Barristers / Macdonald QC

Ian Macdonald QC

Call Year: 1963, QC 1988
Qualifications: MA, LLB (Cantab)
Grand Knight of the order of Liberty (Portugal)
Bencher of the Middle Temple
Areas of Practice: Immigration, inquests, judicial review (public law), human rights
Tel: 0161 817 6377

“He is involved in the big, detailed cases on the important points.”

Chambers UK 2016

“An innovator in the field.”

Legal 500 2015

“An incredibly accomplished silk who has a long history of working at the forefront of immigration law, having practised since the 1960s.”

Chambers UK 2015

“The go-to person in extremely complicated cases.”

Legal 500 2014

"His elevation to Senior Statesman status is in recognition of his long-standing contribution to the field of immigration law"

Chambers and Partners 2013

"His personal approach is valued by sources, ...his 'affable, outside the box style endears him to peers and clients alike' "

Chambers and Partners 2009

"[a] reputation for sector-defining work in immigration and race relations"

Chambers and Partners 2008



Ian has been involved with race relations and immigration law since the days of opposition to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. He was a member of a small group of Society of Labour Lawyers and of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) legal group in the 1960s, which helped draft proposals for race relations law in the United Kingdom.

He wrote his first book for Butterworths on immigration and race relations law in 1969. His book   Macdonald's Immigration Law and Practice is now in its 9th edition and is the standard textbook used by immigration practitioners, immigration officials, Adjudicators and Judges.

His immigration practice continues to cover the whole field of immigration law, both court work and advice.  Ian has been instructed in many of the well-known anti-deportation campaign cases and has been counsel, both as junior and as silk, in numerous reported immigration cases from Immigration Appeal Tribunal level up to the House of Lords, and has been to Strasbourg and to the European Court in Luxembourg.

Ian is regularly instructed privately to provide advice and representation in immigration matters, including revocation of sponsorship licenses of educational institutions, the position of students at these colleges, students accused of using a proxy to take their English language tests, loss of sponsorship licences by employers, penalty charges for illegal employment, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and (Investor)  applications, Tier 2 (General) applications by or on behalf of workers and advice to football clubs and other sporting bodies about options for overseas players.

In 1998 he was appointed by the Attorney General as special advocate to the Immigration Appeals Commission dealing with national security cases, and acted in that capacity in both pre and post 9/11 appeals He resigned in December 2004 in protest against the indefinite detention powers without trial imposed by the Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, and has since acted in control order appeals.

Recent cases:

  • Anam v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 1140 (Immigration Detention for mentally ill) > judgment / news story
  • Acting for Liberty (intervener) in RB (Algeria) & Anor v Secretary of State for the Home Department : OO (Jordan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] UKHL 10 (HoL case in December 2008 on memoranda of understanding re alleged terrorists â?? Algerian (linked Abu Qutada case) > judgment
  • Acted for Sultan of Pahang in SS and Others (Sovereign immunity claim - Certificate conclusive) Malaysia [2009] UKAIT 00007 to decide whether the Sultanâ??s security and domestic staff were exempt from immigration control by reason of sovereign immunity (appeal ongoing).
  • Leading counsel in immigration Judicial Review alleging discrimination against Iraqi males within a certain age band in imposing the need to obtain entry clearance (Case settled 2009).
  • Leading counsel in OO v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] EWCA Civ 747; [2008] Imm AR 747 which overruled an earlier line of AIT decisions on consequences of students failing an exam or changing their courses. > judgment
  • Leading counsel in Abdi and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] EWHC 3166 Admin (unlawful detention policy for foreign criminals on release from their prison sentence) > judgment .
  • Counsel for Appellant where Secretary of State for the Home Department tried to use Memorandum of Understanding with China in a non-terrorist context (possible death penalty for corruption (settled in 2008 after protracted appeal and JR proceedings).
  • Private immigration work for appeals and business and commercial advice

Inquests / race relations

Ian has always undertaken inquest work, acting for bereaved families, since the early days of his practice, appearing at St Pancras Coroners' court on an almost weekly basis in the 1960s. In 1981 he represented families of those who had died in the Deptford fire and became famous for riding his bike from the inquest to the High Court to challenge rulings of the coroner. In 1987 he was appointed chair of an inquiry into racial violence in Manchester Schools, following the murder in the playground of 13-year-old Ahmed Ullah by another pupil. His widely proclaimed report was published in book form under the title Murder in the Playground. In 1998 he was leading counsel for Duwayne Brooks in the Lawrence Inquiry, helped to run community self defence on behalf of young Asian clients, who mobilised to resist attacks by racist mobs on their community in Burnley in 2002, and was briefed with Terry Munyard in autumn 2003 on behalf of the Sylvester family in the Inquest into the death under police restraint of the late Roger Sylvester. Recent cases:

  • Ongoing inquest into death of victim shot by police in London which involves undisclosable secret information, which may make it impossible to hold an Article 2 (ECHR) compatible inquest.
  • Counsel for family following restraint death in Prestwich regional secure hospital in Greater Manchester

Public law (judicial review)

Undertakes judicial review work relating to immigration, prison law and other civil and criminal law cases. Recent cases:

  • Lexi Holdings Plc v Luqman & Ors [2008] EWHC 151 (Ch) (15 January 2008) (release on temporary licence; conviction for contempt of court; PSO 6300) 


Senior Statesman: Immigration: London "Ian Macdonald QC is the author of key immigration practitioners' textbooks. His elevation to Senior Statesman status is in recognition of his long-standing contribution to the field of immigration law ." Chambers & Partners 2013 more

Leading Silk: Immigration and Nationality "...highly admired by peers and clients alike" Legal 500 2011, Immigration leading silks - band 2 more

Leading Silk: Immigration "Ian Macdonald QC's practice encompasses the full range of immigration law, and he has appeared in numerous reported immigration cases in the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and the House of Lords. One of the practice's true veterans, he authored a leading textbook in the sector, and has been involved in immigration and race relations since he was called to the Bar." more

Leading Silk: Immigration "Ian Macdonald QC's tremendous reputation for work across the immigration and race relations sector is assured not only through his efforts in court, but also by dint of the fact that he authored the leading textbook on immigration. His personal approach is valued by sources, who comment that his "affable, outside the box style endears him to peers and clients alike". Macdonald's varied practice covers the full gamut of immigration advice and representation, from defending alleged terrorists to advising sporting bodies on the procurement of overseas staff" - Chambers & Partners 2009.

Leading Silk: Immigration and Nationality "Ian Macdonald QC is strong on the racial relation aspects of immigration, with expertise on high-profile anti-deportation campaign cases." - Legal 500, 2008

Leading Silk: Immigration "Ian Macdonald QC's reputation for sector-defining work in immigration and race relations is assured through his authorship of the leading immigration textbook and his long-term influence on the sector through his own case law. Sources recognise him for his work on the overlap between crime and immigration, noticing his work defending alleged terrorists and appearing on control order appeals in the British and European high courts." - Chambers & Partner 2008

Reported cases

RB (Algeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] UKHL 10 (18 February 2009) - instructed by Liberty (Interveners). SIAC deportation orders, Article 3, Article 5 and Article 6 ECHR, validity of memoranda of understanding. 

SS and Others (Sovereign immunity claim - Certificate conclusive) Malaysia [2009] UKAIT 00007 (11/02/2009) Where an appellant claims State immunity a certificate issued by the Secretary of State under s.21 of the State Immunity Act is conclusive and may not be questioned by the Tribunal 

Abdi & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] EWHC 3166 (Admin) (19 December 2008) - validity of a Government policy relating to the detention of FNPs pending their deportation from the United Kingdom and whether their detention was thereby unlawful > judgment

Obed and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] EWCA Civ 543, which overruled an earlier line of AIT decisions on consequences of students failing an exam or changing their courses

BP (DP3/96, Unmarried Partners) Macedonia [2008] UKAIT 00045 (28 February 2008). Where DP3/96) was complemented by a parallel concession relating to persons in a relationship akin to marriage, persons should not be removed, if they can show that thy have met the requirement of 2 years in a relationship akin to marriage even if for part of that period the couple were married. 

Lexi Holdings Plc v Luqman & Ors [2008] EWHC 151 (Ch) (15 January 2008)- temporary licence for Prisoners in contempt of court - Prison Service Order 6300 invalid. 

R v Barot (Dihren) [2007] EWCA Crim 1119; The Times 23/05/2007 Appeal against sentence in a major terrorist trial - appeal allowed - appropriate minimum term set by the Court - Section 58 Terrorism Act 2000 

Secretary of State for the Home Department v JJ & Ors [2006] EWCA Civ 1141 (leading Melanie Plimmer) test action on validity of control orders 

R v Leeshue [2006] EWCA Crim 1987 Appeal Against Sentence, Murder, Firearms offences - appeal allowed 

R v Makuwa [2006] EWCA Crim 175 [2006] 2 Cr App R 11 Successful Appeal against Conviction by asylum seeker, entering UK with false document - effect on prosecution of Art 33 Refugee Convention and s 31 of Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. 

R (On The Application Of Pekkelo) v HM Coroner For Central & South East Kent (2006) [2006] EWHC 1265 (Admin) Asylum Seeker gets gangrene while hidden in back of lorry travelling to UK - : Unavailability of Medical Treatment in Dover docks -Sufficiency of coroner's directions on issue of neglect : Art.2 European Convention On Human Rights 

N v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] UKHL 31 [2005] 2 AC 296 [2005] 2 WLR 1124 where HL laid down the test for the removal from the UK of a seriously or terminally ill person.

R (On The Application Of Borak) v Secretary Of State For The Home Department (2005) [2005] EWCA Civ 110 Asylum Seekers : Certification under s.96(2) Nationality Immigration And Asylum Act 2002 in respect of a previously determined asylum appeal - proper approach to applications on same facts under ECHR Art. 3 and the Refugee Convention 

Brakat (Halliday Reeves) (R on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2003) CO/52/2003 should an asylum seeker who is deemed eligible for work permit by Work Permits UK be given leave to remain? (Case settled in favour of A)

Canaj v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Vallaj v A Special Adjudicator [2001] EWCA Civ 782 [2001] INLR 342 Judicial Review Kosovan Albanians- protection for refugee purposes could be provided by a UN interim administration (UNMIK) and NATO troops acting in place of the authorities of the state of nationality (FRY) 

Sylvester (R on the application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2001] EWHC Admin 442 - Administrative Court hold that inquest into a death following police restraint should take place before any criminal trial. IM was leading counsel at the inquest, where a verdict of unlawful killing was returned by the jury, but this was overturned on judicial review

Dr Mahmood Hossain v General Medical Council (2001) [2001] UKPC 40health â?? PC overturn finding of Serious Professional Misconduct against a GP > judgment

R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Isiko [2001] INLR 109, CA , Deportation and respect for family life- Wednesbury approach to Secretary of State for the Home Departmentâ??s assessment of proportionality under ECHR Art 8.2 adopted by CA.

R v Lambert (Steven) (2) Ali (Mudassir Mohammed) (3) Jordan (Shirley) [2001] 2 W.L.R. 211, CA. - The Court of Appeal held that the requirement under section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 for an accused to establish the defence of diminished responsibility on a charge of murder is not incompatible with the presumption of innocence under ECHR Article 6(2).

R v SSHD ex p B [2000] INLR, CA.

R v SIAC ex p Rahman [2000] All ER, CA.

R v SSHD ex p Shingara, CA [1999] INLR.

R v Chairman of Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, ex parte (1) Neil A'Court (2) Jamie A'Court (3) David Morris (4) Luke Knight (5) Gary Dobson (1998) QBD 18/6/98 criminal law - criminal evidence â?? discrimination - s.49(1) police act 1996 : limit to scope of questions : inquiry : questions incidental to a true issue

Rafiq v SSHD, CA [1998].

R v SSHD ex p Chavrimootoo, CA [1997] Imm AR.

Shingara (Free movement of persons) [1997] EUECJ C-65/95

Abdi & Gawe v SSHD, HL [1996] Imm AR.

Ravichandran v SSHD, CA [1996] Imm AR.

Phull v SSHD, CA [1996] Imm AR, Kabba v SSHD, CA [1998] Imm AR.

R v SSHD ex p Gardian QBD [1996] Imm AR.

Publications / Articles and Media comment

2/10/12 - UK's rejection of Afghan interpreter asylum bid (BBC Newsnight)

21/11/11 - Dereci (European citizenship) case commentary

21/7/11 - "Exploitation" in the context of the offence of trafficking (Lexis Nexis Current Awareness)

Macdonald's Immigration Law and Practice (8th ed, 2010) with Ronan Toal and other members of the immigration team in Chambers
New Nationality Law with Nicholas Blake (1984)
Race Relations: The New Law (1977);
Race Relations and Immigration Law (1969);
The Land Commission Act 1967 (co-author);
Resale Price Maintenance (1964);
Ian is on the editorial board of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law and was former consultant editor of Butterworth's Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents; and Nationality and Immigration.
Ian has written numerous articles on (inter alia) immigration, counter terrorism, race and employment law for New Law Journal, IDS Brief Supplements, Oxford Economic Law Review, Race & Class Today, the national media, Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law and for journals in Canada and the United States.

Other Activities

British Representative on the Commission Speciale pour l'Etude des Lois Anti-trust (1963-65)
Member of the Commission of inquiry into the disappearance of General Delgado (1965)
Member of the legal committee on inquiry into student sit-ins at Manchester University (1971), Member of independent trade union committee of inquiry into events on the right-to-work march on Friday 19 March 1976,
Chairman of inquiry into racial violence in Manchester schools - Murder in the Playground (1988).

Professional Associations

Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (President since 1984), Administrative Law Bar Association, Bar European Group and Criminal Bar Association.


Ian was born in Glasgow and remains committed to his Scottish heritage. Friends went to the Scottish Bar and prospered, but apart from reading for the English Bar in the Faculty of Advocates' Library in Edinburgh, and being in a Swiss law firm in Geneva, he has so far stuck to the English Bar, where he has built up a very successful criminal and immigration practice.

Ian started life at the Bar in a very establishment set, specialising in local government and planning law, and had done a bit of teaching at what is now Kingston University. Then he heard of a zany bunch of young radicals who had set up shop in Lincoln's Inn just after finishing pupillage, and rushed to join them. Thus began Garden Court in 1974. Ian was joint head of Garden Court Chambers (London) with Owen Davies, until he relinquished the baton in 2002.


French (fluent), some Spanish.

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Ian Macdonald QC

Name: Ian Macdonald QC
Call Year: 1963, QC 1988

  What's New?  

GCN barristers present PLP "How to JR"

Matt Stanbury presents "JR for criminal practitioners" Sheffield Law Soc

25/1/16 SSHD failure to apply own policy to Victim of Trafficking

5/1/16 Important statelessness JR (Semeda)

5/1/16 GCN members elected to BHRC Exec Committee

GCN Criminal Law Update December 2015

18/12/15 GCN remains totally committed to first class representation through legal aid

17/12/15 Permission granted in trafficking JR

16/12/15 Natalie Wilkins reports on GCN Family Rights seminar series in  Family Law

15/12/15 Gary Willock on caselaw re delay in obtaining Legal Aid and court deadlines

12/12/15 Appeal of decision that Extension of Workers Registration Scheme 2009 was unlawful now listed for Feb 2017

11/12/15 Court of Appeal quashes extended sentence and finding of dangerousness

1/12/14 Zimran Samuel speaks about FGM at Family Law Conference 2015

23/11/15 Sentence reduced (serious health problems and delays in proceedings)

12/11/15 GCN Housing Bulletin: serious disrepair and injunctions

3/11/15 Chambers UK Bar Guide ranks GCN in Band 1 for "Administrative and Public Law" and "Civil Liberties and Human Rights"

Tom Royston speaking at CPAG Genuine Prospects of Work seminar on 30.11.15

30/10/15 Transgender prisoners - Matt Stanbury on how the MoJ is disregarding its own policy

26/10/15 Successful out of time appeal in unlawful extended sentence

Anti-Slavery Day event: Current issues affecting victims of Trafficking 22.10.15

21/10/15 Vijay Jagadesham on proposed Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Jamaica

30/9/15 Acquittal in Operation Pallial (North Wales Enquiry) historic allegations case

28/9/15 Immigration FTT recognizes appellant as Victim of Trafficking (VOT)

24/9/15 Immigration FTT relies on Trafficking JR and grants asylum to VOT

17/9/15 Legal 500 recommends 2015; Counsel "easy to work with and quickly engage"; Clerks "consistently very helpful"

11/9/15 Zimran Samuel obtains FGM Protection Order to safeguard 13 year old taken to Sudan

9/9/15 Ben McCormack Court of Protection talk for YLAL North

24/8/15 "Bedroom tax" appeal dates set (Rutherford)

19/8/15 Mark George QC responds to HHJ Clayson Practice Note

Mark George QC Amicus US Death Penalty Training in Oct 2015

24//7/15 GCN crime team on direct action

22/7/15 Zimran Samuel obtains second ever FGM Protection Order  

21/7/15 Baby boy's injuries caused by bone disorder not violence  

14/7/15 GCN crime team support Rally to Save Criminal Legal Aid

30/6/15 GCN crime team "It's time we took action"

12/6/15 Mark George QC on IPCC Orgreave report

10/6/15 Kate Stone to chair PLP "Private Law for Public Law Practitioners" on 24.6.15

8/6/15 Nealon and Hallam: miscarriage of justice compensation claims dismissed

4/6/15 Is Canal and River Trust entitled to have same approach applied to Art 8 defences as landlords of social housing?  

Tom Royston speaking at CPAG seminar "Localisation of Social Security" on 8.6.15

Lucy Mair speaking at "Contemporary Issues in Refugee Law" 7.7.15 (Lancaster)

28/5/15 Lucy Mair discusses Eve Ensler's "Avocado" human trafficking monologue

27/5/15 GCN supports action by Northern Ireland Bar

27/5/15 Lucy Mair on trafficking JR (Free Movement)

13/5/15 Abuse of process argument succeeds in prosecution under common law where statutory offence would also apply

Haldane "Child Sex Abuse Inquiry" Lecture panel feat. Pete Weatherby QC 21.5.15

Pete Weatherby QC speaking at Prisoners' Advice Service annual panel discussion 19.5.15

20/4/15 Matt Stanbury on Bad News for Good Character

20/3/15 Sex Offender Notification Reviews Guidance

4/3/15 Joe Markus appointed to Equality and Human Rights Commission Panel of Counsel

26/2/15 S222 injunction to restrain begging in Leeds City Centre discharged by High Court

23/2/15 Prisoner adjudication decision quashed

16/2/15 Extension of Workers Registration Scheme was unlawful; EU workers

13/2/15 Rory O'Ryan appointed as Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge

5/2/15 Zimran Samuel contributes to "Now That You Know Say NO To FGM" short film

27/1/15 Permission granted in homelessness affordability appeal

19/1/15 Victor Nealon - refusal of compensation for miscarriage of justice

13/1/15 Kate Stone on Human Rights and Arms Trade Treaty

5/1/15 GCN move to Blackfriars House profiled in M.E.N

15/12/14 Gudanaviciene (exceptional funding)   

10/12/14 Pete Weatherby QC and Vijay Jagadesham in Landmark Supreme Court decision on ISP Prisoners

5/12/14 UT decision on Bereavement Benefits and telephone marriage

24/11/14 Natalie Wilkins "New immigration tribunal procedure rules" (Free Movement blog)

13/11/14 Permission to appeal granted in benefits case

12/11/14 Joseph Markus and Natalie Wilkins join chambers

11/11/14 Successful exceptional funding application

3/11/14 Chambers UK 2015 recommends GCN in Band 1   

28/10/14 Inquest finds failures in prison mental health services

10/10/14 Pete Weatherby QC wins Legal 500 Regional Silk Award 2014

9/10/14 Zimran Samuel wins Family Law Junior Barrister of the Year 2014

3/10/14 Clerks  "first class " in Legal 500 2014

26/9/14 Legal Aid, Labour and a 'manifesto for hope'