Clerking team

Paul Laverty
Paul Laverty

Senior Clerk - Family and Court of Protection

Dan Johnson

Assistant Senior Clerk (Children)

Elizabeth Fagan

Junior Family Clerk

‘Shaun is a barrister of the highest calibre, as he is exceptional at managing professional clients while ensuring inexperienced workers have a full understanding of what is happening. His knowledge of the law and practical advice stands him above other barristers, and his advocacy is particularly impressive, as he is able to navigate complex expert evidence and present it to the court in a manageable way.’

Legal 500, 2024

Strengths: “Shaun is intelligent and straight-talking. He has a wide area of expertise in complex and sophisticated cases with unique points of law.”

“Shaun is unflappable, his cross-examination is excellent and his analysis of cases is sensible and proportionate.”

“Shaun’s written work and advocacy are excellent, as is his knowledge of the ever-changing legal position.”

Chambers UK Bar, 2024

Shaun Spencer KC has a notable reputation for children work, regularly representing parents, children and local authorities in matters concerning child deaths, deprivation of liberty and sexual abuse. He is also experienced in handling cross-jurisdictional cases.

Shaun was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in 2005, having received a Shelford Scholarship and awarded the Helen Grindrod QC Scholarship. Shaun is a family law specialist, with a comprehensive family law practice, which encompasses both public and private law children cases.

Children (Public and Private law)

Shaun is a family law specialist. He has extensive experience of proceedings involving complex issues of law and/or fact including cases involving allegation of serious inflicted injuries, sexual abuse and fabricated or induced illness. Shaun has particular expertise in relation to the use of the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court, for example, in relation to the use of Wardship or in relation to issues of Deprivation of Liberty.

Shaun also has a broad private law practice with a particular emphasis on complex disputes often involving an international element (relocation/abduction), parental alienation, domestic abuse and cultural and religious issues. Shaun’s practice also includes cases involving surrogacy, co-parenting arrangements and issues arising out of the breakdown of same sex relationships.


Re D (Parentage: Local Authority Application) [2024] EWHC 305 (Fam)

Shaun appeared with Simon Pallo for Barnsley Metropolitan Council in a unique case at the High Court concerning the need for a paternity test for a child who was conceived when a man used a mixture of his own and his father’s sperm to get his then-partner pregnant following issues with conceiving.

The judgment is available here. This case also received widespread coverage on BBC News, Sky News, ITV News, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Star.

A Local Authority v X & Ors (Need for Finding of Fact Hearing) [2023] EWFC 121

Legal argument heard by Mr Justice MacDonald as to the necessity for a fact finding hearing in circumstances where two children had unexpectedly died in similar circumstances two years apart.

Re T (Fact-Finding: Second Appeal) [2023] EWCA Civ 475

Court of Appeal: Unusual second appeal from a decision of a circuit judge who had overturned the fact-finding decisions of a deputy district judge involving allegations of sexual abuse.

A Local Authority v S & Ors [2023] EWFC 85

His Honour Judge Pates, sitting as a Judge of the High Court.

Final hearing of care proceedings concerning a nine year old girl, in which the mother was found to have influenced the child to make false allegations of sexual abuse against the father.

A Local Authority v Mother & Ors [2022] EWHC 3640 (Fam)

Mrs Justice Lieven. Application by a local authority for reporting restriction orders in respect of two social workers and two Cafcass officers, in a case where a child had died after being returned to parents, who were subsequently charged with murder. Court determined that the application should be brought before the trial judge in the criminal proceedings, rather than pursued under the Inherent Jurisdiction of the Family Division of the High Court.

Ahmed v Khan [2022] EWHC 1748 (Fam)

Shaun represented a junior solicitor of a family law firm against whom an application to commit to prison had been issued. The application was heard by Mr Justice Mostyn and was successfully resisted and struck out. Court gave important guidance on the procedural requirements of enforcing an order directed to an LLP and on service by email.

Re LM [2022] EWFC 32 (Mr Justice Hayden J FII)

A Mother v Derby CC [2021] EWCA CIv 1867

Together with Lorraine Cavanagh KC, represented two local authorities as respondents to an appeal by the mother as to the use of the inherent jurisdiction to deprive children of their liberty in unregistered placements. Court of Appeal gave extensive guidance as to the relevant legal framework in dismissing the appeal and confirming the use of the inherent jurisdiction in such cases was entirely proper.

Derby CC v CK & Ors (Compliance with DOL Practice Guidance) [2021] EWHC 2931

Tameside MBC v AM [2021] EWHC 2472 (Fam)

A (A Child) (Injunctive Relief) (Rev1) [2021] EWFC B53

Shaun represented the subject child in these proceedings where the court found significant failings on the part of the local authority in respect of its removal of a child, who was the subject of a care order, from family members.  The court considered the legal framework and gave guidance in respect of the correct application of the National Minimum Fostering Standards.

The judgment is available on bailii. The case was also subject to reporting in the Liverpool Echo.

Warrington Borough Council v W (Care Proceedings: Jurisdiction) [2021] EWFC 68

Represented the local authority in these proceedings concerning a child who is a national of the Republic of Gabon. Mr Justice MacDonald considered for the first time the relevant legal framework in respect of the jurisdiction of the court to conduct care proceedings following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom for the European Union and the end of the relevant transition period. The court determined, inter alia, that the relevant date for the purposes of establishing habitual residence for the purposes of the 1996 Hague Convention is the date of the hearing, rather than the date of the commencement of proceedings. The judgment is available here.

MBC v AM & Ors (DOL Orders for Children Under 16) [2021] EWHC 2472 (Fam)

Led by Lorraine Cavanagh KC in their representation of three of the four local authorities in cases selected to test the point as to whether the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction could continue to authorise a Deprivation of Liberty of a child under the age of 16 in an unregistered children’s home after the introduction of Regulation 27A into the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations 2010. MacDonald J concluded that the jurisdiction survives. The judgment is available here.

Re P (Interim Separation) [2021] EWCA Civ 499

Successful appeal against the decision of a Circuit Judge in relation to an application to remove of young child from parental care on an interim basis. The judgment is available here.

X v Y (Restraining Abuse of Children’s Guardian) [2021] EWHC 2139 (Fam)

Application granted by Mr Justice MacDonald for an injunction restraining a parent from publishing the name of the children’s guardian following the conclusion of proceedings. The judgment is available here.

A Local Authority v W (No.2) (Finding of Fact Hearing) [2020] EWFC 68

Shaun Spencer and Helen Crowell appeared for the local authority in this case which concerned the near fatal collapse of a young child who sustained extensive brain damage. The judgment is available here.

B (A Child) (Designated Local Authority) [2020] EWCA Civ 1673

Successful appeal under s.31(8) and s.105(6) Children Act 1989 against a decision to designate the local authority as being responsible for administering a care order in respect of a child. Led by Nick Goodwin QC. The judgment is available here.

A Local Authority v W & Ors (Application for Summary Dismissal of Findings) [2020] WLR(D) 327, [2020] EWFC 40

Macdonald J determined that within care proceedings, the court has no separate power to summarily dismiss disputed findings sought outside its case management powers. Mr Spencer appeared for the local authority against leading and junior counsel for each of the parents. The judgment can be read here. The case was covered in Local Government Lawyer.

Re AA (Children) & 25 Ors [2019] EWFC 64

Shaun represented the children in four of the linked sets of proceedings within this multi-party public law litigation which was described by the Judge as appearing to be the largest public law family case to be litigated. He was led by Jo Delahunty QC. The judgment can be read here.

Re D (Fact-finding appeal) [2019] EWCA 2302

Shaun and Karl Rowley KC represented a father who had been accused of inflicting a sexual injury on his child and who was exonerated after successfully applying to re-open the finding. The judgment is available here.

Re C (A Child) [2019] EWCA CIV 1777

Appeared for the appellant in the Court of Appeal and was successful in arguing that the first instance decision should be overturned. Led by Karl Rowley KC. The case has been published on BAILII.

M (Deprivation of Liberty in Scotland) [2019] EWHC 1510 (Fam)

A decision of Macdonald J in which he identifies a potential gap in the law as between the jurisdictions of Scotland and that of England and Wales in regards to the use of the inherent jurisdiction to deprive children of their liberty. Led by Frances Heaton KC. It is reported on BAILII and  has been subject to comment on Family Law Week.

A City Council v LS [2019] EWHC 1384 (Fam)

Represented KS, a 17-year-old who was deemed to be at risk of grave harm due to his involvement with an Organised Crime Gang. The Local Authority sought the authority to place KS in secure accommodation. The application was successfully resisted on the basis that to do so would be an impermissible exercise of the inherent jurisdiction. Read the judgment here. Shaun was asked to write an article about the case which was published by Lexis Nexis. You can read the article here.

Rochdale v Z, B and J [2018] EWFC 102

Hayden J: Consolidated final hearing. Acted for the two siblings of a young baby who had died in sudden and suspicious circumstances. Complex pathological evidence. Read the judgment here.

Re K [2018] EWHC 2311 (Fam)

A fact finding hearing in respect of the death of a baby who, it was alleged, had been asphyxiated.

Re A-F (Children) [2018] EWHC 138 (Fam) and Re A-F (No.2) [2018] 2129 (Fam)
Representing the local authority. Series of test cases considered by the President of the Family Division in relation to legal and procedural issues arising in regards to the Deprivation of Liberty of children by local authorities.

Re S (Child as parent: Adoption: Consent) [2017] EWHC 2729 (Fam)
A decision of Mr Justice Cobb setting the relevant information that a child parent must understand to be competent to consent to the adoption of her child. The test is equally applicable to adults applying the Mental capacity Act 2005 principles.

Re T (a child) v A Local Authority [2017] EWCA Civ 1797
Appeal against a decision to make a placement order allowing for the adoption of one child in a sibling group of three and special guardianship orders for the other two, where all three children are to remain living together with the prospective adopters.

RY v Southend Borough Council [2015] EWHC 2509 (Fam) (22 May 2015)
Representing the local authority in a successful application, pursuant to s.35 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, for the return of a child who had been placed for adoption.

Re CM v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council [2014] EWCA Civ 1479 (Court of Appeal)
Represented a mother in care proceedings at first instance and was led by Karl Rowley QC on the appeal against the making of a placement order in circumstances where the local authority proposed a concurrent search for both an adoptive and a long term foster care placement.


  • Family Law Bar Association (Regional Committee Member)
  • Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn

Follow Shaun on Twitter: @Shaun__Spencer



Strengths: “Shaun Spencer is an exceptional barrister who is well liked by social workers and trusted by senior managers. His advocacy, whether written or oral, is outstanding, with the highest knowledge of the law.” “Shaun Spencer is a formidable advocate. He can take a bad case and turn it into a win for his client. He’s a legal magician.” Chambers UK Bar 2023

“Shaun is outstanding. Of particular note is his advocacy skills and ability to work within very complex areas of law and procedure. His ability to transfer complex areas of work into language and ideas that lay clients are able to follow and understand is particularly impressive.” Legal 500 2023

Strengths: “His work ethic is extraordinary. He’s very self-assured yet humble, while doing great work.” “He has an encyclopaedic knowledge in relation to deprivation of liberty cases. He is very personable and puts himself out there to help.” Chambers UK Bar 2022

“He is always meticulously prepped and has a real sense of assurance with clients, but remains very down to earth. Even the most anxious lay clients have felt completely confident in his care. He provides realistic and sometimes difficult advice in an extremely approachable and sympathetic way, and lay clients have always felt he has ‘got it’ from the off.”Legal 500 2022

Strengths: “He is always ready to learn, and his confidence in court is impressive.” “He is extremely bright and is adept at finding solutions and forging forward for the benefit of the children the court.” Chambers UK Bar 2021

“Shaun is a skilled child care barrister with a specialism in Deprivation of Liberty and expertise in acting in complex inflicted injury cases involving children. Despite his eloquent advocacy, he is extremely approachable and able to explain complex legal matters to those who instruct him.” Legal 500 2021

“Always thoroughly prepared and able to give reassurance and detailed explanations, even to the most anxious client… He has that sometimes elusive balance of assurance and approachability.” Cara Nuttall, Partner in the Family Law team at JMW Solicitors