John Vater QC MCIArb

Call: 1995 / Silk: 2012

"One of the best public law children silks in the country. Excellent on the science and medicine in NAI cases who fights hard for parents but is fair and balanced when acting for local authorities." "A fearless fighter in court for parents."
The Legal 500 UK Bar 2022

John has been practising as a children law specialist since 1995, and since taking Silk has become one of the leading barristers in the field. He has extensive experience and is widely respected in his specialism, appearing at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court. John takes a straightforward, plain speaking approach to his role as an adviser and an advocate. He is particularly respected for his skill as a cross examiner, and for his ability to understand, deploy and deconstruct the most complex expert evidence, whether in public or private law cases. John appears in children’s cases across the nation and is the only barrister in the country to be ranked by Chambers & Partners as a Leader at the Bar on three separate Circuits.

To instruct John or for more information…

Call: 020 7353 6961

Practice Areas

John is instructed for all parties in the most serious and complex public law cases, at first instance and on appeal. Most of his cases involve fatalities, life changing injuries, and highly complex or controversial areas of medical science. He has particular expertise in infant head injury, allegations of organised sexual abuse, factitious and/or induced illnessand cases of sudden infant death. John also has experience in related areas, such as judicial review, relevant Human Rights Act litigation, and personal injury/negligence claims. He has also appeared in a number of cases with cross-border issues, including international adoption, or where the inherent jurisdiction is engaged. John undertakes the full range of advisory work, and regularly gives papers in public children’s law to a variety of organisations and audiences. Due to the exceptionally sensitive nature of the cases in which John specialises the vast majority of his cases are not reported or in the public domain.

Notable Public Law Children cases

Re T (No.2) (Care Proceedings : Fact-Finding : Genital Injuries : Supplemental judgment for publication) [2021] EWFC 101
Y (A Minor) (Brussels II Revised: Jurisdiction after Article 15 Transfer) [2021] EWFC 107
Re J (A Child: Residential assessment) [2021] EWFC B18 (09 April 2021)

An appeal by a local authority against the case management decision of District Judge.

John appears for parents across the range of domestic and international private law cases. He has particular experience in the most sensitive and intractable cases, involving (for example) allegations of alienation, or where relevant allegations of other serious abuse or misconduct are involved. He appears from people from all walks of life in these cases, including high profile individuals, and has experience of related media and privacy law. John has appeared in surrogacy cases, and also private adoptions.

Notable Private Law Children cases

L (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1297, [2016] EWCA Civ 1297

Court of Appeal decision concerning the question of whether the court had jurisdiction to make a child arrangements order regulating contact in respect of a child who was to relocate to Corfu.

Re B (Child) (Relocation: Sweden) (Rev 1) [2015] EWCA Civ 286

Court of Appeal decision concerning an application to relocate a child to Sweden.

S (A Child), Re [2010] EWCA Civ 325

Court of Appeal decision concerning complex private law proceedings which considered an intractable contact dispute which lead to local authority involvement and an order for transfer of residence.

A significant proportion of John’s public and private law cases involve some international element. In addition, he has appeared (up to the Court of Appeal) in a number of Hague Convention/abduction cases, applications for international re-location of children, and international adoptions.

Notable International Family Law cases

N (Children), Re [2016] UKSC 15 (13 April 2016), [2016] 2 WLR 1103

Supreme Court decision concerning the interpretation and application of Article 15 of the Brussels ii revised regulation. John led the legal team instructed on behalf of the Family Rights Group.

U - B (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 60 (06 February 2015)

Court of Appeal decision concerning an application for return of a child to Spain pursuant to the 1980 Hague Convention.

John is a qualified children’s law arbitrator and is also experienced in Early Neutral Evaluation.

John is qualified to accept instructions directly from members of the public under the Direct Access Scheme in appropriate circumstances.


What the directories say

"Vater is the most sought-after barrister in his speciality: public children work. If you want someone to deal with a serious public law case, you would be looking at him." "Down to earth, honest and empathetic." "He can get you out of a pickle and clients love him for it." "It is always strategic to instruct him. He's brilliant at cross-examination, extremely shrewd and smart. He listens and knows what judges are looking for." "A superb fighter who is passionate about his work and delivers a superb job for his clients." "Incredibly hard-working and gets straight to the heart of things. He improves the lives of his clients."
Chambers UK Bar 2021

"A brilliant cross-examiner who is superb at putting the client at ease." "A fighter who is well-prepared and fearless in court."
The Legal 500 UK Bar 2021

"Funny, relaxed and preternaturally confident, he is a fearless advocate who is hyper-articulate. He has a broad experience of all work involving children and is dedicated to achieving justice in the most difficult and complex public law cases." "John has a good knowledge of the medical science that underpins the law in his area and is an effective cross-examiner."
Chambers UK Bar 2020

"He's an exceptional silk with a real enthusiasm for the law and fearless representation of his client, whoever they are." "He's a fearless advocate in the finest and most ancient traditions of the practice, and has broad experience of all work involving children. He's dedicated to achieving justice even in the most difficult and complex public law cases."
Chambers UK Bar 2019

"He is incredibly strong as an advocate, and is highly insightful and extremely resilient." "An exceptional silk with a real enthusiasm for the law and fearless representation of his client."
Chambers UK Bar 2020

A public law specialist known for his expertise in medical cases containing extensive expert evidence. Vater is particularly proficient in cases involving non-accidental injury to young children. He is commended for his technical knowledge and skill at cross-examination. "A ferocious advocate who absolutely fights his client's corner. One of his great skills is his forensic cross-examination of expert evidence."
Chambers UK Bar 2019

Related News

John Vater QC and Jonathan Sampson appeared in the Court of Appeal in D (A child) [2017] EWCA Civ 196

The judgment can be found here.

Frances Judd QC led Anna Yarde and John Vater QC led Alison Williams in the Court of Appeal

Frances Judd QC led Anna Yarde and John Vater QC led Alison Williams in the Court of Appeal in the case of Re S (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 1090.


John Vater QC, Edward Devereux, Mehvish Chaudhry and Rob George in the Supreme Court

John Vater QC, Edward Devereux, Mehvish Chaudhry and Rob George appear in the Supreme Court case Re N (Children) [2016] UKSC 15.

The Supreme Court judgment concerning the applicability of…


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