I specialise in contentious and highly complex public law cases in the Family Court involving allegations of severe child abuse.

They often involve;
(a) highly specialist cross-examination of medical experts in cases where inflicted injury and death is alleged;
(b) cross-examination of a child or vulnerable person alleging sexual and/or physical abuse;
(c) cross-examination of perpetrators of abuse and of the Police and Social care agencies seized with the task of investigation.

Many of the parents I represent are themselves victims of abuse. Many suffer from mental health or personality difficulties. Many have a learning disability.
My experience, gleaned from sitting on the Mental Health Review Tribunal, has equipped me with knowledge of mental health issues and their treatment and management.

I also deal with Private law family proceedings involving allegations of abuse and with adoption matters.

I have appeared at all levels including the Supreme Court.

My practice also encompasses cases proceeding in the Court of Protection and Upper Tier Tribunal.

In 1996 I was appointed to represent the patients on the Personality Disorder Unit at Ashworth High Security Hospital in the second public inquiry into their management and their treatment. That involved organising and digesting vast quantities of material. There were over 100 patients on the unit many of whom were extremely challenging to represent.

In 2005/2006, I was appointed to represent the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester in an Inquiry into the death of a child at the hands of her mother who had a chronic and relapsing mental illness. The Inquiry examined and explored the actions and inaction of a variety of public bodies in order to assess whether the death could have been avoided.

In 2012/2013, I was invited by the Jersey Government to apply to chair the Independent Inquiry into historical abuse on the island. I was short-listed for the position which ultimately went to a more senior practitioner.

Notable Cases

       M v F (Covert recording of children) [2016] EWFC 27

       W (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 113.

       F v Cumbria County Council and M ( Fact-Finding No 2) [2016]EWHC 14 (Fam)

       F v Cumbria Count Council & another (no 6) publicity[2015]EWHC 3228(Fam)

       Cumbria County Council v M & Ors [2015] EWHC 918.

       Re P (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 170.

       Cumbria County Council v M & Ors [2014] EWHC 4485.

       CM v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council [2014] EWCA Civ 1479.

       Cumbria County Council v M & Ors [2014]EWHC 2596.

       J,A,M & X (Children) [2014] EWHC 4648 (Fam).

       Lancashire County Council v C & Ors [2014] All ER 62.

       Re L & B (children) [2013] UKSC 8.

       MD V Mersey Care NHS Trust [2013] UKUT 127(AAC).

       ITN News & Ors v R [2013] EWCA Crim 773.

       Secretary of State etc v SB [2013] UKUT 330(AAC).

       Re X (a child) [2011] EWHC 430(Fam).

       CJ v Flintshire Borough Council [2010] EWCA Civ 393.

       G v E & Ors [2010] EWCA Civ 822.

       G v E & Ors [2010] EWHC 2512.

       MD v Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Trust (Rev 1) [2010] UKUT 59 (AAC).

       G v E & Ors [2010] EWHC 621.

       R (on the application of MS by his mother and litigation friend SS v Oldham MBC [2010] All ER 121& [2010]       EWHC 802 (Admin).

       Greater Manchester Chief Constable v KI & Anor (Children) [2007] EWHC 1837 (Fam).

       C v Bury MBC [2002] 2 FLR 868 FD.

       Re CH (Care or interim care order) [1998]1FLR 402 CA

       R v Devon County Council ex parte O [1997] 2FLR 388.

       A Metropolitan Borough Council v DB [1997] 1 FLR 767.

       Re C (Interim Care Order Residential Assessment) [1996] UKHL 4.

       Re C (Interim care order: assessment) [1996] 2 FLR 708. CA.

       Re B (Care or Supervision order) [1996] 2 FLR 708.

       Stockport MBC v D [1995] 1 FLR 873.

       Manchester City Council v S [1991]2 FLR 370.

Additional Information

Seminars and Lectures

I am invited to speak on Family Law Matters at conferences and seminars run by external providers and I also lecture at chambers continuing education seminars.

I also practice from Dere Street Chambers in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and York; Broadway House Chambers in Leeds and Bradford and 42 Bedford Row, London.


(i) Member of the National Safeguarding Panel for Sport Resolutions.

Sports Resolutions is an independent, not-for-profit, dispute resolution service for sport in the UK. The NSP provides:
(i) independent investigations and reviews into safeguarding complaints and concerns; and
(ii) independent arbitration; and (iii) Expert risk assessment of an individuals’ suitability to work with children and vulnerable adults.

(ii) Member of the Independent Safeguarding Commission of Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.

Chetham’s School of Music is an independent, co-educational, specialist music school for boys and girls aged 8-18. With 290 or so students, it is the largest specialist music school in the UK. The Commission was established following a number of serious allegations of sexual abuse against teachers past and present; and damming reports by Inspectors from Manchester City Council Children’s Services department and the Independent Schools Inspectorate in 2013.

We are each appointed by the Feoffees and the School Committee. Our purpose is to advise and assist the school in matters relating to child protection and the safeguarding of children in the care of the school. We scrutinise and question safeguarding policies and assist in their production and implementation.


B.A. (Hons) Law

A. (Hons), Law

Inner Temple

Family Law Bar Association

Areas of Expertise

Family law, including Court of Protection, Inquiries, Mental Health Act appeals to the Upper Tier Tribunal, Court of Protection

Gillian Irving QC represents local authorities, parents and extended families, and children in the public law arena. She has extensive experience in complex and high-profile High Court children’s cases involving:

  1. The death and catastrophic non-accidental injuries to a child.
  2. Non-Accidental head injury and allegations of shaking.
  3. Fabricated and Induced illness including poisoning, equipment interference.
  4. Sexual abuse of children, historic, intergenerational, inter sibling.
  5. Radicalisation cases.
  6. Many of the cases involve the cross-examination of vulnerable adults or children and involve concurrent criminal proceedings.

Gillian Irving QC sat as a fee paid Judge of the Care Standards Tribunal (Mental Health) between 1998 and 2021 and has an excellent working knowledge of the impact of mental disorders and illness on parenting and children.

  1. Cases where the issues include arguments surrounding community care provision and entitlement for children in need.

(ii) Private children Law

Complex private law proceedings involving allegations of physical and emotional neglect, impact of parental mental illness on parenting, allegations of physical and sexual abuse, relocation, contact disputes and change of child’s place of residence.

(iii) Inquests and Public Inquiries.

In 1996/1997 she was appointed to represent the patients detained on the Personality Disorder Unit at Ashworth Special Hospital in the second Public Inquiry which related to the security of that Hospital and the treatment of psychopathic disorder. Not only did this necessitate her analysing, digesting and organising vast quantities of documentary material but she sought information and advice from other Hospitals around the country involved in the treatment of those with diagnosis

She represented the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police in an Inquiry into the murder of child ‘X’; the perpetrator suffered from mental health problems. The Inquiry was convened under Section 34 of the NHS Executive Health Service Guidelines (94) 27. It looked not only at the circumstances surrounding the murder of the child but explored the roles of a variety of agencies and particularly those involved in the care and treatment of the perpetrator.

In 2017 she represented the mother of Poppi Worthington in the high-profile inquest into the child’s death.

Professional Organisations

Member of the Family Law Bar Association, Member of the Bar Pro Bono Association


Legal 500 2021 Leading Silk: ‘She is always the best prepared advocate in court, fierce in cross-examination, never intimidated or out manoeuvred by anyone and always at least two steps ahead of everyone else.

Tier One Advocate for Public and Private Law (Legal 500, 2022)

“She is always the best prepared advocate in court, fierce in cross-examination, never intimidated or out manoeuvred by anyone and always at least two steps ahead of everyone else” (Legal 500, 2021)

 “A fantastic and formidable advocate” (Legal 500, 2020)

“She is fierce in cross-examination” (Legal 500, 2019)

“Builds on her national reputation in care and Court of Protection work, drawing praise for her strong advocacy and gentle nature with her clients. Expertise:”She is strong-willed, powerful and able to turn a case around”. “Gillian is feisty, and does excellent work with children and vulnerable clients” (Chambers & Partners 2014)

“Singled out for childcare matters… the ‘feisty’ Gillian Irving QC is recommended for childcare work” (Legal 500 UK 2012)

“Excellent in cases involving children and vulnerable clients” (Legal 500 UK 2011)

“Is increasingly in demand for public inquiry work” (Legal 500 UK 2008)

“Gillian Irving is a ‘sensitive’ lawyer perfectly suited to complex mental health cases” (Legal 500 UK 2006)

“… expert Gillian Irving is known for her sensitivity” (Legal 500 UK 2005)


Reported Cases:

  • Re G (Finding of Fact Hearing: Resuscitative Shake) [2022] EWFC B6 (21 January 2022)
  •  Lancashire County Council v E & F [2020] EWHC 182 (Fam) (04 February 2020) https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2020/182.html
  • A Metropolitan District Council v M & Ors [2019] EWFC 15 (08 March 2019)
  • GD & BD (Children) (Rev 1) [2016] EWHC 3312 (Fam)
  • F v Cumbria County Council and M (Fact Finding) (Number 2) [2016] EWHC 14(Fam)
  • Cumbria County Council v M and Ors [2015] 918 (Fam)
  • F v Cumbria County Council & Anor (No 6) (Publicity) [2015] EWHC 3228
  • Cumbria County Council V M & Ors [2014] EWHC 4486 (11/7/2014)
  • Cumbria County Council v M and F [2014] EWHC 2596 (28/7/2014)
  • Cumbria County Council v M & Ors [2014] EWHC 4485 (18/12/2014)
  • J, A, M and X (Children) [2013] EWHC 4648
  • Re X (A child) [2011] EWHC 430
  • G v E & Others [2010] EWHC 621
  • G v E & Others [2010] EWHC 2512
  • Greater Manchester Chief Constable v KI & Anor (Children) & Ors [2007] EWHC 1837 (Fam)
  • C v Bury MBC [2002] 2 FLR 868
  • A Metropolitan Borough Council v DB [1997] 1 FLR 767
  • R v Devon County Council ex-parte O (Adoption) [1997] 2 FLR 388
  • Stockport MBC v D [1995] 1 FLR 873
  • Manchester City Council v S [1991] 2 FLR 370


COURT OF APPEAL (Civil Division)

  • Re S and H-S (children) [2018] EWCA Civ 1282
  • Re W (children) [2016] EWCA Civ 113
  • Re P (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 170
  • CM V Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. [2014] EWCA Civ 1479
  • G v E & Others [2010] EWCA Civ 822
  • CJ v Flintshire Borough Council [2010] EWCA Civ 393
  • Re CH (Care or Interim Care Order) [1998] 1 FLR 402
  • Re B (Care and Supervision Order: Assessment) [1996] 2 FLR 708
  • Re C (Interim Care Order: Assessment) [1996] 2 FLR 708


  • Re L & B (Children) [2013] UKSC 8
  • Re C (Interim care order: Residential Assessment) [1996] UKHL4


  • MD v Mersey Care NHS Trust [2013] UKUT 127 (AAC)
  • MD v Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Trust (Rev 1) [2010] UKUT 59 (AAC)


  • The Inquiry into the Personality Disorder Unit at Ashworth Special Hospital 1996–1997
  • The Inquiry into the death of child ‘X’ 2005/2006


Gillian is married to a member of the Bar specialising in criminal law. Interests- anything to do with animals, the countryside, travelling to Italy and horse-racing.