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: Criminal law, immigration, inquests, judicial review (public law), human rights
Tel: 0161 817 6377

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

Chambers & Partners 2013

"highly admired by peers and clients alike"

Legal 500 2011 (Immigration leading silks - band 2)

"One of the practice's true veterans"

Chambers & Partners 2010

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

Chambers & Partners 2009

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

Chambers & Partners 2008

"Sources recognise him for his work on the overlap between crime and immigration..."

Chambers & Partners 2008


Criminal law

Ian started out in criminal law by doing cases of malpractice for the West Indian Standing Committee in the 1960s and was involved in major political trials during the 1970s and 1980s including the Mangrove Nine , Angry Brigade, Balcombe Street siege, Black parents and students' association cases in London and Manchester, including Jackie Berkeley, Newham Seven, DPP v Rose (HL), Satpal Ram, and the Ordtech (arms to Iraq) appeal case. He has appeared in countless murder and other serious criminal cases, including recent terrorist trials (see recent cases below):

  • R v Mohammed and Others [2010] EWCA Crim 2400 (s. 31 Asylum and Immigration Act 1999 as defence to criminal offence allegedely committed by refugees) judgment
  • R v Husband and Biggs (Jan 2009) ( Another "Baby P" type case ) > read BBC news item
  • Advised Libyan Abdelbaset Ali in his Appeal in the Scottish Courts in the Lockerbie bombing case (2008) > read BBC news item
  • R v Omar Altimimi (2007) (offences under Terrorism Act; first trial in Manchester involving allegations of conduct linked to "Middle Eastern" terrorism) > news story
  • R v Dhiren Barot [2007] EWCA Crim 1119 (April 2007) (leading authority on sentencing of those convicted of the most serious terrorist offences) > judgment read BBC news item
  • Successfully defended Brian Haw in his continuous demonstration outside Parliament (2006) > read BBC news item


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 bookMacdonald's Immigration Law and Practice is now in its 8th edition [updated 2010] 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. He advises football clubs and other sporting bodies as to overseas professional staff. 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.

Ian has recently been instructed to prepare and argue grounds of appeal to the Supreme Court on the issue of posted workers in the EU. He is also presently involved in a criminal trial in which there are issues relating to posted workers and to the effect of a European Directive on the proper ambit and interpretation of the criminal offence of facilitating a breach of immigration law.

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 - 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 Sultan-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)> judgment


Nomination as UK Immigration Advisor of the Year (2014) in the High-Value Immigration Awards 2014

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 case" - 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. > judgment
  • 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 > judgment
  • 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.>judgment
  • 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. > judgment
  • 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 > judgment
  • Secretary of State for the Home Department v JJ & Ors [2006] EWCA Civ 1141 (leading Melanie Plimmer) test action on validity of control orders - A's control order quashed - those of other A's go to House of Lords. (instructed by GMIAU) > news story / judgment
  • R v Leeshue [2006] EWCA Crim 1987 Appeal Against Sentence, Murder, Firearms offences - appeal allowed > judgment
  • 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. > judgment
  • 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 - : Unavailabity of Medical Treatment in Dover docks -Sufficiency of coroner's directions on issue of neglect : Art.2 European Convention On Human Rights > judgment
  • 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 > judgment
  • 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) > judgment
  • 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 - 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 Department'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 - 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 Seciale pour l'Ãtude 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 has was head of chambers here at Garden Court North, since we were established in 1996 until 2013 and he was also 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

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