The Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced its list of preferred counsel, instructed to support the Commission’s equality and human rights work through strategic public interest litigation in the UK and European courts.

Five counsel appointed are from leading set No5 Barristers’ Chambers and their areas of expertise include public law, civil liberties, immigration and employment.

As panel members they will be providing the EHRC with legal advice and representation in domestic and European courts.

The Commission said the appointments were made “following an open, robust and transparent competition.”

About the barristers:

Philip Rule

Primarily a judicial review practitioner, with a strong appellate practice. Philip’s work frequently challenges matters concerned with detention, police and criminal justice-related treatment, statutory services provision, and equality and discrimination issues. He was the winner of the Legal Aid Practitioner’s Group “LALYs” Legal Aid Barrister of the Year 2017 award.

 To view his profile please visit:

Ian Brownhill

Ian specialises in Court of Protection, criminal justice judicial review, civil liberties, education cases and inquests. He is often instructed in complex cases which involve a number of his specialities and cross more than one of those jurisdictions.

To view his profile please visit:

Jack Feeny

Jack is an employment practitioner who specialises in equality and discrimination law. He has appeared in a number of important cases in this field. He is also a specialist in police law in an employment context.

To view his profile please visit:

Jessica Smeaton

Jessica practises in immigration and asylum and employment law and is often instructed in cases where these areas overlap. She has an academic background in international human rights and is recommended counsel listed in both Chambers UK Bar and the Legal 500.

To view her profile please visit:

David Gardner

David has extensive experience in the field of judicial review arising out of his former role in the Administrative Court in Wales and built upon in practice. He has acted for both Claimants and Defendants in the Court of Appeal, High Court, and Upper Tribunal. His practice also includes frequent appearances in the Court of Protection and Immigration Tribunals.

To view his profile please visit:

About the legal panel’s work for the Commission

The Commission uses a range of powers including providing advice and guidance, publishing information and undertaking research. When such methods are ineffective, it also has a range of enforcement powers set out in the Equality Act 2006. 

The legal or enforcement powers are used when that is the best way to achieve change, such as:

  • to clarify the law, so people and organisations have a clearer understanding of their rights and duties
  • to highlight priority issues and force these back to the top of the agenda
  • to challenge policies or practices that cause significant disadvantage, sometimes across a whole industry or sector

The aim is to secure binding, positive judgments that reinforce, strengthen or expand people’s rights. Its legal actions secure widespread and lasting benefits, positively influencing the everyday experiences of millions.

The Commission has the power:

  • to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination
  • to intervene in or institute legal proceedings, including judicial review, and
  • to make applications to court for injunctions.

These may be exercised across a range of issues, including employment, access to goods, facilities and services, housing, transport and education.

The Commission has the power to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination. This can include legal representation and can extend to discrimination cases with a human rights element. 

If it believes that a public body has acted in a manner that breaches the Equality Act 2010 or the Human Rights Act, it can issue proceedings for judicial review. The Commission may apply for a judicial review on any grounds, so long as the subject matter of the claim relates to a statutory function of the Commission. In human rights issues the Commission does not need to be a “victim” affected by the alleged violation – a requirement that otherwise applies to those wishing to bring judicial review proceedings under the Human Rights Act. 

Examples of situations where the Commission, rather than a victim, might bring a claim include:

  • If the government announces that it is going to introduce a change in the law which the Commission believes will lead to violations of people’s human rights, the Commission can threaten judicial review before the legislation is passed or within 3 months of enactment. For example, when the government proposed extending the time for the detention of terrorist suspects to 42 days without charge, the Commission threatened judicial review and the proposal was dropped. 
  • where the subject matter of the case is one where the Commission is best placed to bring the claim because of its history, statutory duties or particular expertise
  • where there are multiple victims whose experience can be used to illustrate a problem but where a claim brought by any one of them would not tell the whole story, and
  • where the actual or potential victims do not have access to lawyers or cannot fund a claim themselves.