He has particular experience of cases with—
- care cases with complex medical features or forensic evidence (including murder of parents or children, non-accidental injuries, serious domestic violence, historic abuse, mental health/disability issues, forced marriage, FGM, and radicalisation). Stephen is a number of Children’s Guardians’ counsel of choice, and he has spent time shadowing social workers at the LB Hillingdon to gain a better understanding of social work “on the ground”. Stephen was junior counsel for Refuge on the judicial review of the pilot domestic violence homicide review into the Pemberton murders.
- international elements (including transfer of care cases abroad or cases where habitual residence is in dispute, child abduction in both care proceedings and private law contexts, and permanent leave to remove). One of his child abductions cases involving murder of a parent abroad was the case cited in the House of Commons when proposing the extra-territorial homicide provisions of the Domestic Violence Bill. He has been successful in securing the return of children in care proceedings by establishing habitual residence abroad or Article 15 transfer, including in one case where the parents were accused of running a vast people trafficking organisation. Singher J put his submissions on the “Owusu problem” before the Family Justice Council’s International Family Law Committee to assist it in considering the ramifications of Brussels II Article 3 on non-convention cases. The issue was much later resolved by the authorities ofJKN v JCN and Mittal along similar lines to Stephen’s submissions.
- complex financial remedy/property and affairs cases, including where trust or company issues arise. He was one of the first arbitrators to be appointed by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators under the IFLA/CIArb scheme and is a family Mediator who has trained on Bar mediation courses. He has done training on Forensic Accounting and is dogged in pursuit of dissipated or hidden assets, or those held within companies or trusts to keep them at arm’s reach from matrimonial proceedings. His clients have included a number of household names from the worlds of sport, entertainment and business.
- court of protection matters or cases in the family court acting for clients who do not have capacity or where capacity/deprivation of liberty is in issue. Stephen often acts for the Official Solicitor in both contexts. Having a son with Down’s Syndrome, Stephen has a strong personal interest in this area and is heavily involved in advising charities.
- appeals, including those where another advocate may have appeared in the court below (regularly appearing before the Court of Appeal and having advised on matters before the Supreme Court). His appeals have included determining the procedure for dealing with whistleblowing and discrimination cases, whether poker winnings can be taxable earnings, the procedure for dealing with biased expert reports, overturning adoptions,
The breadth of Stephen’s practice comes from his long commitment to charity and pro bono work, which has often required him to familiarise himself with new areas of law quickly and thoroughly. This makes him an ideal advocate to instruct in cases which do not fit neatly into a defined area of law, or with substantial cross-over between areas. Because of his commitment to pro bono work and the breadth of his early practice, he has experience of—
- employment law (such as the ET and EAT case of O’Reilly v Williams Lea where Stephen won a record protective award for 29 claimants, the litigation arising from BBC Whistleblower’s 8 month investigation into Foxton’s Estate Agents, a racial discrimination claim against the NCA, having appeared as leading counsel in the leading Court of Appeal authority of Arthur v L.E.R.  I.R.L.R. 58 which established the modern procedure for discrimination/whistleblowing cases, and having advised a leading musician’s union on the Supreme Court stage of The Harpur Trust v Brazel  EWCA Civ 1402.)
- land registration tribunal/land law matters (including quantification of beneficial interests and equitable accounting, adverse possession, easements/rights of way and landlord/tenant issues),
- criminal law, which for many years made up half of Stephen’s practice (during which time he appeared in the Parliament Square Protestor cases, murders, frauds, serious assaults and proceeds of crime cases),
- public law, including having advised the Save Ally Pally campaign on its successful judicial review against Alexandra Palace being sold to a commercial developer and being turned into a casino.
Stephen was invited to 10 Downing Street in recognition of his Pro Bono work, and was presented with the first individual prize in the SFLA/Attorney General’s Pro Bono Challenge Award 2004 in the House of Lords by the AG, Cherie Booth and Michael Mansfield, as a result of which he was invited to the US Supreme Court to meet Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He was a Linklaters Residential Volunteer and subsequently Assistant Co-ordinator at Toynbee Hall in East London, as well as having volunteered at St Hilda’s East Community Centre, the Bar Pro Bono Unit. Until he had children, he was also a member of the Bar Council IT panel and a trustee at Waterloo Action Centre (where he remains a Legal Advice Centre mentor). He was part of pro bono teams that won the LawWorks Best Pro Bono Partnership (as a volunteer at St Hilda’s East) and Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (as a trustee of Waterloo Action Centre). He was a Hardwicke Scholar of Lincoln’s Inn. He was made a lifetime fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for his work on community legal projects.
Seminars and teaching
Stephen regularly gives practitioner seminars on child abduction, financial remedies and cohabitation, the court of protection and childcare matters. He accepts commissions from firms, local authorities and other organisations to do in-house CPD-accredited training.
He has given lectures and seminars at LLB level, as well as lecturing to forensic science and Ilex students.
He enjoys being involved in legal education. He is a Sponsor (mentor) for Lincoln’s Inn and has sat as a mooting judge at both the Supreme Court, House of Lords Committee Room, Royal Court of Justice, Guildford Guildhall, the Inns of Court and various universities/BPTC providers.