Serjeants' Inn Chambers

Inquests & Public Inquiries Department

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Routinely instructed in high-profile and controversial inquests and public inquiries by a diverse client base. The chambers is sought after by police forces and officers, earning it the accolade of "the best set for police work in the country," in the opinion of one solicitor. Alongside its leading police practice, practitioners from the set take on sensitive and complex instructions as counsel to the inquest, and handle public law challenges to coroner's decisions. They also represent NHS trusts, medical professionals, government departments and bereaved families in medical and prison inquests. Most notably, the set's barristers have been involved in the Undercover Policing Inquiry, the Alexander Perepilichnyy and the third Deepcut inquests, the Infected Blood Inquiry and several strands of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. According to one source, "Serjeants' Inn delivers the highest standards and its barristers are meticulous and reliable."

Client service: "Senior clerk Lee Johnson is always on the ball and very efficient." "Lee is an absolute asset to Serjeants' Inn. He's extremely friendly, organised and responsive and goes out of his way to make life easy for solicitors." "The clerks are well organised, responsive and willing to go the extra mile."

Aaron Rathmell
Has attracted acclaim for his skilful handling of some of the most difficult briefs in recent times. He represents the police, as well as non-state actors, in inquests and inquiries presenting severe reputational jeopardy.
Strengths: "A very shrewd, strategic and intelligent barrister who has already shown he has the abilities and self-confidence to take on the big briefs."
Recent work: Represented Boots in a five-day inquest relating to dispensing prescriptions.

Bridget Dolan QC
Highly regarded advocate who regularly appears in complex inquests, including proceedings invoking Article 2 of the ECHR. In addition to her experience representing bereaved families and state agents, she frequently serves as counsel to the inquest. She is recognised as an authority on coronial law and is becoming a go-to choice to defend coroners' decisions in judicial review proceedings. 
Strengths: "An absolutely fantastic quality inquests expert. She asks tough questions when you need them and soft ones when you don't." "She's extremely good at coming up with the weird and wonderful to get you out of trouble. She isn't your usual barrister: she has a mind that works about twice as fast and then the solution that comes out is novel, original, well thought out and legally exceptional." "She's sensible, pragmatic and calm and clients love her."
Recent work: Instructed as counsel to the coroner for the inquest into the death of Geoff Gray at Deepcut Barracks.

Briony Ballard
Predominantly acts in inquests, including Article 2 proceedings, which involve alleged or proven clinical negligence. She routinely receives instructions from healthcare professionals, NHS trusts and bereaved families. She is also adept in proceedings involving police and prison deaths, and has significant experience of inquests involving issues of mental health. 
Strengths: "She has an unbelievable sense of gravitas and knows how to steer the hearing. She's incredibly knowledgeable, sharp as a tack, and the coroner looked to her for guidance throughout." "She is a class act and a real force to be reckoned with." "She knows her stuff and is very good with coroners."
Recent work: Represented the supplier of forensic medical advisory services to Staines police station, at the inquest into the death of Terrence Smith, who died after being restrained for several hours in custody while suffering from amphetamine-induced excited delirium, a condition which was not recognised by staff at the time, and not known to some staff at all.

Cecily White
A notable junior who has experience acting in sensitive jury inquests, Article 2 cases and high-profile public inquiries. She represents NHS trusts and police forces as well as families and professionals. 
Strengths: "She was superb and impressed the coroner by being clear and authoritative in her advocacy." "Thorough and articulate." "A real one to watch: she will progress and achieve great things."
Recent work: Acted for Alexander Perepilichnyy's widow at his inquest, successfully persuading the coroner to return the conclusion of natural causes that Mrs Perepilichnyy sought, despite allegations of poisoning in the media.

Debra Powell QC
A popular choice for inquests concerning clinical negligence. She habitually represents bereaved families, healthcare professionals, NHS trusts and other state agents. She also has experience in Article 2 inquests involving police and prison deaths. Her broad practice also sees her regularly appearing in public inquiries. 
Strengths: "She's willing to step in and fight when you need her to and she's brilliant on the law. Clients rave about her as she gives them great reassurance when their reputation is on the line."
Recent work: Instructed for the Welsh Blood Service at the Infected Blood Inquiry.

James Berry
Favoured by a number of police forces and NHS trusts for advice and representation in major public inquiries and inquests.
Strengths: "A good, combative but not overly defensive advocate, who will fight well and hard if necessary but without losing sight of the wider picture."
Recent work: Acted as lead junior for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in Phase 3 of the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

John Beggs QC
Standout silk who typically acts for police forces facing considerable scrutiny in highly publicised inquests, particularly those involving Article 2 proceedings, and as core participants in public inquiries. He habitually advises on the adequacy of police investigations, as well as deaths resulting from actions or omissions made by the police. He is also adept in the representation of the bereaved in matters not involving the police. 
Strengths: "He is robust and will fight tooth and nail, employing every tactic at his disposal. You have to have untold levels of resilience to fight him off; he's a brilliant jury advocate who presents very clearly." "He's the leader in any tough courtroom, getting witnesses onside and persuading them to give evidence." "A world-class cross-examiner who has a beautiful way of handling witnesses, and a great turn of phrase."
Recent work: Acted for Alexander Perepilichnyy's widow at his inquest, successfully persuading the coroner to return the conclusion of death by natural causes that Mrs Perepilichnyy sought, despite allegations of poisoning in the media.

Matthew Holdcroft
Admired as a thoroughly modern junior who can be relied upon to find the right tone in the most sensitive cases. He is a firm favourite of police forces and additionally represents the NHS in high-profile inquests and public inquiries.
Strengths: "A progressive practitioner who makes good use of technology, and a really safe pair of hands in handling the more difficult cases." "He has an excellent grasp of the practical consequences inquests have for day-to-day policing." "Brings a lightness of touch that can be helpful in difficult inquests."

Paul Spencer
Well known for his handling of complex inquests arising out of health and social care. He receives instructions from NHS trusts, care homes, psychiatric hospitals, regulatory bodies, healthcare professionals and other parties. He is also capable of handling parallel disciplinary actions.
Strengths: "He's unbelievably good with the jury and is a go-to for state bodies in trouble. He's very good at presenting the humane side of organisations in very difficult cases." "He's calm under fire and nothing takes him by surprise, which is very reassuring for his clients." "He's extremely proactive and approachable and will come back very quickly with a strategy for moving forward. He's able to convey his legal knowledge without frightening the client with an avalanche of information."
Recent work: Acted for RPFI, the company that ran Lancaster Lodge care home, at the inquest into the death of Sophie Bennett, a teenager in its care who took her own life. The jury returned a gross neglect verdict.

Robert Francis QC
Has extensive experience of appearing in, and chairing, public inquiries. He is particularly adept at handling proceedings in the healthcare context. Recently, he has also been involved in matters involving police law. 
Strengths: "A highly intelligent and very thoughtful man, and a standard bearer for the profession."
Recent work: Instructed as lead counsel for the National Police Chiefs Council in the Undercover Policing Inquiry.