Richard Drabble KC

Richard was called to the Bar in 1975, took silk in 1995 and practises in public law. He has appeared in many leading human rights and environmental cases.

Practice summary

Public and Administrative



Practice Summary

Richard is a Bencher of Inner Temple; a former Chairman of Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA) and a current member of the Bar Council's Law Reform Committee (previously Vice-Chair).

His practice has a particular emphasis on social security, immigration, environmental, planning, local government and human rights law. He has appeared at all levels of the domestic court system, including the Supreme Court and House of Lords. He has also appeared before the ECtHR in Strasbourg (for example in Chapman v UK; Stec v UK; and Tsfayo v UK) as well as the CJEU (for example in Stewart v SSWP [2012] PTSR 1; and the Grand Chamber hearing of the joined cases of Tele 2 Sverige and Watson and others v SSHD [2017] QB 771). He appeared in Trinidad in Jones v AG in a successful constitutional challenge to the law criminalizing homosexual activity; and before the Privy Council in The Minister of Home Affairs (Bermuda) v Barbosa [2019] UKSC 41. He has recently appeared in the Supreme Court in cases raising important human rights issues, including KV (Sri Lanka) v SSHD [2019] 1 WLR 1849; Kiarie v SSHD [2017] 1 WLR 2380; and IT (Jamaica) v SSHD [2018] 1 WLR 5273.

In terms of social security, Richard appeared in the Supreme Court in the challenges to both versions of the benefits cap; and for the claimants in the bedroom tax case of R (Carmichael) v SSWP [2016] 1 WLR 4550 and the later case on remedies RR (Appellant) v SSWP [2019] 1 WLR 6430. He is instructed by Sainsburys to resist the Valuation Officers appeal concerning the rating of supermarket ATMs in the Supreme Court in March 2020.

Richard appeared as (very) junior counsel in CCSU v Minister for the Civil Service (GCHQ). He acted for the government in connection with the decision to grant planning permission for Terminal 5 at Heathrow; with a judicial review challenge to the Airports White Paper; and resisting a challenge by Greenpeace to consultation on nuclear policy.

Richard is listed in five practice areas in the most recent directory guides. He is also a “Star of the Bar” in that edition, with the comment that he is “quite simply one of the most talented and influential public lawyers of the last forty years”.

Richard also lectures frequently on public law matters, particularly on human rights issues in planning.

Public and Administrative

Richard Drabble KC is one a small handful of practising public lawyers who may justifiably claim to have laid the foundations for modern constitutional and administrative law. He appeared as a (very) junior barrister with the late Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC in CCSU v Minister of the Civil Service [1984] – arguably the single most influential decision in public law of the past forty years; and an early highlight in a career of distinguished advocacy in a sustained sequence of seminal cases across a wide spectrum of public law practice, including leading cases in immigration, civil liberties and human rights, planning, environmental and rating law. His involvement in the seminal public law cases of the day has continued unabated. Highlights after the CCSU case would include R (Cart) v Upper Tribunal [2011], about the reviewability of decisions of the Upper Tribunal, Beoku-Betts v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008], on the Article 8 rights of family members in immigration cases, R (Lewis) v. Redcar and Cleveland BC [2008] on bias and predetermination in local authority decision-making, and the important social security cases of Kehoe [2005] and Hinchy [2005]. More recently, he has been involved in the significant re-appraisal of public law by the current Supreme Court in R (SC) v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] and had a memorable victory in the bedroom tax case of R (Carmichael) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016]. His influence has extended far outside the United Kingdom: in Jones v. AG of Trinidad and Tobago [2018] he persuaded the Trinidad and Tobago High Court that laws banning homosexual activity were unconstitutional. 

Richard’s particular and unrivalled contribution to the development of modern public law is in the field of social security. His deep professional commitment and formidable contribution to that field of law and practice had its origin in his time early on in his career working at the Child Poverty Action Group. Richard’s name will be found in the reports of almost all of the important social security law cases decided in the appellate courts in London, in the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights over the course of the past four decades. Foremost amongst those cases in the Strasbourg Court are Stec v UK on retirement and sex discrimination, Tsfayo v UK on administrative decision-making and appeal rights and Chapman v UK on gypsies, Article 8 and discrimination. In Luxembourg, he has been involved in a range of important cases from Tele2 Sverige and Watson [2016] on electronic communications to CG [2021] on post-Brexit access to social welfare benefits for those with pre-settled status, via a raft of leading decisions on workers’ rights and citizenship.

Richard has long been recognised by the judiciary and by his professional colleagues and peers as an advocate of the highest authority and distinction.


Richard appears frequently in court and at inquiries at all levels and provides advisory and advocacy services for a wide range of clients, private and public.  In the earlier stages of his career his advocacy was not limited to the higher courts, and included planning inquiry work such as his success in opposing the proposals for a nuclear waste repository in Cumbria. 

In 2022, Richard led the successful legal challenge to the decision to grant planning permission for the proposed development of the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.  Richard also 

Richard is described in Chambers and Partners for Planning as "An absolutely brilliant advocate." "A very strong strategist.".


Landmark's barristers often work at the intersection of our core practice areas; bringing a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience to bear on a particular dispute or issue facing a client.

Our focus is always on achieving the best possible outcome for our client. By viewing the client's objectives in a holistic way - and not purely through the lens of one rigidly-defined legal area - we deliver the best possible advice and representation in complex matters that engage multiple specialist areas of law. 

Whether it's providing support as an individual cross-practice barrister or a cross-disciplinary team of Landmark counsel, we are able to draw on an outstanding array of complementary skillsets and knowledge bases. This often achieves a better result than instructing multiple barristers from different specialist sets. This also improves the quality of client care through increased levels of communication, quicker response times, and a coordinated approach to clerking and fees, made possible by our team-based cross-practice approach.

Please contact our practice management team for more information.

EU Law post-Brexit

Local Government


EU Law post-Brexit

High Court Planning

Human Rights and Civil Liberties



Local Government including Local Government Finance


EU Law post-Brexit

Local Government

Quite simply one of the most talented and influential public lawyers of the last forty years."

Chambers and Partners

Chambers Top Ranked UK Bar 2024 Uk leading silk 2024 Immigration Silk of the Year UK Bar 22 Winner

Qualifications and achievements


  • History at Downing College, Cambridge


  • Richard received a 'Lifetime Achievement award' at the 2022 Chambers and Partners awards
  • Shortlisted for the Legal 500 UK Bar Awards 2023 Immigration 'Silk of the Year'


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