rachel McCabe is also recommended.

London Bar > Police law (claimant)

(Leading Silks)Ranked: Tier 2

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC – Doughty Street Chambers

London Bar > Administrative law and human rights

(Leading Silks)Ranked: Tier 3

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KCDoughty Street Chambers ‘Caoilfhionn is an intellectual powerhouse. The speed and level at which she operates is truly remarkable. She is a formidable advocate and widely respected amongst solicitors, her peers and the judiciary.’