Practice Profile

Karl read Philosophy and Theology at Oriel College, Oxford, followed by the Diploma in Law at Staffordshire University. He was called to the Bar in 1994 having received the Winston Churchill Pupillage Award from Middle Temple. He was appointed a Recorder in 2009 and took silk in 2013.


Karl was shortlisted for Family Law QC of the Year at the Family Law Awards 2019.


Karl’s practice covers public and private children cases, wardship, public authority work, and the Court of Protection.




Karl represents local authorities, parents and extended families, and children (whether directly or by their Guardians) in the public law arena. He has appeared at all levels up to and including the Supreme Court and regularly represents parties in the Court of Appeal.


He has a particular interest in cases involving complex medical evidence, including NAHI; alleged bone disease; child death; and purported poisonings. His experience covers applications such as for contact by former parents after the death of adopters; those involving foreign adoption; care cases with international elements; inherent jurisdiction cases concerning proposed medical treatment of minors; and applications to restrict publicity.


In private law proceedings Karl’s practice has included multifaceted residence applications involving sexual abuse or homicide, protracted contact cases, international relocation, and cases concerning children with special needs.


His public authority work has seen him advise and represent clients in the care standards tribunal. He was successful in resisting the first ever appeal to be heard in the Upper Tribunal, Administrative Appeals Chamber. He has advised various local authorities in respect of OFSTED assessments and reports.


He has been instructed on behalf of nurseries and individual childcare professionals. He has conducted cases for applicants and defendants in judicial review proceedings. His theological background gives him a particular understanding of religious issues as they arise in family proceedings.


Regarding Court of Protection, Karl advises and appears for local authorities and families in welfare cases. There is considerable overlap between his work in medical treatment cases and those in respect of children resolved under the inherent jurisdiction.




Re H-C (Finding of Fact: Rehearing) [2016] EWFC 48  – rehearing of case following Court of Appeal overturning findings against client. Local authority failed to establish case at retrial of smothering and other alleged injury against him. Read the judgment.

Re Z (A Child: Egyptian fostering & UK adoption) [2016] EWFC 48 – represented child fostered abroad and brought to UK. Carer applied to adopt here; Egypt sought child’s return. Child adopted. Read the judgment.

Re K (Children) [2016] EWHC 1606 (Fam) - representing a mother accused of support for ISIS: local authority withdrew its application for care orders as no evidence of radicalisation of children. Read the judgment.

Re Y (Children) (No 3) [2016] EWHC 503 (Fam) - appeared for a mother accused of attempting to take her children to Syria; President of Family Division did not make the finding sought by the local authority and the applications were dismissed. Read the judgment.

Re H-C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 136 - acted for the appellants in the Court of Appeal. The Court overturned a finding of fact that a person caused a child’s death and went on to give guidance as to the use of a finding of a lie in family cases.

Wigan Borough Council v Fisher & Ors (Rev 1) [2015] EWFC 34 (21 April 2015) - a fact finding hearing in respect of the death of a baby who had been shaken.

Wigan BC v M and Others (Veracity Assessments) [2015] EWFC 8 (06 February 2015) - the use of veracity assessments in cases where children have been ABE interviewed

Wigan Council v M & Ors (Sexual Abuse: Fact-Finding) [2015] EWFC 6 (30 January 2015) – a fact finding hearing in respect of exceptionally serious step father and inter sibling sexual abuse

In the matter of X (Children) (No 3)  [2015] EWHC 3651 (Fam): Appearing for a mother accused of attempting to take her children to Syria; the President of the Family Division did not make the central findings sought and the care proceedings were dismissed. Read the judgment. The case received coverage in the Mirror.

Re K-L (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 992 - appeal by mother following a fact-finding hearing to determine allegations against the father. The appeal concerned difficulties including (i) the question as to which effective decision was under appeal and (ii) that there was no order giving effect to the judgment that the mother wished to challenge. Represented mother: appeal succeeded. Click here to read the judgment.

Re X (Children) & Y (Children) (Emergency Protection Orders) [2015] EWHC 2265 (Fam) - interim return of children to parents who were suspected of attempting to travel to Syria with them. Click here to read the judgmentRead the article in the Daily Mail.

Re P (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 777 - bar to permission under s.47(5) not higher where proposed adopters were child’s foster carers, but the court had to weigh not only the effect of ceasing to be a member of his birth family on the child but also the value of a relevant relationship continuing.Click here to read the judgment.

Re BR (Proof of Facts) [2015] EWFC 41 - statement of the judicial approach to evidence in cases of alleged multiple fractures to a child and parental explanations or lack thereof. Click here to read the judgment.

CM v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council & M (A Child) [2015] 1 WLR 2441; [2015] 2 FCR 116: Re B-S had not changed the statutory test for dispensing with parental consent to placement for adoption – dual planning remains permissible. Click here to read the judgment.

Re JA (A Minor sub nom (1) An NHS Trust (2) A Local Authority v (1) Mr A (2) Mrs A (3) JA (4) his Children’s Guardian [2015] Med LR 26; [2015] Fam Law 139 - HIV+ 14-year-old boy not competent to decide not to take anti-retroviral therapy. Click here to read the judgment.

Re A (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1611 - established that courts have no jurisdiction to impose preconditions as to the nature of adopters with whom a local authority might place a child.

Lancashire County Council v (1) R (2) W & (3) N [2013] EWHC 3064 (Fam) - alleged NAHI, Mostyn J determined not inflicted by father.

Re L-B (Children) [2013] UKSC 8; [2013] 1 WLR 634 Re (1) B (2) H (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1359 Re L-B (Children) [2012] 2 FCR 591 : [2012] Fam Law 1318 : (2012) 156(29) SJLB 27 - leading case establishing the principle that judges may change their minds.

Re A & D (Children: Religious Upbringing) [2011] 1 FLR 615 : (2011) PTSR 602 -leading case on s.33(6) Children Act 1989.

Re F (A Child) (Interim Care Order) [2011] 2 FLR 856 - Court of Appeal case affirming first-instance judge’s dismissal of care proceedings where only issue had been a finding that the child’s father was a ‘possible perpetrator’ of injuries to a previous child.

Staffordshire County Council v (1) A (2) B (3) C (A Child by his Guardian) (Respondents) & (1) D (2) F (3) F (Interveners) [2010] 3 FCR 7 - parents found not to have inflicted multiple injuries to their child.

Ofsted v GM & WM [2009] UKUT (AAC) - appeal concerning the correct test to be applied when considering the exercise of Ofsted’s power to suspend the registration of childminders pending investigations into the harm that may have occurred to a child in the childminder’s care.

Re M-H (A Child) [2007] 1 FLR 1715 (CA) -successfully overturned first instance judge’s refusal of an independent social work assessment of a proposed carer for the child.

Oldham MBC v GW, PW, KPW (A Child) & W St C Forbes (Intervenor) [2007] 2 FLR 597; [2007] BMLR 146 - appeared for the mother whose child was returned, allegations of shaking rejected by the Court; guidance given on the instruction of experts in such cases.

W v Oldham MBC [2006] 1 FLR 543 (CA) - leading case on obtaining second opinions in family cases, appeared for the mother.





“A children law specialist who has a wealth of experience advising on private and public cases. His areas of expertise include international adoptions and child death.”

Strengths: “I wouldn’t hesitate instructing him on children matters.” “For children, he is just out of this planet. He is so impressive.” Chambers & Partners 2018


“He has a rigorous intellect.” Legal 500 2017


“A children law specialist who has a wealth of experience advising on private and public cases. His areas of expertise include international adoptions and child death”.

Strengths: He is thorough and has a calm court manner.” “He finds unusual arguments and angles to cases and uses them very skilfully.” Chambers & Partners 2017


“Very experienced silk in public law child care, with a particular focus on sexual abuse cases and non-accidental injury.
Strengths: “He is excellent.” Chambers & Partners 2016


“A wonderful silk on complex children matters.” Legal 500 2015


Remains a popular choice for complicated children’s matters, both public and private law. He acts for local authorities, guardians and children, and has a particular focus on cases with complicated medical evidence.

“Calm and unflappable, he identifies even the smallest detail and has extremely intricate technical knowledge.”

“A polished advocate with a calming and reassuring demeanour for clients.” Chambers & Partners 2015


“Rowley took silk in 2013, and is well respected for his handling of family law matters. He continues to focus his practice on complex children’s proceedings, both public and private, and has a special interest in medically complicated care cases, foreign adoption and protracted contact cases. Expertise: “He is absolutely brilliant and extremely clever, but despite that he’s very down-to-earth and easy to work with. He’s very accessible for both clients and solicitors.””  Chambers & Partners 2014


“Ridiculously clever, unflappable and a joy to instruct.” Legal 500 2014


“An expert in children-related matters. Rowley is a ridiculously intelligent barrister who offers the full package. His advocacy is full of polish and he’s a very bright and confident advocate.” Chambers & Partners 2013


“Superb childcare practitioner who is able to present unusual perspectives.”

“He acts in both publicly and privately funded matters, and cases involving medical evidence are a particular area of interest for him.” Chambers & Partners 2012





  • Family Law Bar Association
  • BAAF



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