Call: 1997 | Silk 2015
- Broad Street Bristol BS1 1DR
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Broad Street Bristol BS1 1DREmail
Kate Brunner KC has a busy practice in serious crime, regulatory work, and inquiries and inquests. Kate was Leader of the Western Circuit between 2019-2022. She is recognised for her detailed case preparation, her ability to distill complex technical evidence and effective advocacy, and is recommended as being an ‘exemplary’ barrister and leading silk in her fields by legal directories. Kate is instructed in family fact finding hearings where there is complex expert evidence and a fatality, serious sexual abuse or serious injury is alleged.
In August 2022, Kate was appointed to chair the Independent Isle of Man Covid Review which will report at the end of 2023. Kate is leading a team of expert advisors, researchers, records managers, administrators and solicitors. She is gathering documentary and oral evidence to inform a report on the Isle of Man Government’s handling of the pandemic, which will include assessment of the provision of healthcare, education and financial support.
Kate has previously held the position of Leader of the Western Circuit, where she was elected to represent the barristers in the South West, one of six geographical ‘circuits’ that make up the Bar of England and Wales.
Kate set up the Western Circuit Women’s Forum in 2015 with others to address lack of diversity at the Bar.
During her time as Leader of the Western Circuit and while chairing WCWF, Kate instigated numerous research and review programmes, and initiatives. These have included:
- A review into retention of woman at the Bar. Kate set-up the review process, and, with her team of lawyers, a researcher and statistician, created an online survey and implemented desk-based research. With selected key individuals and stakeholders, she conducted in-depth and wide-ranging interviews. The resulting report, Back to the Bar received national recognition and was reported on Radio 4 and in the Financial Times.
- A review of the Government’s closure of courtrooms in criminal courts. The methodology, designed by Kate, sought to conduct a gap analysis of data, and fill them through a liaison programme with the Office of National Statistics, an analysis of court listings, and interviews with stakeholders, many of whom requested anonymity. The report, This doesn’t Look Like Justice again received national media interest and exposure.
- An investigation, led by Kate as Leader of the Western Circuit, into safety in court buildings during the Covid pandemic, resulted in her Report on Court Safety. The first investigation of its kind to address the specific issues in court buildings during the pandemic, it was evaluated by HM Court Service, and was the trigger for practical changes and improvements being implemented
Kate was selected in 2020 to be Chair of the Appeal Board of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority, the self–regulatory arm of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. She chairs a Board which hears appeals from first-instance decisions relating to alleged breaches of the Pharmaceutical Industry Code of Conduct.
Kate is also an associate tenant of the 36 Group, London.
Kate Brunner is licensed to accept work under the Public Access rules and undertakes such work in the regulatory, disciplinary, inquest and court of protection areas of her practice.
Kate has consistently been recognised as a leading silk in regulatory and health and safety in national directories. She was singled out in the Legal 500 2022 as a leading silk in regulatory work: one of only two silks on the Western Circuit to be in that category. In 2023 Kate was again ranked Leading Silk Tier 1 in Business and Regulatory Crime incl Health & Safety.
Kate has been operating at the highest level in health and safety work for many years. Before taking silk Kate was appointed to a national panel of 30 advocates selected to prosecute the most complex health and safety cases (HSE Specialist Panel, List A). Since taking silk in 2015 she regularly defends and prosecutes high profile cases involving fatalities and highly technical expert evidence, including cases of manslaughter by gross negligence.
She has represented directors, companies and the HSE in health and safety and environmental cases, providing advice from pre-interview stage through to representation at court.
Kate’s regulatory work includes healthcare (see separate section), consumer protection, fire safety, and food safety in which she has dealt with a number of high-profile companies including Mitchells and Butlers and Pret a Manger. Kate’s expertise in food law extends to the handling of allergen information, advertising, and has included cases where fatalities are linked to unsafe food practices.
She has experience in judicial review and administrative law, and has advised public bodies including the Care Quality Commission and the Care Inspectorate Wales on a number of confidential matters relating to national policy and statutory construction. Kate has expertise in high-value proceeds of crime proceedings which may follow criminal regulatory cases (such as Harvey  EWCA Crim 1104, a case which reached the Supreme Court relating to whether VAT should be discounted from benefit figure to be confiscated).
A senior solicitor who instructed Kate in a heavy weight environmental case comments: ‘Ms Brunner exhibited a detailed knowledge of the extremely complex law with which the case was concerned. She was able to discuss the law and factual background with the client (who was a technically competent person) and also, more importantly, with the very experienced expert witness whom we instructed over the course of many meetings and conferences.
Her ability to deal with expert evidence was also manifested in the way in which she dealt with expert evidence called by the prosecution in relation to a number of different areas of expertise, where her extremely thorough case preparation and detailed knowledge of the issues in the case came to the fore in effective and sustained criminal advocacy.’
Kate’s environmental law expertise includes:
- enforcement and interpretation of environmental permits
- water pollution
- waste including hazardous waste
- legality of remediation processes, and creation of products
Examples of Regulatory cases include:
- R (HSE) v Young and others (the Splott Chapel case). Kate secured the acquittal of a demolition company boss on charges of gross negligence manslaughter and s3 HSWA in a complex 10-week trial concerning the collapse of the citadel in Cardiff. Kate led the defence team instructed by BLM, represented the lead defendant in a case involving 11 defendants. The expert witness for HSE conceded in the course of cross-examination that he had reached unsustainable conclusions, and he withdrew most of his criticisms of Kate’s client. Click here to read.
- R (HSE) v Jones Bros 2019: Kate led the defence representing a large construction company charged with health and safety offences relating to the death of an employee on a building site. Issues related to training in the construction industry, design and planning of large-scale works, and on-site supervision. Through marshalling expert evidence and detailed written submissions Kate persuaded HSE that the accident had been caused by careless driving rather than any procedural failing. In a highly unusual step, HSE offered no evidence a month before the trial was due to start.
- R (EA) v Churngold and others: representing director in case described by the EA as the largest ever hazardous waste prosecution. Amounts involved over £10m, complex expert evidence relating to remediation of hazardous waste and creation of product, consideration of heavy metal treatment processes click here to read;
- Bath & North East Somerset Council v Mitchells and Butlers (All Bar One) 2020. Representing prosecution, in case relating to placing unsafe food on the market and publishing an advertisement likely to mislead. Abuse and preparatory hearing arguments were conducted over three days in 2019.
- R (HSE) v Western Power Distribution: health and safety case involving a fatality to an employee working on overhead power line;
- R (CQC) v AH: representing care home company in prosecution for regulatory breaches linked to death of service user who fell from window;
- R (HSE) v British Waterways: representing HSE in prosecution of company and individuals for failings causing death of a commercial diver;
- R (OFT) v N: defending in multi-handed pyramid selling consumer protection case, involving a £21million scheme. This was the first prosecution under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 relating to pyramid promotional schemes click here to read;
- R (HSE) v RR: prosecuting company in relation to death of employee in waste disposal company.
(see separate healthcare section for healthcare regulatory work)
Kate is well-recognised for the thoroughness of her preparation coupled with persuasive court room skills. She appears regularly in the Court of Appeal as well as the Crown Court. Kate has a particular expertise in cases which are technically complex such as serious fraud and medical manslaughter. These cases require Kate’s close analysis of detailed evidence, her ability to gain a thorough understanding of medical, financial and mechanical data, and comprehensive cross-examination of expert witnesses. Kate is instructed by both prosecution and defence, predominantly in the South West, but also in the Midlands, Wales and London.
Kate is a standout criminal practitioner: recent reviews include “A notable silk regularly instructed in serious violent crime, fraud and regulatory offences” and “She is a very classy, clinical and robust performer” (Chambers & Partners 2018).
Kate frequently represents clients who have been charged with the most serious of offences including murder, multiple rape and large-scale fraud. She combines a sensitive approach to clients and their families with robust advocacy in court. On the prosecution side, Kate has secured a strong reputation for presenting complex cases including multi-handed murder and frauds in a compelling and jury-friendly manner. She works constructively with large teams to prepare cases well in advance of trial, and applies her eye for detail to case preparation: as a result she is regularly sought as a case leader by senior officers.
Recent and notable cases include:
- R v Atkinson (2021): Defence of a man accused of murder along with five others. Client acquitted of all charges.
- R v Fords (2020): Prosecution of two men for murder by stabbing of man suspected of stealing a bicycle.
- R v Millett (2020): Defence of man accused of murdering his brother, issues relating to blood distribution evidence, CCTV coverage. Client acquitted of all charges.
- R v Yanpolsky (2019): Leading counsel in cybercrime prosecution. Complex cyberattack on processing system for card payments, resulting in system overload and crash, and multi-million pound loss. Issues relating to IP addresses, malware, hacking, remote access, and expert evidence on causation and method.
- R v Joginder Chall : EWCA Crim 865 Court of Appeal Guideline authority relating to the use of Victim Personal Statements: Kate represented a defendant in this important case addressing the proper test for severe psychological harm.
- R v C-A N: Kate led a team defending a nurse charged with gross-negligence manslaughter. The Crown alleged that she had caused the death of a 10-year old by failing to identify the signs of a misplaced feeding tube. The lengthy trial involved expert witnesses and highly technical evidence in the arenas of nursing practice, gastroenterology and pathology. Click here to view the BBC news report.
- R v W: Kate successfully prosecuted the manslaughter of a 100-year-old woman, in a case involving complex CCTV evidence and issues relating to causative link between injuries sustained in the attack and the pneumonia which directly caused death – click here to read;
- R v CH: In a high-profile and legally unusual case Kate represented a mother with undiagnosed schizophrenia has drowned her daughter and burned the body in a ritualistic ‘sacrifice’, believing that she was acting under divine instruction and that her daughter would be returned to her by angels. Two psychiatrists agreed that she did not know what she was doing was wrong: indeed she believed she was saving the world. The judge accepted legal argument that the jury should not be permitted to convict of murder as there was no reason put forward by the Crown upon which the jury could reject the psychiatric evidence in its entirety. The jury were left with potent verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity, and guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. They acquitted and the defendant was given a hospital order – click here to read;
- R v RG: Kate represented a woman charged with laundering the proceeds of her husband’s £5million international arms dealing programme. Following legal argument during the case the trial judge directed the jury to acquit her – click here to read;
- R v DB: Defence of man charged with murdering neighbour by blocking gas flue, plea to manslaughter accepted, Court of Appeal upheld sentence after Attorney-General’s reference – click here to read;
- R v HN: Prosecutors dropped all charged against Kate’s client, a senior NHS manager accused of fraud, part-way through the trial. Kate successfully submitted that the case should be discontinued after she cross-examined prosecution witnesses to demonstrate that the dishonest financial transactions and illegal commissioning had not been carried out by her client, but by the Trust’s Chief executive, who subsequently admitted her guilt click here to read;
- R v CN: Kate secured acquittal for a young nurse accused of gross negligence manslaughter in a case involving complex medical evidence and experts from four different disciplines – click here to read;
- R v CH: Kate led the prosecution team in the high-profile case of the murder and sexual assault of 17-year-old Melanie Road in Bath in 1984. She had been stabbed to death and sexually assaulted as she returned home from a night out. A DNA sample provided by the defendant’s older daughter in 2014 following her arrest for a minor matter provided a familial match to DNA from the crime scene. The defendant voluntarily provided an elimination sample which led to his eventual arrest and charge – click here to read;
- R v RR: Defence of man accused of sadistic murder of landlord: acquittal on judge’s direction after defence case, following legal argument – click here to read;
- R v DW: Representing man accused of historical rape of fourteen women and girls – click here to read;
- R v NB: Kate represented chief executive of large council charged with misconduct in public office relating to the process of salary increases for senior employees including himself. Kate cross-examined experts in accountancy and auditing to demonstrate that the Crown Prosecution Service had failed to follow required procedures in relation to expert evidence and unused material. Kate successfully argued that the expert evidence should be excluded, and as a result the judge dismissed all charges against the defendants – click here to read. The episode concluded with compensation being paid to the defendants along with a full pension and a public acknowledgement by the council that there had been no wrongdoing.
- R v LMcC: Prosecution of complex circumstantial murder prosecution, involving piecing together CCTV, telephone data and expert drug evidence to prove defendant’s guilt – click here to read the BBC News article and click here to read the Gloucester Constabulary article;
- R v AK: Prosecution of man for murdering his wife, psychiatric evidence relating to fitness to plead and loss of control manslaughter – click here to read;
- R v SP: Prosecution billed by HMRC as ‘Cornwall’s largest tax fraud’; an accountant alleged to have cheated the Revenue of over £2 million. The 12-week trial involved expert accountancy evidence, expert taxation evidence (including corporation tax, income tax, CGT) and 60 lay witnesses, and required detailed analysis of dozens of bank accounts to show patterns of money movement – click here to read.
Inquiries and Inquests
Kate was appointed in 2022 to chair the Isle of Man Independent Covid Review.
Kate is leading a team of expert advisors, researchers, records managers, administrators and solicitors. She is gathering documentary and oral evidence to inform a report on the Isle of Man Government’s handling of the pandemic, which will include assessment of the provision of healthcare, education and financial support.
Kate Brunner has significant experience in inquests both with and without juries. Her clients have included families of the deceased (who often instruct on a public access basis), police forces, NHS mental health and ambulance trusts, and the Health and Safety Executive. She often advises at an early stage, in relation to obtaining expert evidence, and preparing witnesses and documents for the hearing. Kate puts her extensive advocacy skills to effective use at inquests to explore issues of causation and neglect. Kate was singled out in the Legal 500 2022 and 2023 as a leading silk in inquiries and inquest work: the only silk on the Western Circuit to be in that category.
Kate’s expertise in the healthcare arena (see separate section) has led to regular instruction in inquests involving care homes, mental health issues and medical procedures.
Kate is a member of the Inquest Lawyers’ Group, writes for the Inquest Lawyers’ Journal, and has provided assistance to the Chief Coroner in relation to national guidance for coroners and national training for coroners.
Inquest cases of note include:
- Re AH: series of high-profile and complex inquests over the course of 2 years relating to deaths of women with eating disorders. Representing trust, substantial legal argument relating to Article 2 points, scope, Reports to Prevent Future Deaths etc. – click here to read;
- Re: CL: complex Article 2 case relating to death following discharge from secure mental health detention – click here to read;
- Re: KB: advising police in relation to disclosure re. death of man in health unit following restraint by police and medics – click here to read;
- Re: FC: representing family of a man who took his own life after mental health services failed to act on family’s concerns;
- Re: IJ: representing family, successful appeal to the High Court with Attorney-General’s authority (under section 13 Coroners Act) – suicide verdict quashed and fresh inquest ordered;
- Re: DM: represented the family of a child who died when a hospital carried out an incorrect procedure. The case involved expert evidence about neurological interventions;
- Re: Orchid View: Advising in relation to a high-profile case involving multiple dealth at the same care home – click here to read.
Kate Brunner KC has a long-standing interest in healthcare work, particularly cases involving mental health issues and/or care homes. Healthcare work forms a substantial part of Kate’s practice. Kate is adept at dealing with technical medical information, and familiar with the operating structures and processes of hospitals, GPs, care homes etc.
Kate’s regulatory healthcare expertise led to her appointment in 2021 as chair of the British Pharmaceutical Association’s appeal board, which regulates pharmaceutical companies. Recent healthcare work has included:
- Advising hospital trust in relation to CQC criminal investigation for breach of duty of candour requirements and unsafe practices. Drafting responses to interviews under caution, giving tactical advice, and advice on the merits of the potential prosecution. Following interview response CQC decided not to prosecute for major alleged breach and issued fixed penalty notice in relation to a minor breach instead.
- Advising a private ambulance service in relation to proposed judicial review proceedings against CQC: letter before action and negotiations led to amendment of a critical and inaccurate report;
- Advising a provider of supported living services in relation to inaccurate Council Quality Assurance report, working with provider to create detailed action plan accepted by Council;
- Representing Trust in series of inquests into deaths of women who had eating disorders – click here to read;
- Representing a national care home multi-location provider in a challenge to CQC’s decision to remove a location (close a home): CQC withdrew before tribunal hearing;
- Advising a national care home multi-location provider in relation to judicial review of CQC’s failure to follow its enforcement policy and special measures policy;
- Advising a number of providers in relation to challenging inspection reports and ratings, and whether CQC’s position was lawful;
- Representing a Trust providing a secure psychiatric unit in a health and safety prosecution following a fatal accident;
- Representing a company and its directors prosecuted by CCQ for providing domiciliary care services without registration.
Kate is one of a few barristers who has significant nationwide experience in the Health, Education and Social Care Tribunal, having frequently appeared for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and for care homes in cases involving refusal to register, and cancellation of registration.
Kate has been instructed by both the CQC and the Commission for Older People in Northern Ireland: advice has included matters of national policy and procedure. Kate is frequently instructed by care homes and health trusts in relation to challenging inspection reports, judicial reviews of enforcement decisions, and appeals to the Upper Tribunal. Her familiarity with how care homes and other providers operate is combined with a detailed knowledge of CQC procedures and policies and case law, and she is praised by clients for giving swift, practical advice.
Kate’s experience in both civil and criminal cases involving healthcare means that she is regularly instructed to advise on matters crossing both disciplines, such as advising a large national care home company in relation to disclosure of internal investigation material to the police. Kate has been involved in a number of high-profile criminal cases involving care homes, including Winterborne View and Atlas; and involving allegations of NHS fraud.
Kate is identified as a leading silk in regulatory work in Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners: “Her razor-sharp eye can easily detect the key issues in a case.” Kate was singled out in the Legal 500 2022 as a leading silk in regulatory work: one of only two silks on the Western Circuit to be in that category.
Child Law Public
Kate has significant experience in cases where serious sexual abuse of children or deliberate serious injury is alleged, and there are parallel criminal and family proceedings. Her expertise in cross-examining experts about non-accidental injuries, signs of sexual abuse and DNA is highly effective in both jurisdictions. Kate is entirely familiar with social services records and medical records, having analysed voluminous sets of both in many cases to identify inconsistencies and themes. Kate’s practice prosecuting and defending the most complex criminal trials including numerous murder cases means she is accustomed to representing mentally-ill, vulnerable and learning-disabled individuals, marshalling large volumes of material, making complex tactical decisions and identifying weaknesses in opponents’ cases. Kate is familiar with paediatric radiology and linked disciplines, and as a result of her expertise is regularly instructed to advises prosecutors about charges where there is evidence that non-accidental injury such as multiple fractures have been caused by a parent.
‘She has a keen eye for detail and is able to understand the facts of a case extremely quickly regardless of the complexity. I have personally had experiences with Ms Brunner leading up to a major fact finding hearing and her understanding of ABE interviews, police conduct and her general knowledge about the processes not only in criminal law but family law were invaluable.’
‘She is extremely easy to get along and is very attentive with clients. I would have no hesitation in instructing Ms Brunner in family matters’
(partner in law firm specialising in family law)
Recent cases include:
- Re S: Complex five-week fact-finding involving inter-generational sexual abuse over a decade, including allegations of rape of children, and grooming. Issues relating to best practice of ABE interviews with children and adults, and substantial arguments relating to disclosure of criminal investigation documentation, and Re W applications.
- Re B: Representing parent in three-week High Court fact-finding. Contentious expert evidence from paediatrician, histopathologist, radiologists. Issues relating to timing and mechanism of mataphyseal fractures in baby, Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) and causation of death.
- Re H: representing father in High Court fact-finding proceedings, accusations of sexual assault and neglect against background of multi-generational abuse over decades. Over 60,000 pages of material. Complexities included disputes over ambit of disclosure from criminal investigation into family proceedings.
- R v JM: representing mother accused of failing to protect children from long-term sexual abuse by husband. Complex issues of use of transcripts of evidence from family proceedings in criminal trial, and disclosure of material from family court proceedings into criminal trial, including third-party summons applications.
- R v JK: representing father who admitted in family proceedings causing injury to his child, and, following cross-examination of three experts about subdural haemorrhages, retinal haemorrhages and brain swelling, negotiating guilty plea to section 20 (causing serious harm without intent) in subsequent criminal proceedings.