Sue Willman

Sue Willman


Sue Willman is a senior DPG partner with almost 30 years’ experience of innovative public interest litigation and collaboration with non-profit organisations and campaigners, first in a Law Centre and since 2003 at the firm. Sue is particularly well known for her work to protect the basic rights of migrants, whether refugees or EU nationals. In recent years, she has led DPG’s international human rights work.


Sue is committed to using public and human rights law as a means of challenging social and environmental injustice.

Sue established Pierce Glynn’s public law and human rights law team, now supplemented by Deighton Guedalla’s team which has an impressive reputation, reflected in the Legal 500 and Chambers Directory rankings for both firms. Sue is one of the few top ranked lawyers for civil liberties and human rights, and administrative and public law in both the Legal 500 and Chambers directories where she has been described as ”an extremely committed solicitor: uncompromising and fearless”, and “tactically astute.”

Sue was joined by Dan Carey in 2013 to develop the firm’s work on tackling international human rights and environmental violations. Collaboration with NGOs, such as the Oiljustice Project she established with War on Want, and creative ways of working are at the heart of this work. The team is exploring new ways of challenging the activities of corporations where these result in abuses and currently working on challenging the actions of extractive companies in Latin America and East Africa. Sue has particular experience of using UK law to tackle torture. This work is also focused on using universal jurisdiction to seek prosecutions in the UK of those who commit acts of torture abroad. Repressive gulf states like Bahrain and UAE have been a target for this work. Sue continues to challenge civil liberties breaches taking place in the UK and has experience of acting in a complex asset-freezing case under the anti-terrorism provisions.

After almost two decades of work promoting better welfare provision for migrants, including EU nationals and Roma, Sue’s work with migrants is now mainly with detainees and ex-detainees. She has secured the release of countless foreign national prisoners unlawfully detained, whilst always seeking a means of strategically challenging restrictive Home Office approaches. Post Brexit, she has focused on the unjust detention and removal of EU nationals, mainly from Eastern Europe, collaborating with the AIRE Centre. She works closely with NGOs including Medical Justice, Detention Action, AVID and BID to tackle arbitrary detention at a legal and policy level. This had led to interventions up to the Supreme Court and petitions to the European Court of Human Rights. She is an active member of the Mental Health Action in Detention Group and Medical Justice’s Strategic Litigation committee.

Sue is a founding Director of the Colombia Caravana campaign group which established in 2008 to challenging threats and murders of human rights lawyers in Colombia. She is a member of the Law Society Human Rights Committee, recently selected to join an expert mission to Guatemala. She works closely with the Environmental Law Foundation and is a supporter of Wild Law UK which advocates for a move away from ‘human-based’ environmental law and policy, towards legal systems which recognise the rights of nature. She is currently supporting the London Waterkeeper to challenge the UK’s failure to implement the EU Water Framework Directive.

Where there is no legal aid to fund cases, Sue can advise on crowd-funding options, and flexible private funding arrangements.

Whilst Sue now concentrates on her public law and human rights work, she has extensive experience in social welfare law and continues to act in a small number of more complex social welfare law cases, particularly those which overlap with her public law and human rights expertise or work with groups. She has successfully used public sector equality duty arguments to resolve a number of housing and community care cases involving disabled clients. She has also taken on multinational companies which still fail to provide equal access to transport to disabled people, including paralympic athlete Anne Wafula-Strike.


Sample Cases

Significant cases in which Sue has acted include:

JN v The United Kingdom, Application No. 37289/12 ECHR acting for immigration detainee arguing that his detention for 52 months was unlawful, and violated his rights under Article 5(1) of the Convention. Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) intervened in the case.

O v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Supreme Court) (2016) Sue acted for Medical Justice in a joint intervention with BID which led to helpful new guidance on the treatment of detainees with mental health needs.

Das v SSHD (Mind and Medical Justice interveners) (Court of Appeal) (2013) acted for Medical Justice, establishing improved guidance on the detention of people with mental health needs.

IM (Nigeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Court of Appeal) (2013) acted for hunger striker challenging guidance on immigration detention of those refusing food/ fluid.

R (FF) v Director of Public Prosecutions (ECCHR intervener) (Divisional Court) (2014) – quashing decision by DPP/CPS that that Prince Nasser bin Khalifa of Bahrain was immune from prosecution for torture in universal jurisdiction case.

R (Khan) v Sutton London Borough Council & (1) Viridor Waste (Thames) Ltd (2) Thames Water Utilities Ltd (3) South London Waste Partnership (Interested Parties) (2014)
Crowd-funded JR on behalf of environmental activist of decision to grant planning permission for waste incinerator on metropolitan open land.

R (D) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2012) (Administrative Court) acting for seriously mentally ill immigration detainee- court found his detention was unlawful and breached ECHR article 3 and the Public Sector Equality duty.