Karl Rowley QC Family

Call: 1994 | Silk: 2013

Door Tenant


Karl read Philosophy and Theology at Oriel College, Oxford, followed by the Diploma in Law at Staffordshire University. He was called to the Bar in 1994 having received the Winston Churchill Pupillage Award from Middle Temple. He was appointed a Recorder in 2009 and took silk in 2013.

Karl’s practice covers public and private children cases, wardship, public authority work, and the Court of Protection.

What the directories say:

  • “A children law specialist who has a wealth of experience advising on private and public cases. His areas of expertise include international adoptions, radicalisation and child death.”
  • “Highly regarded on the children side.” – Chambers & Partners 2019
  • “A talented silk with a keen eye for the details in a case.” – Legal 500 2019
  • “A children law specialist who has a wealth of experience advising on private and public cases. His areas of expertise include international adoptions and child death.”
  • “I wouldn’t hesitate instructing him on children matters.” “For children, he is just out of this planet. He is so impressive.” – Chambers & Partners 2018
  • “He has a rigorous intellect.” – Legal 500 2017
  • “He is thorough and has a calm court manner.” “He finds unusual arguments and angles to cases and uses them very skilfully.” – Chambers & Partners 2017
  • “Very experienced silk in public law child care, with a particular focus on sexual abuse cases and non-accidental injury.”
  • “He is excellent.” – Chambers & Partners 2016
  • “He displays exceptional attention to detail.” – Legal 500 2016
  • “A wonderful silk on complex children matters.” – Legal 500 2015
  • “Karl remains a popular choice for complicated children’s matters, both public and private law. He acts for local authorities, guardians and children, and has a particular focus on cases with complicated medical evidence.”
  • “Calm and unflappable, he identifies even the smallest detail and has extremely intricate technical knowledge.”
  • “A polished advocate with a calming and reassuring demeanour for clients.” – Chambers & Partners (2015)
  • Rowley took silk in 2013, and is well respected for his handling of family law matters. He continues to focus his practice on complex children’s proceedings, both public and private, and has a special interest in medically complicated care cases, foreign adoption and protracted contact cases. Expertise: “He is absolutely brilliant and extremely clever, but despite that he’s very down-to-earth and easy to work with. He’s very accessible for both clients and solicitors.” – Chambers & Partners (2014)
  • “Ridiculously clever, unflappable and a joy to instruct.” – Legal 500 (2014)
  • “An expert in children-related matters. Rowley is a ridiculously intelligent barrister who offers the full package. His advocacy is full of polish and he’s a very bright and confident advocate.” – Chambers & Partners (2013)
  • “Superb childcare practitioner who is able to present unusual perspectives.”
  • “He acts in both publicly and privately funded matters, and cases involving medical evidence are a particular area of interest for him.” – Chambers & Partners (2012)

Professional Memberships:

  • Family Law Bar Association
  • BAAF

Appointments and Qualifications:

  • Recorder (Family & Civil) – 2009
  • Recorder (Crime) – 2012
  • Silk – 2013

Private Law Children and Domestic Abuse

In private law proceedings Karl’s practice has included multifaceted residence applications involving sexual abuse or homicide, protracted contact cases, international relocation, and cases concerning children with special needs.

Reported Cases:

  • Re A & D (Children: Religious Upbringing) [2011] 1 FLR 615 : (2011) PTSR 602: Leading case on s.33(6) Children Act 1989.
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Public Law Care and Adoption

Karl represents local authorities, parents and extended families, and children (whether directly or by their Guardians) in the public law arena. He has appeared at all levels up to and including the Supreme Court and regularly represents parties in the Court of Appeal.

He has a particular interest in cases involving complex medical evidence, including NAHI; alleged bone disease; child death; and purported poisonings. His experience covers applications such as for contact by former parents after the death of adopters; those involving foreign adoption; care cases with international elements; inherent jurisdiction cases concerning proposed medical treatment of minors; and applications to restrict publicity.

Reported Cases:

  • Re H-C (Finding of Fact: Rehearing) [2016] EWFC 48: rehearing of case following Court of Appeal overturning findings against client. Local authority failed to establish case at retrial of smothering and other alleged injury against him.
  • Re K (Children) [2016] EWHC 1606 (Fam): Representing a mother accused of support for ISIS: local authority withdrew its application for care orders as no evidence of radicalisation of children.
  • Re H-C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 136: Acted for the appellants in the Court of Appeal. The Court overturned a finding of fact that a person caused a child’s death and went on to give guidance as to the use of a finding of a lie in family cases.
  • Wigan Borough Council v Fisher & Ors (Rev 1) [2015] EWFC 34 (21 April 2015): A fact finding hearing in respect of the death of a baby who had been shaken.
  • Wigan BC v M and Others (Veracity Assessments) [2015] EWFC 8 (06 February 2015): The use of veracity assessments in cases where children have been ABE interviewed.
  • Wigan Council v M & Ors (Sexual Abuse: Fact-Finding) [2015] EWFC 6 (30 January 2015): A fact finding hearing in respect of exceptionally serious step father and inter sibling sexual abuse.
  • In the matter of X (Children) (No 3)  [2015] EWHC 3651 (Fam): Appearing for a mother accused of attempting to take her children to Syria; the President of the Family Division did not make the central findings sought and the care proceedings were dismissed.
  • Re K-L (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 992: Appeal by mother following a fact-finding hearing to determine allegations against the father. The appeal concerned difficulties including (i) the question as to which effective decision was under appeal and (ii) that there was no order giving effect to the judgment that the mother wished to challenge. Represented mother: appeal succeeded.
  • Re JA (A Minor sub nom (1) An NHS Trust (2) A Local Authority v (1) Mr A (2) Mrs A (3) JA (4) his Children’s Guardian [2015] Med LR 26; [2015] Fam Law 139: HIV+ 14-year-old boy not competent to decide not to take anti-retroviral therapy.
  • Staffordshire County Council v (1) A (2) B (3) C (A Child by his Guardian) (Respondents) & (1) D (2) F (3) F (Interveners) [2010] 3 FCR 7: Parents found not to have inflicted multiple injuries to their child.
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