John Halford is a public law specialist, and Head of our Public Law and Human Rights team. He has focused on judicial review litigation work since 1993, handling a wide range of cases concerning the exercise of power by public authorities, regulatory, human rights and discrimination issues.
John represents individuals, campaign and action groups, unions, charities, schools, professional associations and regulators, arts organisations and commercial companies – not only as primary litigants in judicial review claims but also as interested parties and interveners in cases brought by others that affect their interests or those of people they represent. He has had a number of notable successes in high profile test cases in the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the UK Supreme, including in the Article 50 litigation, where he represented a group of interested parties. He acted in the CJEU in the Wightman case and has European Court of Human Rights experience at Grand Chamber level.
John is also a source of decisive and trusted advice on a wide range of complex public law issues. His advisory caseload spans Brexit and other EU law issues, regulatory and licensing, professional disciplinary, procurement, planning, pensions and human rights law matters.
In the Chambers and Partners legal directory John has starred rankings (the highest awarded) in the fields of administrative and public law, human rights and civil liberties. He is also recommended as a leader in the fields of professional disciplinary and police law work. The Legal 500 directory lists him as a leader in the fields of administrative and public law, civil liberties, human rights and healthcare. He is recommended in the Brexit and professional disciplinary categories and listed in the ‘Hall of Fame’ which highlights lawyers at ‘the pinnacle of the profession’ who have ‘received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence’. In 2016 John won the Law Society Excellence Award for ‘Private Practice Solicitor of the Year’ and with Bindmans colleagues won the first Solicitors Journal ‘Legal Aid Team of the Year’ award. He was shortlisted for Liberty’s ‘Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award’ in 2015, won the Best Lawyers Directory 2014 ‘Lawyer of the Year’ award for Administrative and Public Law and is a past winner of a ‘Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year’ award.
John has given talks and provided training on public law, judicial review and human rights to audiences as diverse as the Malaysian Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association of Caserta, Italy, and at the Public Law Project and JUSTICE annual conferences.
John has experience litigating against a wide range of public bodies and organisations on issues as diverse as adequacy of Legal Aid, the legality of Brexit without Parliamentary control, mass stops and searches, the scope of licensing authority powers, and meaningful accountability and redress for human rights abuses in the 1940s. His public law and human rights advisory experience is equally broad, ranging from healthcare, skills funding and licensing regulation to EU, procurement planning and environmental issues.
John’s current work includes:
- challenging the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s injustice findings in his investigation into state pension age changes;
- advising on complex regulatory issues involving the Regulator for Social Housing;
- acting with Shirin Marker for the family of extraordinarily rendered Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu in a challenge to FCDO inaction;
- acting on a high profile extradition case pending before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; and
- assisting the traders of Seven Sisters Market secure fair and lawful decision-making on the Market’s future.
Significant anti-discrimination and equality work includes:
- challenging the shocking treatment of Ebenezer Azamati by the Oxford Union, securing compensation an apology, and institutional change;
- overturning a racially discriminatory MoD policy that had denied compensation to over 1,000 British people held in Japanese concentration camps during World War II – Secretary of State for Defence v Elias (Court of Appeal);
- establishing that a school’s admissions policy unlawfully discriminated on grounds of ethnic origins – JFS v E (House of Lords and Supreme Court);
- successfully challenging the withdrawal of funding from the UK’s longest established Black theatre company – R (Talawa Theatre Company) v Arts Council England;
- exposing the unlawful failure to take equality into account in planning, healthcare, school transport and taxi licensing decisions – R (Harris) v LB Haringey (Court of Appeal), R (Eisai) v NICE, R(Diocese of Menevia) v Swansea City Council and R(Lunt) v Liverpool City Council; and
- advisory work on sex discrimination in state pensions arrangements.
High impact regulatory work includes:
- successfully defending the new press regulator, IMPRESS, in a challenge to its accreditation by the Press Recognition Panel – R (News Media Association) v Press Recognition Panel and IMPRESS;
- advising a professional association on guidance that restricts it’s members’ ability to properly report to and advise the courts;
- investigating TfL’s actions in response to the increasing use of taxi and private hire apps;
- successful challenges to unfair government procurement processes for a major advertising agency and an apprenticeship provider;
- assisting GP consortia to challenge Clinical Commissioning Group decision-making;
- successfully challenging to Liverpool’s taxi licensing policy on the basis of disability discrimination and EU competition law for a disability rights campaigner and a vehicle manufacturer – R (Lunt and another) v Liverpool City Council; and
- successful challenges to other local authorities’ restrictive taxi licensing policies for a manufacturer of disabled – accessible Hackney cabs – e.g. R (Allied Vehicles Ltd) v Norwich City Council and R (Allied Vehicles Ltd) v Transport for London.
Work promoting access to justice and the Rule of Law inludes:
- acting for the Law Society in its successful challenge to a £36 million per annum legal aid cut in complex Crown Court cases – R (Law Society) v Lord Chancellor;
- acting for several law firms as part of the team that successfully brought the UK’s most far-reaching procurement challenge;
- a challenge to the refusal to hold a public inquiry into the 1948 massacre of their relatives by British troops at Batang Kali, a village in Malaysia – R (Keyu and others) Secretary of State for Defence and another (Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights);
- acting for the Law Society in its challenge to dual contracting (Court of Appeal).
Important work for action groups, charities and NGOs includes:
- advising the People’s Challenge (the group that used crowdfunding to champion ordinary people’s interests in the Article 50 Supreme Court case, Miller) on the consequences of the Brexit process for fundamental rights;
- the first challenge of a government department’s rejection of an Ombudsman report. The Minister’s decision was found unlawful and irrational by the courts, leading to the extension of compensation schemes worth several billion to affected pension scheme members – R (Bradley and others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Court of Appeal) ; and
- representing the RNIB in a proposed challenge to DWP policies which made it particularly difficult for blind and partially sighted people to seek work.
Professional disciplinary experience includes:
- securing the reconsideration of proposals to regulate psychotherapists and councillors for a consortia of professional bodies – R (AGIP and others) v Health Professions Council;
- acting as standing advisor to the Association of Child Psychotherapists; and
- challenging GMC decision-making on behalf of a patient whose child was wrongly diagnosed – R (Campbell) v GMC (Court of Appeal); and
- a challenge to the refusal by a professional regulatory body to investigate a disciplinary matter – R (Winter) v NMC.
Planning and environmental litigation experience includes:
- assisting environmental campaigning organisation, Marinet, to seek protection of the remains of service personnel, their ships and aircraft against the risks posed by the proposed dredging of Goodwin Sands;
- a successful challenge by a member of an action group which exposed planning decisions on a multi-million-pound development had been taken without proper regard to equality of opportunity for the local community – R (Harris) v London Borough of Haringey (Court of Appeal);
- advising an association on the legality of local authority planning decisions which favoured developers over established market traders; and
- challenging a flawed consultation process which preceded the introduction of a controlled parking zone.
Test cases on civil liberties, the extent of police powers and protest rights include:
- establishing that forcible return of 120 protesters who had travelled to an organised demonstration by coach breached their common law rights and Articles 10 and 11 ECHR – R (Laporte) v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire (House of Lords);
- a judicial review of the £5.3 million policing operations which imposed a cordon around the Kingsnorth Climate Change Camp. The multiple stops and searches of those who wanted to pass through and join the protest were shown to be unlawful and a breach of protestors’ Article 8, 10 and 11 rights – R (Morris, E and T) v Chief Constable of Kent Police; and
- a successful challenge to the unlawful retention of a child’s DNA, fingerprints and photographs – R (LH) v Chief Constable of Staffordshire.
Health and community care cases include:
- the first judicial review of NICE’s guidance to the NHS in which John acted for the Alzheimer’s Society, whose discrimination law arguments “won the day” according to the first instance judge – R (Eisai) v National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; and
- successful challenges to inadequate care planning for autistic children and young adults, withholding Herceptin from women with breast cancer and inadequate local authority service provision for disabled adults.
John has written widely on public law, human rights equality and healthcare issues. For example, Judicial Review and Legal Action have published a series of his articles on the impact of equality legislation and Ombudsman decision making, he was jointly responsible for the TUC’s guide to the new public sector equality duties, he wrote Legal Action’s health law series and co-authored Butterworth’s Health Services Law and Practice.
John has served on two Law Society committees (Mental Health and Disability and Immigration), as a Board member of the Public Law Project, the Management Committee of Camden Law Centre and on the Law Centres’ Federation Executive.
Chambers and Partners UK 2023
- John is ranked Band 2 in Administrative and Public Law. Feedback says he “is steeped in public law and is absolutely fantastic.”
- “John Halford heads the public law and human rights practice at Bindmans. He has wide-ranging public law expertise and is regularly sought after by professional associations, regulators and commercial clients.”
- John is ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Administrative and Public Law: Traditional Claimant.
- “John is a visionary and extremely committed lawyer. He is innovative in the points he thinks up and is not afraid of pursuing them.”
- “John is excellent to work with on every level.”
- John is ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Civil Liberties and Human Rights. Feedback says he is “renowned for his broad public law claimant-focused practice, which ranges from cases where human rights intersect with commercial law to judicial reviews.”
- “John supports his clients through every step, offering sound advice and reassurance along the way.”
- “He is always professional, forward-thinking and human in his approach.”
Legal 500 2023
- John is recognised in the ‘Hall of Fame’ in Administrative and Public Law.
- “Bindmans is the number one firm for claimant public law cases. Their public law solicitors are top quality throughout, and are guided with skill and technical excellence by Jamie Potter and John Halford.”
- John is also recognised in the ‘Hall of Fame’ for his work in Civil Liberties and Human Rights.
- “John Halford – knows everything.”
Chambers and Partners UK 2022
- John is ranked Band 2 in Administrative and Public Law. Feedback describes him as “a standout public law solicitor.”
- “He’s absolutely accurate in every single detail he covers and hits the ground running.”
- John is ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Administrative and Public Law: Traditional Claimant. Feedback says he “knows his field inside out and he produces deep insight and fantastic arguments that nobody else can find.”
- “He’s passionate about what he does, supportive to the client and a steady pair of hands in strategic litigation.”
- John is ranked also ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Civil Liberties and Human Rights. Sources describe him as “really calm under pressure, always sees the wider picture and he is very good with strategy and with clients.”
- “He is very well respected and established, with excellent experience in the area.”
Legal 500 2022
- John is recognised in the ‘Hall of Fame’ in Administrative and Public Law. Feedback describes him as “exceptional and a true star among public law and human rights solicitors.”
- “Jamie Potter and John Halford are both genuine leaders in public and administrative law. They provide excellent support to their team members while at the same time taking forward the most important litigation themselves.”
- John is also recognised in the ‘Hall of Fame’ for his work in Civil Liberties and Human Rights.
- “John Halford is very sharp and extremely experienced.”
Chambers and Partners UK 2020
- John Halford is ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Administrative & Public Law: Traditional Claimant. Commentators state that he “has every possible aspect of public law living in his brain” and “totally deserves his reputation as one of the pre-eminent solicitors for claimants”. Chambers and Partners also describe John as a ‘go-to for NGOs and individuals bringing high-profile strategic challenges to public law issues of constitutional importance.”
- John Halford is also ranked as a ‘Star Indvidual’ in Civil Liberties and Human Rights. Chambers and Partners describe John as “one of the most esteemed public law practitioners in the country. He has acted for the full range of individuals, campaign groups and charities in complex cases involving significant human rights breaches.”
Legal 500 2019
- John Halford is recognised as a ‘leading individual’ for Public Sector – Administrative and Public Law, Public Sector – Civil Liberties and Human Rights and Risk Advisory – Brexit.
- Legal 500 specifically notes John’s work on “some of the most high-profile cases” in the area of Administrative and Public Law.
Chambers and Partners UK 2019
- John Halford is ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Administrative & Public Law: Traditional Claimant. A client comments “He is the best solicitor I’ve ever worked with. He’s totally thorough and dedicated; he can draft well and he’s extremely clever.”
- Chambers and Partners note John Halford as being ‘highly sought after for his expertise in a range of public law and human rights issues and regularly takes on prominent judicial review work. He has acted on high-profile test cases through all levels of domestic courts, and has also appeared before the ECHR.’
- John Halford is also ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in Civil Liberties & Human Rights. John is a ‘highly sought after for his expertise in a range of public law and human rights issues and regularly takes on prominent judicial review work.’
In 2016 John won the Law Society Excellence Award for ‘Private Practice Solicitor of the Year’. The judging panel observed “John Halford is the leading solicitor acting for claimants in public law cases, bar none. In recent times he has done outstanding work in challenging unjust legal aid reforms and thereby preserving access to justice and equality before the law. His work deserves to be formally recognised by the profession.”
John and his Bindmans colleagues won the first Solicitors Journal ‘Legal Aid Team of the Year’ award.