Sue Willman

Sue Willman


Sue Willman is a partner who qualified as a solicitor in 1996.
Sue joined Pierce Glynn in 2003, after 14 years of high profile litigation and campaigning in the non-profit sector, working mainly on migrants’ socio-economic human rights.


Sue’s work uses 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 latest 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 is 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 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. Inspired by her experiences of working with human rights defenders in Colombia, she is currently working with Dan and Silvia Nicolaou Garcia on challenging the actions of extractive companies in Colombia. Sue has a particular experience of using UK law to tackle torture. This work is currently focused on using universal jurisdiction to seek prosecutions in the UK of those who commit acts of torture abroad. Repressive gulf states like Bahrain 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 a number of foreign national prisoners unlawfully detained, e.g. due to their psychiatric conditions or disabilities. She works closely with NGOs including Medical Justice, Detention Action, the Detention Forum and BID to tackle arbitrary detention at a legal and policy level. She is an active member of the Mental Health Action in Detention Group.

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 works closely with the Environmental Law Foundation and is active in 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 enjoys supporting the work of environmental activists and local communities in environmental and planning law challenges, as in a recent challenge to the decision to grant permission to a biomass plant in East Anglia.

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.

Sample Cases

Significant cases in which Sue has acted include:

JN v The United Kingdom, Application No. 37289/12 ECHR (ongoing) 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) has intervened in the case.

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)
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.