Stephen Abberley thrives on challenges. He enjoys a complicated set of facts, or a legal conundrum, or indeed a problem that appears to be without solution. Stephen enjoys being up against stellar performers, being put through his paces, helping him to hone his own craft.
Stephen is thorough in his preparation but can manage time when up against it. He is empathic and compassionate with clients, but will not shrink from delivering difficult advice, telling it how it is with a sensitive but firm manner.
Stephen’s Courtroom manner is quietly tenacious, premised on careful thought as to how best to present a difficult case. His cross-examination is bespoke, fitting the occasion.
Stephen has now built a store of knowledge in relation to cases involving familial homicide, sexual abuse, serious cranial and other injuries, international law and cross-cultural issues. He enjoys learning about matters of cultural diversity, having represented clients from all walks of life, many creeds and many more ethnic backgrounds.
With a practice evenly split between representing parents, children and authorities, Stephen brings perspective on how to meet the challenges in the case likely to be presented by the opposing side.
Stephen’s practice encompasses public law cases – care, placement and adoption proceedings. He also acts for parents and children in private law cases. He enjoys the intellectual rigour required of cases in the High Court and hopes for more opportunities to take cases to appeal.
- Re D-S (Contact with Children in Care: Covid-19)  EWCA Civ 1031
- Re C (A Child) (Application by Dr X and Y)  EWFC 79 -  1 FLR 82
- Disclosure – Re C (A Child) (Application by Dr X and Dr Y)  EWFC 79 –  Fam Law 1457
- In the Matter of C (A Child) (Application by Dr X and Y)  EWFC 79
- Re J (A Child) (Fact-finding) 
- Re Y  EWHC 3601 (Fam) - Lexis Citation 31
- A local authority v A, B and C (2019) - acted for a local authority in seeking findings against a step-father for causing significant brain injury to an older child in the context of complex and ambiguous medical expert opinion evidence.
- A local authority v C (2018) - acted for a parent from a travelling community who, in a second set of proceedings, was accused of physical and emotional abuse of a number of children. Achieved a settled position on threshold which did not feature allegations of physical abuse.
- A local authority v A (2018) - acted for a mother accused of over forty allegations of fabricating or inducing illness in a sick child. Whilst findings were made, they numbered less than ten. The mother maintains a relationship with the child, who was placed with family.
- A local authority v X, Y and Z (2018) - acted for a mother accused of administering medication to a school aged child and fabricating illness. Proceedings concluded with the child and its siblings remaining at home in the mother’s care, with assistance with medical issues from other family members.
- A local authority v D and E (2018) - acted for a local authority in respect of case wherein allegations of inter-generational fabricated illness were made. Able to compromise the case on agreed facts whilst retaining the subject child in foster care with supervised contact to mother and other relatives.
- A local authority v H  - Acting for a local authority in a case where Ehlors Danlos syndrome is in issue, but where it might be a mitigating factor in respect of NAI/Head and retinal injuries- Cohen J and Baker J (as he then was)
- A local authority v B & C  - Acting for a local authority and successfully establishing as true historical allegations of sexual and physical abuse by a step parent, by calling older children as live witnesses
- A local authority v Z  - Acting for a child in care proceedings who, it transpired, was a trafficked child from an EU member state for the purposes of sexual and domestic exploitation. Heard by Keehan J.
- A local authority v A  - Acted for a local authority in respect of an application to adopt an older child from a pacific country who was approaching his majority and who could have an international sports career in the UK. Heard by Cobb J.
- A local authority v Z  - Acted for children of a deceased father who had been murdered by their mother. Advanced placement of the children in the care of the deceased’s family against, for a period, opposition by the relevant local authority and the maternal family. Heard by Francis J.
- A local authority v AZ  - Acted for a local authority in case involving protracted immigration issues arising out of the successful assessment of family members in Pakistan, whom the Home Office was reluctant to permit into the UK for the purpose of introductions. Heard by Keehan J.
- A local authority v N  - Advised a local authority in respect of proceedings brought on the basis of FII allegations against mother. Advised the local authority to withdraw.
- A local authority v W  - Acted for children in a complex case of suspected suffocation of two children. Acted alone in a multi-prty case in which all other parties had silk and junior Counsel. Heard by Hayden J.
- A local authority v P & C  - Acted for a local authority in reconstructing evidence in relation to an historical child death, previously deemed by a Coroner to have been accidental in an attempt to prove that it was homicide. Heard by Wood J and King J (as she then was)
- A local authority v H  - Lead by the then Alistair MacDonald QC (now MacDonald J) for a local authority in successfully resisting an application by an expert medical witness in historical care proceedings who sought disclosure of material in the proceedings for use in articles in the press in order to re-establish his reputation after defending an action before the GMC. Heard by Munby P.
- A local authority v R  - Represented a father in care proceedings accused of inflicting a shaking injury. Child in question had a twin with enlarged sub-arachnoid spaces. Findings made but children returned to parents.
- A local authority v S  - Acted for a father in care proceedings accused of tampering with medical equipment for a sick child. Case ultimately withdrawn. Heard by Russell J.
- A local authority v W  - Acted for a mother in care proceedings involving fractures and NAI to head. Cross examined father who admitted shaking the child. Child returned to mother despite opposition from the local authority, which was represented by leading counsel.
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Care and Placement Proceedings
Stephen represents local authorities, parents and children in the County Court, High Court and at appellate level.
He has particular strength and expertise in cases involving complex medical issues and in those involving vulnerable adults with severe mental health illness or personality disorders. Furthermore, he has vast experience in Factitious Illness cases involving poisoning and induced suffocation.
He undertakes serious fact-finding cases and complex outcome hearings involving serious physical and sexual abuse, including cases involving shakes and resulting in baby fatalities.
As well as conventional public law children cases, Stephen also advises and appears in those with sensitive medical and ethical aspects for example, cases where the lawfulness of whether to resuscitate a child is at issue or where one parent has killed the other. These cases will routinely involve the cross examination of a number of medical experts from multi disciplines.
Stephen has represented parents from differing economic, cultural, social background and ages. Some may have issues such as drug, alcohol dependency, mental health difficulties, language difficulties or a combination of these problems. This frequently means he is involved in cases where there has been or evidence suggests :
- Parental homicide
- Child homicide
- Alleged Non-Accidental Injury, including brain injury and fractures
- Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation
- Factitious Illness
International Children Cases
Stephen has considerable experience of cases involving:
• International Child Abduction
• Transfer issues across the EU
• Transfer Issues beyond the EU
• International Adoption.
Private Law Children Proceedings (privately funded)
Stephen has notable experience in applications for internal and international relocation.
Respected for his undertaking of public and private children law work in particular. He represents parents, children and authorities, advising them on care, placement and adoption proceedings as well as factitious illness, sexual abuse, inflicted injuries and non-accidental injuries.
Strengths: "His preparation is meticulous and his paperwork is exceptional. He also goes the extra mile for his clients." "He has wide-ranging and up-to-date legal knowledge and exceptionally strong drafting skills, and provides careful, well-prepared advocacy."
Chambers UK 2021/Family
"Respected for both his undertaking of public and private children law work and complex financial proceedings. Represents parents, children and authorities, advising them on care, placement and adoption proceedings as well as factitious illness, sexual abuse and non-accidental injuries."
Chambers UK 2020/Family
"Respected for both his undertaking of public and private children law work and complex financial proceedings."
Chambers UK 2019/Family
Recent work: "Highly experienced and approachable." "A highly respected individual."
Chambers UK 2018/Family
“A highly respected individual”
Chambers UK 2017/Family
“Abberley is well respected for his work in both complex financial proceedings and sensitive public and private law children matters, and is particularly admired for his flexibility and welcoming manner with clients.”
Chambers UK 2016/Family
“He really gets to grips with the arguments.”
“I use him regularly and am always very impressed.”
Chambers UK 2015/Family
Expertise: “He is a highly capable advocate, tenacious and excellent with clients.”
“Stephen is knowledgeable, competent, very willing to assist and easy to contact.”
Chambers UK 2014/Family
“Stephen is particularly good at care proceedings”
Chambers UK 2013/Family
‘Incredible legal knowledge and research ability. Stephen superb detailed and highly persuasive written documents. A thorough and careful advocate with real attention to detail.’
Legal 500 2022/Child Law (Public and Private)/Leading Juniors/Midlands
‘He provides thorough and detailed advice in a calm and reassuring manner.’
Legal 500 2021/Child Law (Public and Private)/Midlands
‘Tenacious and calm under pressure.'
Legal 500 2020/Family and children/Midlands
- LLB (Hons) University of Nottingham