Kathryn Skellorn QC


Kathryn Skellorn

Call 1993 (Gray’s Inn) QC 2014
Qualifications MA Hons Jurisprudence, (Oxford University) Inns of Court School of Law 1993 (Gray’s Inn Junior Scholar)
Professional Memberships Family Law Bar Association
Appointments Recorder deployed to family on the Western Circuit

Expertise


Public Law  

Kathryn’s work often arises from allegations of homicide or serious inflicted injury. Her recent caseload has included fatal and non-fatal brain/spinal/ophthalmic trauma, single and multiple site fractures, burns, poisoning, whipping, torture and ritual abuse. She is highly experienced in issues of child sex abuse, serial intergenerational abuse, institutional abuse and abusive imaging.

Kathryn is adept at the rapid assimilation of lay, police and clinical evidence. Early management of evidence and case strategy are key and Kathryn analyses medico-legal issues across a full range of expert disciplines and provides comprehensive advice, written and trial advocacy. Advice is always focused on potential outcomes and looks ahead to next stage risk assessment, intervention and welfare planning.

Already experienced in working with junior counsel, Kathryn is equally content to advise and appear alone; a service of value to Local Authorities in the conduct of their very complex care cases. Kathryn regularly advises on preliminary issues of disclosure, assertions of public interest immunity and applications for non-disclosure.

Kathryn’s public law practice embraces a wide variety of international elements including immigration/asylum status, abduction, organized trafficking and proposed international placement.

A number of Kathryn’s recent cases have centred upon public policy issues; the true definition of significant harm for the purposes of the statutory threshold criteria and the proper delineation of the state’s interference in the family life of children and their parents.

Private Law

Kathryn aims to bring a robust but personable approach to private law work and she is widely instructed by private client departments across the South West and beyond.

Kathryn’s practice in this sphere frequently features domestic violence or an international element and she is experienced in cases featuring concurrent criminal proceedings, forced marriage, so called ‘honour based violence’ as well as applications for permission to remove children temporarily and permanently from the jurisdiction and child cases engaging Brussels IIR.

In addition to numerous European states, Kathryn’s recent cases of abduction, permanent and temporary relocation have involved the following jurisdictions: USA, Australia, Qatar, Dubai, Pakistan, Canada, Malaysia, and Northern Cyprus.

Practice Overview

Kathryn has twenty four years’ experience as a specialist Children Act practitioner, the last four years in Silk. Dealing with complex care work and contentious private law matters, Kathryn works across a full spectrum of cases in the Family Court, the High Court, the Appellate Courts and the Court of Protection.

Kathryn has special interest in cases involving highly complex and controversial medical issues.  She has lectured regularly on issues relating to child and vulnerable witnesses, ABE principles and the roles of intermediaries and is frequently instructed in cases involving children with and without capacity, adults without capacity, child perpetrators and witnesses requiring a range of special measures.  Kathryn recently undertook voluntarily accreditation on the VWAT course (an 11-hour course providing enhanced vulnerable witness training for criminal practitioners dealing with serious violence and sexual offences) given the parity of the skills required within the family and criminal jurisdictions. She works often in cases involving aspects of physical and/or learning disabilities and has particular experience in care work involving profound and partial hearing impairment, including the appropriate use of BSL interpretation within a trial setting.   Kathryn’s caseload encompasses issues of parenting impaired by addictive, psychological and psychiatric disorders, including Psychoses and Somatisation Disorders.  She has wide experience in the sphere of alleged Fabricated and Induced Illness including life-threatening cases.  Within the private law sphere her main interests lie within permanent/temporary international relocation cases, intractable contact disputes and cases requiring significant, preliminary fact-finding.

Kathryn’s reported cases are linked to the right of this page.  Listed below are headlines of some of her recent cases which may be either be awaiting reporting citations or subject to a court decision not to publish:

  • Post mortem artefact (hypostasis mimicking strangulation). Leader alone.
  • Alleged penetrative and contact sexual offences to a newborn male infant. Highly unusual haematological glycoprotein/clotting profile potentially mimicking sexual contact injuries ‘versus’ abuse.  Leader and Junior.
  • Hypermobility variant Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and propensity to bleeding and fracture. Live dispute between two expert paediatric radiologists about whether the child had suffered 2 or 13 fractures.  Leader and Junior.
  • The Microbiology of rare bacterial cultures in a case alleging abusive intravenous injection of faecal matter/pond-water representing induced illness ‘versus’ potential clinical contamination via child’s enteral feeding/saphenous long-line. Management and admission of evidence when numerous single joint experts had been instructed under part 25 in care proceedings, but the police had commissioned opinion evidence from different experts on identical issues. LA withdrew.  Leader and Junior.
  • Child impregnated by either her father or his monozygotic twin (sharing identical DNA). Consideration of potential for false paternity result because foetus’s ‘maternal profile’ had inherited markers from A. Multiple sexual abuse allegations across linked familial parties. Material non-disclosure by agencies interrupting a child’s evidence and delaying a multi-party fixture. Leader and Junior.
  • NHS Trust intervened into care proceedings determining causation of bilateral metaphyseal fractures to infant (inflicted injury ‘versus’ iatrogenic injury). Contentious radiological dating evidence.  Local Authority failed to meet Threshold.  Leader and Junior.
  • Orders preserving gamete-donor confidentiality whilst discovering any possible genetic propensities inherited by an apparently ‘injured’ surrogate baby presenting with traumatic head injury. Evidence addressing the likelihood of birth injury ‘versus’ inflicted injury. Leader alone.
  • The reliability or unreliability of radiological dating and diagnosis of multiple fractures/re-fractures when child limbs were not immobilised. Admissibility of social media evidence in context of alleged ‘Fraping’ (falsification of social media accounts).  Leader and Junior.
  • Accurate psychological context to be applied to the actions and ‘failure to protect’ by a mother with learning disabilities targeted by a manipulative, serial child sex offender. Appropriate special measures for trial.  Issues of disclosure into parallel proceedings (addressed via a ‘Re K’ process). Leader and Junior.
  • Securing Diocesan disclosure in an alleged ‘paedophile ring’/rape case featuring elements of alleged ‘deliverance ministry’ (exorcism). Challenge of (international) paediatric expert evidence on vaginal trauma and hymenal laceration.  Client rebutting multiple allegations of rape and abuse of women and children.  Leader and Junior.
  • Parents defeating a care order for their residentially-schooled child with disabilities. For a number of years the child’s school holidays had been spent in voluntary foster care, with contact to parents and siblings.  The Local Authority sought to characterise the parents’ withdrawal of s.20 consent as a decision threatening the child’s ‘family life’ with foster carers and thus posing significant harm. Leader and Junior.
  • The use of Disability and Education law to negate an argument that the Children Act 1989 could be used to specify a parental ‘choice’ to the LEA in a case where parents disagreed about whether their disabled child should receive mainstream or special needs schooling. Leader alone.
  • Representation of kinship carers securing final Child Arrangement (residence) orders against the recommendation of a Local Authority and an Independent Social Worker. Proceedings involved incidental applications for the disclosure of full Local Authority files, contentious MARAC recordings and Domestic Violence agency paperwork and the application for discharge and replacement of a court-appointed expert.  Leader alone.

Kathryn has experience in cases involving acts and omissions by agencies including Local Authorities, CAFCASS and police forces.  Such cases have involved contentious and sensitive issues including child sexual exploitation, fabricated/induced illness, ‘honour based’ abuse, forced marriage protection, domestic and international abduction and sex offender assessment.

A regular speaker at seminars over the years, Kathryn has provided lecture services for the judiciary, local and national FLBA, Resolution, Interdisciplinary Domestic Violence collaborations as well as individual firms of solicitors.  Kathryn is committed to providing local primary and secondary schools with information and sessions improving children’s understanding of the role of law in society as well as diverse careers in law.  She was shortlisted for “Silk of the Year” within the Legal 500 UK Regional/Scottish Awards 2018.

Recommendations

  • “She is just the full package: she is exceptionally bright, she has a very good demeanour with clients, and her advocacy is very persuasive.” “Her forensic approach to cases is seriously impressive.” Chambers UK, Family/Matrimonial (2018)
  • “Clients are in awe of her.” Legal 500, Family and children law (2017)
  • “Kathryn specialises in handling complicated children work in both a public and private context. Her cases frequently concern highly sensitive and difficult issues, as well as complex medical elements. A number of them concern brain trauma, torture, sexual abuse and child death. She also regularly handles disputes regarding surrogacy and same-sex parenthood. ‘Very forensic and eloquent in court.’ ‘Tenacious, thorough and impressive’.” Chambers UK, Family/Matrimonial (2017)
  • “A master of her brief; her preparation is unmatched and she has an almost intimidating grasp of the law.” Legal 500, Family and children law (2016)
  • “Kathryn is a fabulous advocate and has the ear of the court.” Legal 500, Family and children law (2015)
  • “Kathryn has excellent knowledge of medico-legal issues” Legal 500, Family and children law (2014)

Recent seminar appraisals

  • “Excellent and helpful advice.”
  • “Very relevant and helpful, very clear.”
  • “An engaging speaker who knows her stuff – excellent and thought provoking case study”.
  • “Excellent”
  • “Very clear, structured presentation. Easy to follow and good use of case studies. Very helpful in expanding my understanding”.