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

Doughty Street Chambers
Doughty Street Chambers

Work Department


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 > Administrative and public law (including elections)

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 3

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QCDoughty Street ChambersCaoilfhionn is formidable in terms of written and oral submissions – her preparation and thoroughness is clear and she is highly persuasive. Lay clients love her – she is relatable and authoritative.

‘In terms of admin and public lawDoughty Street Chambers ‘has a wealth of talent‘. ‘The set is very strong, especially at junior level‘, with members primarily focusing on work representing individuals. Edward Fitzgerald QC  represented a number of Chagossians, the community displaced in the 1960s and ’70s by the construction of the military base on Diego Garcia, in prolonged litigation concerning their potential return; Martin Westgate QC represented the defendant in RB Kingston v Moss, a High Court case concerning the local authority’s selling on of watering and sewerage service at a profit. Unled, Jude Bunting represented the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in a Court of Appeal case concerning the meaning of the “exceeded” in the Abortion Act 1967. In the political space, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC  advised Stella Creasy MP on clearing with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority the appointment of a “locum” to cover constituency casework during her maternity leave from the house.

London Bar > Court of Protection and community care

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 3

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QCDoughty Street ChambersHugely intelligent and tenacious, but with tremendous judgement, which makes her incredibly effective.

Doughty Street Chambers is an ‘excellent set that is always motivated to help. Its barristers are the cream of the crop.’ Also, various clients have praised  its webinars during the Covid-19 and have said’ Chambers is well ahead of other Chambers in keeping others updated with the knowledge it has collated and that has been so useful.’ The ‘brilliant’ set is able to handle the full range of community care and Court of Protection matters. One highlight to note is the promoted Martin Westgate QC acting for Liberty R (JCWI) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 452 (Admin), EHRC, Residential Landlords Association and Liberty intervening. He also acted for the claimant in MK v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 3573 (Admin), a judicial review challenge to the delays in the process for deciding asylum claims by unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC joins this year’s silk rankings, and Ulele Burnham‘s practice continues to go from strength to strength, while in rising stars Antonia Benfield and Daniel Clarke, the future of the team looks bright.

London Bar > Inquests and inquiries

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 3

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QCDoughty Street ChambersHas an enormous amount of respect from clients and legal peers because she approaches everything she does with passion, commitment and a clear strategic approach.

London Bar > Civil liberties and human rights (including actions against the police)

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 3

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QCDoughty Street ChambersA complete force of nature. She is exceptionally committed to the work that she does and is incredibly dynamic.

Doughty Street Chambers is considered the ‘preeminent set when it comes to the assertion and advancement of human rights‘ and has an ‘excellent‘ reputation in civil liberties and human rights; particularly in the area of extradition, international law and actions against the state, and is, according to some, ‘an impressive chambers with highly intelligent, and politically savvy barristers‘. Recent instructions include Edward Fitzgerald QC and Jennifer Robinson representing Julian Assange in his fight against extradition to the United States, whilst Heather Williams QC continues to be engaged in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. ‘Fantastic juniorJude Bunting has an extensive public and police law interface to civil liberties work and acted in a Supreme Court test case pertaining to bail conditions and whether it requires a person to stay indoors throughout the night. Other members of note include Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC who is one of three silks acting in The Hillsborough Victims Litigation. In recent news that has further strengthened the set, Leonie Hirst has joined chambers, along with Maya Sikand and Shu Shin Luh from Garden Court Chambers.