John is a leading barrister in the field of children’s law. Having graduated from Oxford University (where he was a Scholar), John was called to the Bar in 1995 by Gray’s Inn (where he was Lord Justice Holker Scholar). He has been a member of Harcourt Chambers from pupillage, after which he quickly established a busy children’s law practice across London and the South East.
John took Silk in 2012 and has continued to appear nationally in the most complex and sensitive children’s cases.
John has been public access trained by the Bar Council and is willing to accept instructions direct from members of the public in appropriate cases.
John appeared in the leading case of Malik (Re M  EWHC 1433) in which the President defined the proper procedure to be followed where Orders in Wardship are sought to prevent children from travelling to warzones. The case highlights the proper scope of wardship in such cases, as well as the use of Anti-Tipping Off and Reporting Restriction Orders in the family jurisdiction. Also before the President, John appeared in the leading case of Re S and T  EWHC 1753, in the field of international adoption.
Many of John’s cases attract media interest and in the last year he has worked closely with the media in a number of cases. He has applied for both Reporting Restriction Orders and Anti-Tipping Off Orders ( e.g.., Re M  EWHC 1433) He is familiar with the need to protect not only children at the centre of high profile litigation, but also the reputations of adults involved. He is comfortable advising in relation to reputation management and the tort of ‘misuse of private information’.
What the directories say:
John has been recognised as a leader at the Bar by Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 for over a decade. In 2015 he was shortlisted as Family Law QC of the Year by Jordan’s Family Law.
- ‘He is your man when the chips are down…’ – (Chambers & Partners)
- “He has wonderful in-depth knowledge of medical issues, he is exceptionally well prepared, and fights his client’s corner.” – (Chambers & Partners 2017)
- “He’s a fearsome and superb advocate.” – (Chambers & Partners 2017)
- “Vater is particularly adept at handing sensitive cases containing complex medical evidence” – (Chambers & Partners 2017)
- ‘A children law silk who takes no prisoners.’ – (Legal 500 2017)
- ‘recommended for advocacy and ability to decipher complex medical issues….is extremely intelligent and handles demanding clients very well.’- (Chambers and Partners, 2011)
- ‘will fight your corner tooth and nail’ – (Chambers and Partners, 2010)
- ‘one of the most gifted cross – examiners you will see in a courtroom’ – (Chambers and Partners, 2009)
In the last year John has appeared in numerous cases in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. A complete list of John’s reported cases is available upon request.
- Re N (Children)  UKSC 16
- Re B (Child) (Relocation: Sweden)  EWCA Civ 286
- JB v KS  EWHC 180 (Fam)
- Re S and T  EWHC 1753 (Fam)
- Re M  EWHC 1433 (Fam)
- Re D (A child)  EWCA Civ 196
- Re B (Interim Care Order)  2 FLR 283 (Court of Appeal)
- Oxfordshire CC v X and others  2 FLR 355 (Court of Appeal)
- Re S (A Child)  EWCA Civ 325 (Court of Appeal)
- Warwickshire CC v TE and others  EWHC B19 (Family Division)
- Re CA (A Baby)  EWHC 2190 (Family Division).
John is a member of Gray’s Inn, the Midland Circuit, the Family Law Bar Association and the Association of Lawyers for Children.
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Private Law Children and Domestic Abuse
John has a particular expertise in the most sensitive and intractable private law cases, in which he continues to appear for people from all walks of life, including high profile individuals where media interest is high. John is happy to advise in private law cases before the issue of proceedings, where ‘neutral evaluation’ or another collaborative approach may result in agreement before any litigation is launched.
John has given papers in the law relating to artificial reproduction and surrogacy, and has experience of cases involving so-called ‘non-traditional’ families and relationships. For example, he appeared for the father (donor) in the case of JB v KS  EWHC 180, a leading case relating to the status of pre-birth agreements where sperm is donated.+ Add to Brochure
Public Law Care and Adoption
John’s expertise in the most complex and serious public law cases is well recognised. He is particularly well known for his skill in cross-examining and deploying highly technical expert evidence. In the past year he has appeared across the country in cases involving allegations of organized multi-generational sexual abuse, enclosed head injuries (so called ‘shaken baby’ cases), so-called factitous or induced illness, multiple fractures and the whole range of cases involving the alleged serious abuse of children. In those cases he has succeeded in arguing for the dismissal of care proceedings in several cases contrary to the weight of the written expert opinion (see for example Re E  EWFC B119). In the past year John has appeared in these cases for Local Authorities, parents and Guardians. The profession recognised John’s continuing contribution to the field of public law children’s law when he was shortlisted as the Jordan’s Family Law QC of the Year.+ Add to Brochure