Iain Steele

Called to Bar:
Practice areas:
MA (Cantab) (Law) First Class, BCL (Oxon) First Class, (Princess Royal Scholar, Inner Temple)

Iain is ranked as a leading junior in both of the leading legal directories.

Chambers UK 2015

  • Administrative & Public law – “He is excellent. He's very good at distilling a large number of documents into concise, effective responses and is very friendly, personable and approachable.” “He's brilliant, incredibly industrious and really good to have as part of the team.”
  • Civil Liberties & Human Rights – “He was very good as he was very quick to respond to queries, and gave excellent written submissions. Our success was down to the hard work he put in.”

Legal 500 2014

  • Administrative & Public law – “A tremendously capable junior; fantastic attention to detail, excellent drafting skills and a tenacious advocate.”
  • Civil Liberties & Human Rights – “Very approachable, accessible and knowledgeable.”

Professional Experience

Junior Counsel to the Crown (B Panel)

Public Law and Human Rights

Iain has developed a wide-ranging public law and human rights practice, building upon his substantial academic involvement in this area. He advises and acts in areas including police powers, local government, education, prisoners’ rights, public procurement, social security and community care, commercial judicial review and environmental law. Iain was a co-author of the recent Bingham Centre report ‘Streamlining Judicial Review in a Manner Consistent with the Rule of Law’ (February 2014).

Current and recent work

Administrative Law

Iain has extensive experience of representing both claimants and defendants in the Administrative Court. Notable cases (in addition to those featured in other sections below) include:

  • R (Dally) v Cwm Taf Community Health Council (ongoing)
    Acting for the defendant in a challenge to its decision not to refer a proposed health service change to the Welsh Ministers for a final determination.
  • R (Spearmint Rhino Companies (Europe) Limited) v Camden LB (2014)
    Acted for a well-known club in its challenge to the local authority’s refusal to renew its licence. The case settled after the club obtained interim relief and an order for expedition.
  • R (Flatley and Donohoe) v Hywel Dda University Local Health Board [2014] EWHC 2258 (Admin)
    Acted for the Board in successfully defending judicial review proceedings concerning emergency care and neonatal services at certain hospitals in Wales.
  • R (Nash) v Barnet LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1004
    Acted for Barnet LBC in successfully defending a challenge to its decision to outsource certain services to private contractors. The case raised important issues regarding delay and consultation.
  • R (Rippington) v The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd (2013)
    Acted for LOCOG in a claim raising issues of whether it performs public functions under the Equality Act 2010 and, if so, what is required by the public sector equality duty.
  • R (Brown) v Canal & River Trust [2012] EWHC 3133 (Admin)
    Acted for the CRT in successfully resisting a judicial review challenge to guidance that addresses the issue of when its waterways can be used without having to purchase a home mooring.
  • R (Cart) v Upper Tribunal; R (MR) v Upper Tribunal [2011] UKSC 28, [2012] 1 AC 663; Eba v Advocate General for Scotland [2011] UKSC 29, [2012] 1 AC 710
    Acted for JUSTICE in its intervention in these appeals concerning the scope of judicial review by the High Court or the Scottish Court of Session of unappealable decisions of the Upper Tribunal.

Human Rights

Iain has acted in many human rights matters (see also the police powers and foreign and defence policy sections below). Recent interesting cases include:

  • R (Davis & Watson) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (ongoing)
    Acting for David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP in their challenge to the new powers under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 to require retention of communications data by public telecommunications operators.
  • R (Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Britain) v Charity Commission; Trustees of Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v Charity Commission (ongoing)
    Acting for the Charity Commission in related High Court judicial review and First-tier Tribunal proceedings concerning the Commission’s decisions to open statutory inquiries into certain charities, which contend that to do so breached their rights under Articles 9, 11 and 14 ECHR.
  • Van Colle v United Kingdom (2013) 56 EHRR 23
    Acted for the applicants before the European Court of Human Rights in a case concerning the scope of the positive obligation to protect life under Article 2 ECHR. Iain previously appeared in the domestic proceedings: Van Colle v Chief Constable of the Hertfordshire Police [2008] UKHL 50, [2009] 1 AC 225.
  • R (Sinclair Collis Ltd) v Secretary of State for Health [2011] EWCA Civ 437, [2012] QB 394
    Acted for an Interested Party in a challenge to the ban on selling cigarettes through vending machines, based on Article 34 TFEU (free movement of goods) and Article 1 of Protocol No.1 to the ECHR (right to property).

Police Powers

Iain has a particular interest in cases concerning police powers and the right to protest. Notable cases include:

  • Beghal v Director of Public Prosecutions (Supreme Court, November 2014)
    Acting for Liberty in its intervention in this appeal concerning whether coercive stop, search, question and detention powers under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 are compatible with fundamental rights.
  • R (Mengesha) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2013] EWHC 1695 (Admin)
    Acted for the claimant in this successful challenge to police action at a demonstration in London in November 2011. The Court’s judgment makes clear that police powers to prevent a breach of the peace cannot be used for other purposes such as data gathering.
  • R (Erenbilge) v Independent Police Complaints Commission [2013] EWHC 1397 (Admin)
    Acted for the IPCC in a challenge to a decision relating to alleged excessive use of force by arresting officers. 
  • Austin and others v United Kingdom (2012) 55 EHRR 14
    Acted for the applicants in this case before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the compatibility with Article 5 ECHR of “kettling” of protestors and others by the police at the May Day 2001 demonstration in Oxford Circus. 
  • R (McClure and Moos) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2012] EWCA Civ 12
    Acted for the claimants in a high-profile judicial review challenge to the policing of the Climate Camp demonstration held during the G20 summit in London in April 2009, raising issues of whether the police containment (or “kettling”) of the Climate Camp and associated use of force were unlawful.

Foreign and Defence Policy

  • R (Barclay Brothers) v Secretary of State for Justice (Supreme Court, June 2014)
    Acting for the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey in their intervention in this case which raises important issues as to whether the English courts have jurisdiction to rule on the ECHR compatibility of laws enacted by the Islands’ legislatures.
  • R (Pat Long) v Secretary of State for Defence [2014] EWHC 2391 (Admin)
    Acting for the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2003, who is seeking an Article 2 ECHR compliant inquiry into the circumstances of her son’s death.
  • Smith and others v Ministry of Defence [2013] UKSC 41,[2014] AC 52
    Acted for JUSTICE in its intervention in the latest case to consider the extra-territorial application of the ECHR as regards British soldiers on duty abroad, successfully arguing that the English courts should adopt a wider approach following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Skeini v United Kingdom
  • R (Alaa’ Nassif Jassim al Bazzouni) v Prime Minister and others [2011] EWHC 2401 (Admin), [2012] 1 WLR 1389
    Acted for the claimant in a successful challenge to Government guidance which unlawfully authorised UK personnel to condone the use of hooding by foreign states where deemed necessary for security reasons during arrest and transit.
  • Al-Jedda v United Kingdom (2011) 53 EHRR 23
    Acted for Liberty and JUSTICE in this case before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the interplay between the ECHR and other international law obligations.

Regulatory and Commercial

Iain regularly acts and advises in regulatory and commercial matters raising public law issues. He has acted for Ofcom, the General Medical Council and the Solicitors Regulation Authority in defending numerous judicial review challenges to their regulatory actions and has recently advised Ofgem in relation to its wide-ranging review of the energy retail market. He has also advised other regulators including Monitor, the Office of Fair Trading and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Notable cases in this area include:

  • R (Western Power Distribution Limited) v Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (ongoing)
    Acting for an electricity distribution network operator in its challenge to GEMA’s decision in effect to impose upon it a very substantial financial penalty.
  • R (Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited) v Independent Reviewer of Advertising Standards Authority Adjudications (ongoing)
    Acting for Sainsbury’s in a judicial review challenge to the ASA’s failure to uphold a complaint about misleading comparative advertising by a competitor. The broad question is whether a retailer can fairly and lawfully compare the prices of two products when one product is different in its ethical or environmental profile.
  • R (The Traveller Movement) v Office of Communications (ongoing)
    Acting for Ofcom in a judicial review challenge to its decision that Channel 4 was not in breach of the Broadcasting Code in respect of the “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” programme.
  • R (Nakash) v Metropolitan Police Service (ongoing)
    Acting for the General Medical Council as an interested party in this challenge to the MPS’s decision to disclose certain material about a doctor to the GMC.
  • R (DM Digital Television Limited) v Office of Communications [2014] EWHC 961 (Admin)
    Acted for Ofcom in a judicial review challenge to its decision to impose a £105,000 fine for breaching the regulatory code of conduct. The Court dismissed an apparent bias challenge based on the fact that Ofcom employees who had investigated the case remained present with the panel of decision-makers during their deliberations.
  • R (Satellite Entertainment Limited) v Office of Communications (Court of Appeal, July 2013)
    Acted for Ofcom in a judicial review challenge to its decision to impose a £130,000 fine on a broadcaster for breaching the regulatory code of conduct. The case raised issues concerning apparent bias and Article 1 of Protocol No.1 to the ECHR.

Other cases

  • Grainger and others v United Kingdom (2012) 55 EHRR SE13
  • R (One Search Direct) v City of York Council [2010] EWHC 590 (Admin), [2010] ACD 60
  • Ahmed and others v Her Majesty’s Treasury [2010] UKSC 2, [2010] 2 AC 534
  • R (Cordant Group plc) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2010] EWHC 3442 (Admin)
  • R (Welsh Water Limited) v Ofwat [2009] EWHC 3493 (Admin)
  • R (SRM Global Master Fund LP and others) v HM Treasury [2009] EWCA Civ 788
  • R (Morrison) v Independent Police Complaints Commission [2009] EWHC 2589 (Admin)
  • R (Faithfull) v Ipswich Crown Court [2007] EWHC 2763 (Admin), [2008] 1 WLR 1636
  • YL v Birmingham City Council and others [2007] UKHL 27, [2008] 1 AC 95

EU and Competition

Iain is regularly engaged in EU and competition law matters, in both commercial and regulatory contexts. He has acted for and advised numerous regulators including Ofgem, Ofcom, the Office of Fair Trading and Monitor. See further “Regulatory and Commercial” under Public Law, above.

Current and recent work

  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Tolley (ongoing)
    Acting for the Secretary of State in this Supreme Court appeal concerning the eligibility to UK social security benefits of individuals who have ceased to be economically active and have left the UK for another Member State.
  • TalkTalk Telecom Group plc v Office of Communications (2013)
    Acted for Ofcom in defending an appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal against Ofcom’s determination of a dispute between TalkTalk and BT. The appeal was ultimately withdrawn.
  • HMRC v Aimia Coalition Loyalty UK Limited (No.2) [2013] UKSC 42, [2013] 4 All ER 94
    Instructed with Lord Pannick QC to act for Aimia in resisting HMRC’s argument, following the Supreme Court’s first judgment in this matter, that there should be a second reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Supreme Court accepted Aimia’s submission that a second reference was not required or justified. 
  • R (Sinclair Collis Ltd) v Secretary of State for Health [2011] EWCA Civ 437, [2012] QB 394
    Acted for an Interested Party in a challenge to the ban on selling cigarettes through vending machines, based on Article 34 TFEU (free movement of goods) and Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR (right to property).


Iain’s practice encompasses all areas of employment law, including unfair and wrongful dismissal, unlawful deductions from wages and contractual matters. He regularly advises and represents both claimants and respondents in employment tribunal proceedings.

Iain has a particular interest in discrimination law and regularly appears in cases involving sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religious discrimination.

Current and recent work

  • USDAW v Woolworths and Ethel Austin [2014] EWCA Civ 142, [2014] 2 CMLR 45
    Represents the union in this important challenge to the compatibility of UK domestic legislation with the Collective Redundancies Directive. The EAT accepted the union’s argument that it was necessary to disapply the words “at one establishment” in section 188 of TULRCA so that the statutory duty to consult applies whenever an employer is proposing to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees within a period of 90 days or less, regardless of the particular establishments at which they work. The Court of Appeal has now referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling.
  • North v Dumfries & Galloway Council [2013] UKSC 45, 2013 SC (UKSC) 298
    Acted for 251 women who brought equal pay claims seeking to compare their pay to that of men employed by the same local authority at different establishments. The Supreme Court upheld the claimants’ appeal, holding that they were entitled to rely on their chosen comparators under the Equal Pay Act 1970, properly construed, and that in any event that Act must be read as permitting the comparison by virtue of directly applicable EU law.
    Iain also represented women who had succeeded in a similar claim against another local authority in resisting an appeal to the Supreme Court in the case of City of Edinburgh v Wilkinson [2011] CSIH 70. The case settled before the hearing.
  • Aitchison v South Ayrshire Council (Supreme Court, 2013)
    Acted for the claimants in resisting an appeal to the Supreme Court by the Council which concerned the proper construction and application of the statutory grievance procedure. The case settled shortly before the hearing.
  • Hibbert v Apple Europe Limited (Appeal No UKEAT/0134/11, decision of 24 January 2012)
    This was an appeal against a tribunal’s decision to proceed with a trial in the claimant’s absence.

Professional disciplinary proceedings:

  • Iain advises and acts for parties in disciplinary proceedings in a variety of tribunals, including police officers and teachers.

Other cases

  • Bainbridge v Redcar and Cleveland BC; Surtees v Middlesbrough BC [2008] EWCA Civ 885, [2009] ICR 133


Iain has broad experience of commercial litigation, including areas such as civil fraud, financial services and entertainment law. He regularly advises and acts in disputes involving negligence, breach of contract and restitutionary remedies in a wide range of commercial settings.

Current and recent work

  • Iain recently acted for a Government Department in high value litigation against a former contractor.
  • Lombard North Central plc v Hill
    Successfully obtained strike out and summary judgment on claims worth over £250,000 for sums due under an aircraft mortgage, and successfully resisted a proposed appeal.
  • Lucas v Financial Services Authority
    Acted for the FSA in successfully obtaining strike out and summary judgment on various claims, including on the basis that it was an abuse of process for the claimant to seek an adjudication on the validity of the FSA’s public law decision to cancel his permission other than on a reference to the Upper Tribunal.
  • Pierce v Financial Services Authority and others
    Acted for the FSA in successfully obtaining strike out and summary judgment on various claims brought against the FSA and the claimant’s former financial advisors.
  • Caparo Industries plc and Caparo Vehicle Techologies Ltd v Gordon Murray Design Limited
    Acted in a Chancery Division action concerning disputes arising out of a car design project.
  • Dextra Solutions Ltd v Nsquared Creations Ltd and another
    Successfully represented the claimant in a number of claims arising from a mobile phone distribution agreement.
  • CBR (Wakefield) Limited and others v Puccino’s Limited
    Appeared in a very substantial High Court action arising out of a large-scale construction and franchising project, which raised issues including estoppel, waiver, variation of contractual terms, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and conspiracy (settled during six-week trial).

Banking and Financial Services

Financial services

Iain’s expertise in the crossover between EU, public and commercial law leads to instructions in the financial services field.

Current and recent work

  • Arch Financial Products LLP and others v Financial Conduct Authority (ongoing)
    Acting for the FCA in the Upper Tribunal in appeals against decisions relating to a range of regulatory breaches by an investment management firm. 


Iain has appeared and advised in a number of sports cases covering a range of contractual and regulatory sporting disputes, and has also advised on the exploitation of media rights to sporting events.

  • BBC Worldwide v UK Athletics
    Acted for UK Athletics in a dispute concerning the international broadcast rights to athletics events held in the UK.
  • Advised The Football League on issues concerning club ownership and The League’s Fit and Proper Person test, in the wake of Silvio Briatore’s ban from Formula One by the FIA and questions as to the ownership of Notts County and Leeds United.
  • Advised The Football Association on a personal injury claim brought by a retired player. 

Other relevant experience

Other legal experience:

Member of Lawyers for LIBERTY, ALBA, HRLA, ELBA and ELA. 

As a student, Iain gained considerable experience of mooting. He won two competitions at Cambridge and represented the University in the English Speaking Union national competition, reaching the semi-finals. During his year at Bar School, he was a finalist in the Inner Temple Lawson Mooting Competition. Iain has also judged moots.

After leaving university, Iain worked for a year as a Research Assistant in the Public Law Team at the Law Commission. He wrote a Discussion Paper on “Monetary Remedies in Public Law”, which was published by the Commission in 2004. It was later cited by Lord Bingham in the House of Lords in Watkins v Home Office [2006] UKHL 17, [2006] 2 AC 395. Iain’s work in this field provided the foundations for a full Law Commission project.

While at Bar School, Iain was a part-time tutor at King’s College, London, where he taught Public Law to undergraduates.

Scholarships and Prizes:

Iain’s academic scholarships and prizes include:

  • Eldon Law Scholarship (University of Oxford, 2005; awarded to the most promising Oxford graduate intending to practise at the Bar)
  • Overall grade of Outstanding and Worshipful Company of Arbitrators Prize for Civil Law and EC Competition Law (Inns of Court School of Law, 2005)
  • Prize for BVC Results (Inner Temple, 2005)
  • Princess Royal Scholarship (Inner Temple, 2004)
  • College Prize (Magdalen College, Oxford, 2003)
  • Arts and Humanities Research Board Award for Postgraduate Study (2002)
  • Lucas-Smith Memorial Prize (Queens’ College, Cambridge, 2002)
  • Foundation Scholarship (Queens’ College, Cambridge, 2001)
  • Squire Law Scholarship (University of Cambridge, 2000)
  • College Exhibition (Queens’ College, Cambridge, 2000)


Iain is the co-author of the chapter on equal pay in the Tolley’s Discrimination in Employment Handbook (first edition 2008; second edition 2011) and of the chapters on the Human Rights Act 1998 and principles of interpretation in Lester, Pannick and Herberg: Human Rights Law and Practice (published in April 2009).

Iain has published work in a wide range of academic journals.  Previous articles include:

  • ‘Holding the police to account using judicial review’ (Legal Action 2013/2014)
  • ‘Judicial Review in an Age of Austerity: Costs and Funding’ [2012] JR 249 
  • 'Public Law Liability – the End of the Road (For Now)' (2011) 127 LQR 512
  • 'Sex discrimination and the material factor defence under the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Equality Act 2010’ [2010] ILJ 264
  • 'Judicial Review of the Crown Court and Section 29(3) of the Supreme Court Act 1981' [2008] JR 180
  • ‘Negligence Liability for Failing to Prevent Crime – the Human Rights Dimension’ [2008] CLJ 239
  • ‘Judicial Independence: Privy Council Divided’ (2008) 124 LQR 185
  • ‘Beyond Equal Pay?’ [2008] ILJ 119
  • ‘Substantive Legitimate Expectations: Striking the Right Balance?’ (2005) 121 LQR 300
  • ‘Tracing the Single Source: Choice of Comparators in Equal Pay Claims’ [2005] ILJ 338
  • ‘Public Law Liability – a Common Law Solution?’ [2005] CLJ 543
  • ‘Public Law Liability – the Human Rights Act and Beyond’ [2005] CLJ 8
  • ‘Note on R (National Association of Health Stores) v Department of Health’ [2005] JR 232
  • ‘Judging judicial inquiries’ [2004] PL 738

Other Information:

VAT registration number:  888124490

Iain Steele photo

He is excellent. 

Chambers UK 2015


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A tremendously capable junior; fantastic attention to detail, excellent drafting skills and a tenacious advocate. 

Legal 500 2014