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‘Its distinguished members act for central and local government, NGOs, commercial organisations and individuals.’Chambers and Partners 2014
Sarah Hannett

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Sarah practises in all areas of public law, equality law and human rights. She is ranked in Chambers & Partners in five practice areas: education, administrative and public law, civil liberties and human rights, local government, and community care. Legal 500 ranks Sarah in education law and in public and administrative law.

Sarah was appointed to the Attorney-General’s A Panel of Counsel in 2017 (having previously been on the B and C Panel), and to the B-Panel of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel in February 2015.

Sarah has a significant international element to her practice: she has recently advised clients (including public authorities) in Jersey, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and has been instructed in cases in the European Court of Human Rights.

Public Law/Human Rights

Sarah appears regularly on behalf of claimants (including individuals, as well as commercial organisations), local authorities, the Secretary of State, HMRC and regulators (such as Ofqual, Ofsted, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Disclosure and Barring Service and the National College for Teaching and Leadership) in the Administrative Court. She has particular expertise in claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and under the Equality Act 2010. Recent cases include:

  • In the Matter of M (Children) [2017] EWCA Civ 2164: whether the decision of the Family Court that a trans father could not have direct contact with her children complied with the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 (appeared on behalf of Stonewall led by Karon Monaghan QC). See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • R (Steinfeld and Keidan) v. Secretary of State for Education [2017] EWCA Civ 81: whether the exclusion of heterosexual couples from civil partnerships constitutes an unlawful interference with Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR (appeared on behalf of the appellants led by Karon Monaghan QC). The Supreme Court will hear the appellants’ appeal in May 2018. See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • R (AB) v. Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWHC 1694 (Admin): whether the segregation of a child constituted a breach of Article 3 of the ECHR (appeared on behalf of the Secretary of State led by Tom Weisselberg QC). See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • R (Medical Justice) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWHC 2461 (Admin): whether the amendment to the definition of torture in the SSHD’s guidance on detaining adults at risk complied with the PSED (appeared on behalf of the EHRC, led by Natalie Lieven QC). See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • R (BA) v. Secretary of State for Health [2017] EWHC 2815: whether the directions prioritising transplanted organs to patients who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom are ultra vires the National Health Service Act 2006 (appeared on behalf of the Claimant, led by Helen Mountfield QC). See here for the judgment. The Divisional Court has granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
  • R (Richards) v. Investigatory Powers Tribunal [2017] EWHC 560 (QB): whether an extended civil restraint order breached Article 6 of the ECHR (appeared on behalf of the IPT). See here for the judgment.
  • R (Elan-Cane) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department: whether the policy precluding the issue of passports with an X sex marker breaches Article 8 and 14 of the ECHR (instructed by the Secretary of State). The Administrative Court will hear the claim in April 2018. See here for press coverage.

Education Law

Sarah is particularly renowned for her expertise in all aspects of education law. She appears in the Administrative Court, the First-tier Tribunal, Upper Tribunal and County Court representing a wide range of clients (including local authorities, parents, schools, higher education institutions, the Schools Adjudicator, Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency, and the Secretary of State for Education).

Sarah was awarded the Bar Pro Bono award in 2013 for her work on the School Exclusion Project, an organisation that provides pro-bono representation to parents appealing against the permanent exclusion of their child from school. She is the author (with Aileen McColgan and Elizabeth Prochaska) of Special Educational Needs and the Law (LAG, 2017) and wrote the chapter on Special Educational Needs in Richard McManus QC, Education and the Courts (Jordan’s, 2012). Recent education cases include:

  • R (Al-Hijrah School) v. Ofsted [2017] EWCA Civ 1787: the segregation of girls from Year 5 in a mixed sex school constitutes direct discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010 (appeared on behalf of Ofsted, led by Helen Mountfield QC). See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • R (Ngole) v. University of Sheffield [2017] EWHC 2669 (Admin): the University did not act unlawfully and/or in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 in removing the claimant from his social work course after he made homophobic comments (appeared on behalf of the University). See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • Independent Inquiry Into Child Sex Abuse: instructed to appear on behalf of Ofsted.
  • St Olave’s Grammar School: instructed by pupils in the successful challenge to their unlawful exclusion from the sixth form. See here for press coverage.
  • R (Learndirect) v. Ofsted [2017]: application for judicial review of an Ofsted report that graded Learndirect’s provision to be inadequate dismissed (appeared on behalf of Ofsted). See here for the judgment; see here for press coverage.
  • R (PA) v. London Borough of Lewisham and Secretary of State for Education [2016] EWHC 2368 (Admin): whether the Secretary of State’s policy on home to school transport is unlawful in failing to make particular provision for children who wish to attend specialist free schools (counsel for the Secretary of State). The Court of Appeal will hear the Appellant’s appeal in May 2018.
  • R (Tigere) v. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2015] UKSC 57; [2015] 1 WLR 82; [2015] ELR 455: the eligibility criteria for student loans unlawfully discriminated against applicants with Discretionary Leave to Remain contrary to Article 14 of the ECHR read with Article 2 of Protocol 1 (counsel for the intervener, Just for Kids Law, led by Karon Monaghan QC). See here for judgment; see here for press coverage.

Local Government and Election Law

Sarah is ranked as a leading junior in local government law. She has acted for over 70 local authorities, but also undertakes work for claimants across the full range of local government functions (including community care and planning law). Sarah has significant election law experience: she appeared as junior counsel to Michael Foster in the recent case concerning the Labour Leadership election, and acted as junior counsel to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets in his application to strike out an election petition (see Erlam v. (1) Rahman, and (2) Williams [2014] EWHC 2676 and 2766 (QB); [2015] 1 WLR 231, 245). Recent cases include:

  • Foster v. McNichol and Corbyn [2016] EWHC 1966 (QB): whether the Labour Party Rules 2016 require an incumbent leader to obtain nominations from 20% of the MPs in order to appear on the ballot (counsel for Mr Foster, led by Gavin Millar QC). See here for the judgment, and see here for press coverage.
  • R (A & B) v. Oxfordshire County Council [2016] EWHC 2419 (Admin) (Appellants’ appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeal after a substantive hearing in December 2016): whether the closure of children’s centres in Oxfordshire breached the public sector equality duty or the duty to consult (appeared on behalf of the Appellants, led by David Wolfe QC).
  • R (Cornwall Council) v. Secretary of State for Health [2015] UKSC 46; [2016] AC 137: the Supreme Court identified the correct test for determining the ordinary residence of a person who lacks capacity (counsel for South Gloucestershire Council, led by Helen Mountfield QC). See here for judgment.

Employment and Discrimination Work

Sarah acts for both claimants and respondents in the Employment Tribunal and in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. She is familiar with employment disputes arising in the public sector (particularly in the education sphere), and often represents local authorities, schools and central government. She has particular expertise in discrimination claims. Recent cases include:

  • Taiwo v. Olaigbe [2016] UKSC 31; [2016] 1 WLR 2653: the Supreme Court held that mistreatment of workers because of their positions as vulnerable migrant domestic workers dependent on their employers did not constitute race discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010 (counsel for the respondent, led by Tom Linden QC). See here for judgment.
  • A v. B Local Authority and C Governing Body [2016] EWCA Civ 766; [2016] IRLR 779; [2016] ELR 329: whether the governing body of a School had unlawfully dismissed a headteacher who failed to disclose her relationship with a convicted sex offender and/or infringed her rights under Article 8 of the ECHR (counsel for the local authority and the governing body). See here for judgment. Listed to be heard by the Supreme Court in December 2017.

Other Experience

In 2008 Sarah was a fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, funded by a Pegasus Scholarship awarded by Inner Temple where she undertook work relating to Guantanamo detainees. Prior to coming to the Bar, Sarah was a lecturer in law at King’s College London from 2000 until 2005. She has taught at University College London, Queen Mary University of London and the University of New South Wales in Australia, and been a visiting professor at McGill University.

Sarah acted as an independent reviewer of complaints for the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and between 2011 and 2013 Sarah was a member of the Bar Standards Board Complaints Committee.

Sarah graduated from the University of Nottingham in 1998 with a LLB (Hons) (First Class). She has a LLM in Human Rights and Comparative Law from McGill University (for which she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship).

Sarah accepts instructions under the Bar Council Standard Contractual Terms, details of which can be found here.

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