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  • Karen Steyn QC
    Areas of Practice

  • Commercial Judicial Review
  • Education
  • European Union
  • Health & Community Care
  • Human Rights
  • Information
  • Media Law
  • Procurement and State Aid
  • Professional Discipline and Regulatory Law
  • Public
  • Public International Law
  • Activity from
    Karen Steyn

  • Recent cases

    Karen Steyn QC, Julian Blake and Sean Aughey in 3 Supreme Court cases

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    Karen Steyn Q.C., Tom Cross, and Amy Rogers in Royal Charter Judicial Review

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  • Article

    Positive obligations to provide access to information under the European Convention on Human Rights

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  • News

    Karen Steyn Q.C. and Sean Aughey speaking at seminar on act of state doctrines

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    Karen Steyn QC speaking at The International Law of Military Operations conference

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Karen Steyn QC

Karen Steyn

Karen Steyn QC

Practice Overview

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. Karen’s broad practice covers 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.

In 2016, Karen was appointed a Deputy High Court Judge. She is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's A Panel of Counsel. Karen is recommended in the directories as a silk in the fields of administrative and public law, civil liberties and human rights, data protection, local government and public international law. Before taking silk, Karen was a member of the Attorney General's A Panel, successfully applied to join the AG's Public International Law A Panel, and was ranked as one of the top 100 juniors at the Bar in the Chambers UK Bar 100.

Karen obtained a Distinction in the Graduate Diploma in Law at City University.


"A wonderful advocate. She cuts to the heart of a matter, doesn't faff about and her arguments are beautifully written and expressed.”  (C&P 2017, Data Protection)

"Extremely clever, she is a super local government lawyer with a broad public law background. Incredibly energetic and fights hard for her clients.” (C&P 2017, Local Government)

"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.” (C&P 2017, Administrative & Public Law; Civil Liberties & Human Rights)

"Highly versatile silk with a deeply accomplished practice spanning a range of related areas, including local government, public and data protection law.” (C&P 2017, Data Protection)

"Seen on high-profile and difficult cases involving international law points, she is an exceptional barrister, who is very diligent.” (C&P 2017, Public International Law)

"She is very calm yet challenges arguments with wisdom and bravery" (Legal 500, 2017)

"She has superb judgement and an astonishing work ethic." (Legal 500, 2017)

"She is an absolutely first-rate lawyer and a down-to-earth strategist." (C&P 2016, Data Protection)

"incredibly easy to work with" (C&P 2016, Administrative & Public Law)

“She is in a league of her own. She is a superb lawyer” (C&P 2015, Administrative & Public Law)

“She is very good at client handling and at giving clear advice in difficult contexts.” (C&P 2015, Civil Liberties and Human Rights)

"She is absolutely brilliant and destined for the top." (C&P 2014, Administrative & Public Law)

"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." (C&P 2014, Data Protection)


Serdar Mohammed v Secretary of State for Defence; Qasim et al v Secretary of State for Defence
[2015] EWCA Civ 84, [2016] 2 WLR 247
Claim alleging that UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan have no power to detain insurgents, raising questions of Crown act of state, international humanitarian law and Afghan law. The first part of the appeal was heard by nine Justices of the Supreme Court on 1-4 February 2016. The second part of the appeal (Crown act of state) was heard by the Supreme Court on 9 and 10 May 2016. The five remaining grounds of appeal (including the territorial reach of the HRA) will be heard by the Supreme Court on 25-27 October 2016.

Al Waheed v Ministry of Defence
[2014] EWHC 2714 (QB)
Leapfrog appeal to the Supreme Court, heard by nine Justices on 1-4 February 2016. Concerning the question of modification of Article 5 ECHR in a non-international armed conflict in light of UN Security Council resolutions, having regard to the House of Lords' and ECtHR's decisions in Al Jedda and Hassan v UK.

Belhaj v Straw; Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence
[2015] 2 WLR 1105 (Belhaj) and [2016] 2 WLR 247 (Rahmatullah)
Claims alleging UK complicity in rendition to Libya (Belhaj) and to Afghanistan (Rahmatullah). The Defendants' appeal to the Supreme Court on the issues of foreign act of state and state immunity was heard by the Supreme Court on 9-12 November 2015. In Belhaj, the Defendants succeeded on the issue of applicable law before the Court of Appeal and there was no appeal on that issue. The appeal in respect of Crown act of state, in Rahmatullah, was heard by the Supreme Court on 9 and 10 May 2016.

R (Project Management Association) v Minister for the Cabinet Office and Privy Council Office
[2016] 1 WLR 1737, [2016] EWCA Civ 21
The Court of Appeal (Lord Dyson MR, Richards and Underhill LJJ) held the Privy Council committee's decision was lawful, rejecting challenges based on bias and failure to follow a published story.

Kennedy v Charity Commission
[2015] AC 455
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 a Freedom of Information Act 2000. Karen Steyn is representing the United Kingdom in the complaint brought by The Times and Mr Kennedy to the European Court of Human Rights.

R (SG previously JS) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
[2015] 1 WLR 1449, [2015] UKSC 16, SC March 18 2015
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 (Evans) v Attorney General
[2015] AC 1787, [2015] Env LR 34, [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.

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

R (C) v Northumberland County Council
[2015] LGR 675 , [2015] EWHC 2134 (Admin), QBD (Admin Ct), July 23 2015
Council’s policy of retaining child protection records for 35 years after closure of the case was both justified and proportionate.

Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v Hungary (UK intervening)
appl. no. 18030/11
The issue in this case, which was heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 4 November 2015, is whether article 10 of the ECHR should be constured as containing a right of access to information held by public authorities. Judgment reserved.

Times Newspapers Ltd & Kennedy v United Kingdom
appl. no. 64367/14
The Times and Mr Kennedy challenge the decision of the Supreme Court in Kennedy v Charity Commision, alleging that he had a right of access to information pursuant to article 10 of the ECHR that has been breached by reason of the s.32 FOIA exemption.

Bruton v Duchy of Cornwall and HRH Prince of Wales
[2012] 1 Info LR 17
A landmark decision that the Duchy of Cornwall is a public body, at least in the environmental information context. Karen Steyn is acting pro bono (with Joseph Barrett) for an environmental campaigner. The Duchy's appeal was heard by the Upper Tribunal on 19-20 January 2016, judgment reserved.

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.

Al Jedda v Secretary of State for the Home Department
SC/66/2008, SIAC (Flaux J chairing) gave judgment on 18 July 2014
Deprivation of nationality. SIAC determined that the principle of regularity had the effect that Mr Al Jedda was de jure, as well as de facto, an Iraqi citizen when he was deprived of his nationality for a second time. ZZ and Zambrano distinguished: the Secretary of State was not required to provide a minimum level of information about the case to Mr Al Jedda either pursuant to the ECHR or EU law. Mr Al Jedda has appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Secretary of State for the Home Department v Dumliauskas & ors
[2015] EWCA Civ, [2015] Imm AR 773, [2015] INLR 537
Removal of EU nationals. Relevance of prospects of rehabilitation in the UK to the proportionality balance. Cases to be heard together by the Court of Appeal on 20-22 January 2015 

R (Noor Khan) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2014] EWCA Civ 24, [2014] 1 WLR 872, CA January 20 2012
The drone strikes challenge. The Court of Appeal (Lord Dyson MR, Laws and Elias LJJ) dismissed the claim on foreign act of state/non-justiciability grounds.

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.

LS v Oxfordshire County Council
[2013] UKUT 135 (AAC); [2013] ELR 429
Case considering the statutory test for determining whether a child with special educational needs requires a statement and the effect of imminent conversion into an academy.

R (Binyam Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
[2011] QB 218
Case concerning the disclosure of intelligence, open justice and public interests immunity.

R. (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.

All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition v Information Commissioner and Foreign and Commonwealth Office
[2015]  UKUT 377 (AAC), [2012] 1 Info LR 258; [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 determing 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. The FCO's refusal to disclose information was upheld.

R (Al-Saadoon & ors) v Secretary of State for Defence
[2016] EWHC 773 (Admin), [2015] 3 WLR 503
This litigation involves over a thousand claims brought by Iraqis seeking investigations pursuant to articles 2, 3 and 5 of the ECHR. An appeal and cross-appeal from Leggatt J's determination of preliminary issues regarding investigatory duties under articles 3 and 5 of the ECHR, UNCAT and jurisdiction was heard by the Court of Appeal on 16-20 May 2016. In addition, Leggatt J has given judgment on issues of delay and the scope of the investigative obligation.

Regulatory Information

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Professional title: Barrister

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

VAT Number: GB 680783112

Legal Status: Sole Practitioner

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