Karen Steyn QC

Karen Steyn

Professional Summary

Called 1995 Appointed QC 2014

Contact Details

E T +44 (0)20 7632 8500 Clerk Michael Smith Clerk Jaden Maloney E

Karen Steyn is a specialist advocate in the fields of public law, human rights, public international law and information law. She has extensive experience dealing with complex, cutting-edge public law litigation. She is described in the directories as a “wonderful advocate”, “an absolutely first-rate lawyer” and a “highly versatile silk with a deeply accomplished practice” whose “arguments are beautifully written and expressed”. Karen is “simply superb in cases where the stakes could not be higher”, “incredibly easy to work with” and “fights hard for her clients”.

Karen is recommended in the directories in the fields of

  • administrative and public law
  • civil liberties and human rights
  • data protection
  • local government
  • public international law

Karen has been named Public Law Silk of the Year (The Legal 500, 2018 Awards)

Karen has been shortlisted Human Rights and Public Silk of the Year at the Chambers Bar Awards 2018.

Specialisms

Public

Karen has a broad public law practice before the higher courts, including in the areas of education, environment, freedom of information and data protection, immigration and asylum, mental health, national security, prisoners, proceeds of crime, public international law, regulation and social security.

Examples of Karen’s work in this field include:

Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 1
Scope and applicability of Crown act of state doctrine to case concerning capture and transfer of Pakistani national by British forces in Iraq

Belhaj v Straw
[2017] UKSC 2
Scope and applicability of doctrines of Foreign act of state and state immunity (indirect impleading) to case concerning allegations of rendition and mistreatment by foreign states

Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 3
Modification of article 5 of the ECHR to accommodate detention of a Taliban commander in Afghanistan

DSD & NBV v Metropolitan Police Service
(Liberty & ors intervening) (Supreme Court judgment reserved)
‘Black cab rapist’ case concerning the scope of the article 3 ECHR obligation to investigate crimes committed by non-state agents.

Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Supreme Court hearing 6-8 June 2017)
Compatibility of state immunity in respect of claims brought by embassy employees with article 6 ECHR.

R (Evans) v Attorney General
[2015] AC 1787, [2015] UKSC 21
Challenge to the exercise of the Ministerial veto in respect of disclosure pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations, concerning the Prince of Wales’ correspondence with Ministers.

Kennedy v Charity Commission
[2015] AC 455, [2014] UKSC 20
Supreme Court decision regarding the interaction of the right to freedom of expression under article 10 ECHR and rights of access to information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

R (SG previously JS) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
[2015] 1 WLR 1449, [2015] UKSC 16
Judicial review of the Government’s “benefit cap” raising issues regarding Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR and the use of unincorporated treaties.

Smith v Ministry of Defence
[2014] 1 AC 52, [2013] UKSC 41
Test cases in the Supreme Court on the scope of combat immunity and the application of Article 2 of the ECHR to soldiers on active service.

R (Project Management Association) v Minister for the Cabinet Office
[2016] 1 WLR 1737, [2016] EWCA Civ 21
Challenge to a decision of a Privy Council committee to recommend the grant of a Royal Charter to a professional body. Allegations of bias and failure to follow a published policy rejected.

Secretary of State for the Home Department v Dumliauskas & ors
[2015] EWCA Civ, [2015] Imm AR 773
Removal of EU nationals. Relevance of prospects of rehabilitation in the UK to the proportionality balance.

R (Noor Khan) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2014] EWCA Civ 24, [2014] 1 WLR 872
Challenge to alleged sharing of intelligence with a foreign partner, in circumstances where it was alleged to facilitate allegedly unlawful drone strikes.

R (C) v Northumberland County Council
[2015] LGR 675, [2015] EWHC 2134 (Admin)
Council’s policy of retaining child protection records for 35 years after closure of the case was both justified and proportionate.

R (UK Recyclate Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment
[2013] 3 All ER 561; [2013] Env LR 23
Transposition of the Waste Framework Directive into domestic law; separate collection obligation.

Media & Privacy

Karen’s practice in the area of media and privacy encompasses freedom of information, data protection, human rights, public interest immunity, closed material procedures and Norwich Pharmacal claims.

Examples of Karen’s work in this field include:

Human Rights Watch (UK) v Cabinet Office (pending) – challenge to the refusal to disclose the Attorney General’s advice regarding a drone strike in Syria.

Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v Hungary
(18030/11) – Grand Chamber decision that article 10 of the ECHR should be construed as containing a (limited) right of access to information held by public authorities.

R (Evans) v Attorney General
[2015] AC 1787, [2015] UKSC 21
Challenge to the exercise of the Ministerial veto in respect of disclosure pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations, concerning the Prince of Wales’ correspondence with Ministers.

Kennedy v Charity Commission
[2015] AC 455, [2014] UKSC 20
Supreme Court decision regarding the interaction of the right to freedom of expression under article 10 ECHR and rights of access to information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

R (C) v Northumberland County Council
[2015] LGR 675, [2015] EWHC 2134 (Admin)
Council’s policy of retaining child protection records for 35 years after closure of the case was both justified and proportionate.

Times Newspapers Ltd & Kennedy v United Kingdom
(64367/14)
The Times and Mr Kennedy challenge the decision of the Supreme Court in Kennedy v Charity Commission.

Privacy International v United Kingdom
(pending)
Challenge to a refusal by GCHQ to provide information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition v Information Commissioner and Foreign and Commonwealth Office
[2015] UKUT 377 (AAC), [2013] UKUT 560 (AAC)
Multiple requests for information about extraordinary rendition refused on public interest grounds. The Upper Tribunal gave important rulings regarding the time at which the public interest is assessed when determining the application of qualified exemptions under FOIA and regarding the breadth of the “relates to” limb of the security body exemption in s.23 of FOIA.

(Horne) v Central Criminal Court
[2012] 1 WLR 3152
Search warrants issued and disclosure order made for purposes of ‘confiscation investigation’ after confiscation order made – whether jurisdiction to do so.

Al Rawi v Security Service
[2012] 1 AC 531
The leading Supreme Court case on the court’s common law powers to hold secret hearings.

R (Binyam Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2011] QB 218
Norwich Pharmacal case concerning a Guantanamo Bay detainee, the disclosure of intelligence, open justice and public interest immunity.

Human Rights

Karen has a broad human rights practice before the domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

Examples of Karen’s work in this field include:

DSD & NBV v Metropolitan Police Service
(Liberty & ors intervening) (Supreme Court judgment reserved)
‘Black cab rapist’ case concerning the scope of the article 3 ECHR obligation to investigate crimes committed by non-state agents.

Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 3
Modification of article 5 of the ECHR to accommodate detention of a Taliban commander in Afghanistan

Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Supreme Court hearing 6-8 June 2017)
Compatibility of state immunity in respect of claims brought by embassy employees with article 6 ECHR.

Kennedy v Charity Commission
[2015] AC 455, [2014] UKSC 20
Supreme Court decision regarding the interaction of the right to freedom of expression under article 10 ECHR and rights of access to information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

R (SG previously JS) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
[2015] 1 WLR 1449, [2015] UKSC 16
Judicial review of the Government’s “benefit cap” raising issues regarding Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR and the use of unincorporated treaties.

Smith v Ministry of Defence
[2014] 1 AC 52, [2013] UKSC 41
Test cases in the Supreme Court on the scope of combat immunity and the application of Article 2 of the ECHR to soldiers on active service.

Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 1
Scope and applicability of Crown act of state doctrine to case concerning capture and transfer of Pakistani national by British forces in Iraq

Belhaj v Straw
[2017] UKSC 2
Scope and applicability of doctrines of Foreign act of state and state immunity (indirect impleading) to case concerning allegations of rendition and mistreatment by foreign states

Human Rights Watch (UK) v Cabinet Office
(pending)
Challenge to the refusal to disclose the Attorney General’s advice regarding a drone strike in Syria

Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v Hungary
(18030/11)
Grand Chamber decision that article 10 of the ECHR should be construed as containing a (limited) right of access to information held by public authorities.

Times Newspapers Ltd & Kennedy v United Kingdom

(64367/14)
The Times and Mr Kennedy challenge the decision of the Supreme Court in Kennedy v Charity Commission.

Privacy International v United Kingdom
(pending)
Challenge to a refusal by GCHQ to provide information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

R (Al-Saadoon & ors) v Secretary of State for Defence
[2017] 2 WLR 219; [2016] 1 WLR 3625; [2015] 3 WLR 503
Litigation involving over 1000 claims brought by Iraqis seeking investigations pursuant to articles 2, 3 and 5 of the ECHR. Preliminary issues regarding investigatory duties under articles 3 and 5 of the ECHR, UNCAT and jurisdiction were determined by the Court of Appeal.

Jaloud v The Netherlands
(2015) 60 EHRR 29
Grand Chamber considered Article 1 jurisdiction in a case concerning the shooting of a civilian in Iraq.

Local Government

Karen’s local government practice encompasses education, environment, freedom of information and data protection, human rights, immigration and asylum, regulation and social security.

Examples of Karen’s work in this field include:

R (C) v Northumberland County Council
[2015] LGR 675, [2015] EWHC 2134 (Admin)
Council’s policy of retaining child protection records for 35 years after closure of the case was both justified and proportionate.

R (UK Recyclate Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment [2013] 3 All ER 561; [2013] Env LR 23
Transposition of the Waste Framework Directive into domestic law; separate collection obligation.

R (Elphinstone) v Westminster City Council
[2009] LGR 158, [2009] ELR 24, [208] EWCA Civ 1069
Consultation regarding closure of a community school and opening of an academy.

Oxfordshire County Council v GB
[2002] ELR 8
Leading Court of Appeal authority regarding the calculation of respective costs when comparing an independent school placement with a maintained school placement.

Phelps v London Borough of Hillingdon
[2001] 2 AC 619
Leading House of Lords authority on the duty of care owed by local education authorities and educational professionals.

Public International

Karen has extensive experience addressing public international law issues before the domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights, in particular in the areas of International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law, the UN Charter and UNSCRs, the development of Customary International Law, immunities (state, diplomatic, special missions, organisations), act of state doctrines and the incorporation of international law into municipal laws.

Examples of Karen’s work in this field include:

Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 3
Power to detain enemy forces in non-international armed conflict pursuant to International Humanitarian Law and UN Security Council Resolutions.

Belhaj v Straw
[2017] UKSC 2
Scope and applicability of doctrines of Foreign act of state and state immunity (indirect impleading) to case concerning allegations of rendition and mistreatment by foreign states.

Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Supreme Court hearing 6-8 June 2017)
Compatibility of state immunity in respect of claims brought by embassy employees with article 6 ECHR.

R (SG previously JS) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
[2015] 1 WLR 1449, [2015] UKSC 16
Use of unincorporated treaties in a challenge to the Benefit Cap.

R (Noor Khan) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2014] EWCA Civ 24, [2014] 1 WLR 872
Challenge to alleged sharing of intelligence with a foreign partner, in circumstances where it was said that it would be used to facilitate drone strikes in FATA which were alleged to be contrary to International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.

Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v Hungary
(18030/11)
Grand Chamber decision that article 10 of the ECHR should be construed as containing a (limited) right of access to information held by public authorities.

Al Jedda v Secretary of State for the Home Department
SC/66/2008, SIAC (Flaux J)
Deprivation of nationality held to be lawful having regard to international law regarding citizenship and the principle of regularity.

Professional Disciplinary & Regulatory

Karen has a broad professional disciplinary and regulatory law practice, representing professional bodies, regulators and individuals in judicial review challenges and licensing/disciplinary proceedings.

Examples of Karen’s work in this field include:

R (Pitt & Tyas) v General Pharmaceutical Council
(pending)
Judicial review challenge to the Standards issued by the Council.

R (Project Management Association) v Minister for the Cabinet Office
[2016] 1 WLR 1737, [2016] EWCA Civ 21
Challenge to a decision of a Privy Council committee to recommend the grant of a Royal Charter to a professional body. Allegations of bias and failure to follow a published policy rejected.

British Dental Association v General Dental Council
[2014] EWHC 4311 (Admin)
Challenge to an increase in the annual retention fee.

R (Phuong) v Glyndwr University
[2014] EWHC 908 (Admin)
Sponsor licences and an application for injunction

Recommendations

“Simply superb in cases where the stakes could not be higher” Legal 500

“An exceptional silk, who is astonishingly diligent” Legal 500

“A wonderful advocate. She cuts to the heart of a matter, doesn’t faff about and her arguments are beautifully written and expressed.” Chambers & Partners

“An excellent silk who has a strong understanding of the application of PIL in administrative law cases.” Chambers and Partners

“Extremely clever, she is a super local government lawyer with a broad public law background. Incredibly energetic and fights hard for her clients.” Chambers & Partners 

“An exceptionally bright, talented lawyer who has great finesse.” Chambers and Partners

“She has a remarkable intellect.” Chambers and Partners

“She’s not fazed by anything. She is calm, measured and doesn’t get flustered by anything the other side say.” Chambers and Partners

“A phenomenally hard-working, astonishingly strong lawyer who writes exceptionally well. She’s a fantastic team player who is well liked by clients and solicitors alike.” Chambers & Partners

“Her written work is so clear and precise and her analysis of cases is fabulous.” Chambers & Partners

“Her strengths are her attention to detail and analysis. She always seems to have the right answer at her fingertips. She does an incredible amount of preparation.” Chambers and Partners

“A diligent and determined advocate with excellent judgement” Legal 500

“Highly versatile silk with a deeply accomplished practice spanning a range of related areas, including local government, public and data protection law.” Chambers & Partners

“Seen on high-profile and difficult cases involving international law points, she is an exceptional barrister, who is very diligent.” Chambers & Partners

“She is very calm yet challenges arguments with wisdom and bravery” Legal 500

“She has superb judgement and an astonishing work ethic.” Legal 500

“She is an absolutely first-rate lawyer and a down-to-earth strategist.” Chambers & Partners

“incredibly easy to work with” Chambers & Partners

“She is in a league of her own. She is a superb lawyer” Chambers & Partners

“She is very good at client handling and at giving clear advice in difficult contexts.” Chambers & Partners

“She is absolutely brilliant and destined for the top.” Chambers & Partners

“She is a superb lawyer, who is also practical and focuses on solutions and not problems. She is hugely dedicated and diligent and yet retains a sense of perspective and humour.” Chambers & Partners

Recent Cases

Karen’s reported cases include:

Supreme Court:

Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2017] UKSC 62

Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 1, [2017] 2 WLR 287

Belhaj v Straw
[2017] UKSC 2, [2017] 2 WLR 456

Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defence
[2017] UKSC 3, [2017] 2 WLR 327

R (Evans) v Attorney General
[2015] UKSC 21, [2015] AC 1787

Kennedy v Charity Commission
[2014] UKSC 20, [2015] AC 455

R (SG previously JS) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
[2015] UKSC 16, [2015] 1 WLR 1449

Smith v Ministry of Defence
[2013] UKSC 41, [2014] 1 AC 52

Al Rawi v Security Service
[2011] UKSC 34, [2012] 1 AC 531

 

House of Lords: 

R (Corner House Research) v Director of the Serious Fraud Office
[2009] 1 AC 756

Phelps v London Borough of Hillingdon
[2001] 2 AC 619

R (Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd v East Sussex County Council
[2003] 1 WLR 348

 

Court of Appeal:

R (Al-Saadoon & ors) v Secretary of State for Defence
[2017] 2 WLR 219; [2016] 1 WLR 3625; [2015] 3 WLR 503

R (Project Management Association) v Minister for the Cabinet Office
[2016] EWCA Civ 21, [2016] 1 WLR 1737

Secretary of State for the Home Department v Dumliauskas & ors
[2015] EWCA Civ, [2015] Imm AR 773, [2015] INLR 537

R (Noor Khan) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2014] EWCA Civ 24, [2014] 1 WLR 872

R (Binyam Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2011] QB 218

Secretary of State for the Home Department v British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection
[2009] 1 WLR 636

R (G) v Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
[2009] EWCA Civ 795, [2009] HRLR 31

R (Elphinstone) v Westminster City Council
[2009] LGR 158, [2009] ELR 24, [208] EWCA Civ 1069

Oxfordshire County Council v GB
[2002] ELR 8

 

Divisional Court/High Court/Upper Tribunal:

R (C) v Northumberland County Council
[2016] 2 FLR 582, [2015] LGR 675

R (UK Recyclate Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment
[2013] 3 All ER 561; [2013] Env LR 23

(Horne) v Central Criminal Court
[2012] 1 WLR 3152

Corporate Officer of the House of Commons v Information Commissioner
[2009] 3 All ER 403

 

European Court of Human Rights:

Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v Hungary
(18030/11) (Grand Chamber)

Jaloud v The Netherlands
(2015) 60 EHRR 29 (Grand Chamber)

Kelly v United Kingdom
(2011) 53 EHRR SE2

Education

University of Liverpool: BA (Hons) History

City University: Postgraduate Diploma in Law

King’s College London: Postgraduate Diploma in EU Law

Other

Karen was appointed a s.9(4) Deputy High Court Judge in 2016

Karen is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s A Panel of Counsel and the Welsh local authorities’ panel. Prior to taking silk, Karen was a member of the Attorney General’s A Panel and was selected for the AG’s Public International Law A Panel (not taken up due to silk appointment)

Harmsworth Scholar, Middle Temple

BACFI (Bar Association for Commerce, Finance & Industry) Prize for the Commercial Law Module, Inns of Court School of Law

Worshipful Company of Arbitrators’ Prize, City University

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Regulatory Information

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Professional title: Barrister

Full name (as registered with Bar Standards Board of England and Wales): Karen Steyn QC

VAT Number: GB 680783112

Legal Status: Sole Practitioner

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