Sarah Fraser Butlin

Year of Call: 2005

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Clinical Negligence | Discrimination & Equality | Employment | Human Rights | Personal Injury | Professional Discipline


"She's phenomenally able." "She's a good advocate: persuasive, clear and cogent." Chambers & Partners 2021

“Very bright and technically able. Very strong on quantum and an excellent member of the team at conferences and roundtable settlement meetings. A breath of fresh air.” Legal 500 2021


Sarah Fraser Butlin has a wealth of experience as an employment and clinical negligence specialist. She brings a rare combination of an excellent client manner, strong intellect and meticulous preparation to her cases.

In the employment field this year, Sarah has been instructed in numerous high profile worker status cases: junior counsel in the high profile joint employer cases of Cordant and University of London v IWGB, junior counsel in Dewhurst v CitySprint and the ongoing litigation against CitySprint in O'Eachtiarna v CitySprint, and sole counsel in whistleblowing case of McTigue v United Hospitals Bristol.

Sarah is one of very few barristers who has particular expertise in trade union matters, regularly appearing before the Central Arbitration Committee and advising on recognition and information and consultation duties. Most recently she appeared in the Princes Group matter relating to TICE duties.
Sarah is in high demand particularly for complex multi-day discrimination cases. She is regularly instructed by Universities and numerous NHS Trusts in their high profile employment disputes, both in trial and as an internal investigator. Sarah is known for her strong cross examination and exceptional analytical abilities in her appellate work. Highlights this year include advising in Percy v Christ Church Oxford; acting as junior counsel for a large investment bank in a substantial pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim; and undertaking a lengthy grievance investigation for a top tier University.

Sarah is Chair of the Industrial Law Society. She has given evidence of the Parliamentary Cross Party Working Group on Independent Complaints. She was invited to speak on Radio 4's Unreliable Evidence in May 2015 discussing the Gender Pay Gap, with approximately 1.6million listeners. Sarah is on the ELA Briefing Editorial Board and reviews articles for the Industrial Law Journal.
Sarah is also Fellow of Selwyn College Cambridge and Affiliated Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, on which see:

In her clinical negligence practice, Sarah acts solely for claimants. She covers the full range of claims, as both sole counsel and junior counsel being led by a variety of silks in and out of chambers. Sarah's experience ranges from high-value cerebral palsy brain injury claims, spinal injury cases, to claims including: delayed diagnosis of cancer; negligent abdominal surgery; gynaecological injury; dental negligence; and ophthalmic injury claims.

Sarah also has considerable experience of a full range of quantum issues. She is instructed regularly by top firms and is known for her empathetic approach and strong grasp of the minutiae in a case.
Sarah is currently instructed as Junior Counsel to the Infected Blood Inquiry, described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

She regularly undertakes inquest work and has had notable recent success in obtaining orders for reports to prevent future deaths.


Chambers & Partners 2021: "She's phenomenally able." "She's a good advocate: persuasive, clear and cogent."

Legal 500 2021: “Very bright and technically able. Very strong on quantum and an excellent member of the team at conferences and roundtable settlement meetings. A breath of fresh air.”

Legal 500 2020: "She is extremely detailed in her work, but able to provide clear advice in complex cases."

Legal 500 2018: "Excellent with clients and at getting to grips with complex issues."

Chambers & Partners 2018: "Widely recognised for her specialist expertise within the field of clinical negligence, representing claimants in all manner of cases. She has appeared in a number of birth injury claims." "Very thorough." "Incredibly bright but also really personable and a team player. She really knows her stuff."

Legal 500 2014: "A very capable barrister, with a keen legal mind."

Chambers & Partners 2014: "..noted for her strength at appellate level, and is recognised for her strong grasp of the technical minutiae in a case. She is very bright, client-friendly and excellent at cross-examination."

Senior Associate, Pinsent Masons: "both an outstanding advocate and a barrister with immense client skills. Instantly likeable, Sarah is pragmatic and robust while having an excellent legal mind."


Sarah was appointed a Recorder in 2018 (Criminal and Civil).

Sarah is Chair of the Industrial Law Society.

She is also a member of the Editorial Board for the ELA Briefing and a member of ELBA.

She regularly undertakes work under the ELAAS scheme at the Employment Appeal Tribunal and through the Bar Pro Bono Unit.


Sarah is a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge and an Affiliated Lecturer in Labour law at the University of Cambridge. She writes extensively and recently gave expert evidence to the Cross Party Working Group on Independent Complaints, discussing sexual harassment and grievance processes. In 2015 she appeared on Radio 4's Unreliable Evidence discussing the Gender Pay Gap.

Recent highlight publications (Employment and discrimination):

• Cakes in the Supreme Court: Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and Others [2019] 78 CLJ 280-283
• Beyond Employment Tribunals: Enforcement of Employment Rights by EU-8 Migrant Workers [2018] ILJ 226-262
• Free Movement v. Fair Movement: Brexit and managed migration [2018] 55 CML Rev 203-226
• Worker status and vicarious liability, Cambridge University Law Faculty working paper, 21/2018.
• The CJEU confused over religion, [2017] CLJ 246.
• "Are Litigation and Collective Bargaining Complements or Substitutes for Achieving Gender Equality? A Study of the British Equal Pay Act" co-author, (2015) 39 (2) Cambridge Journal of Economics 381-403, highlighted by The Independent on 21 April 2015.
• The missed opportunity of Preston v Methodist Conference, (2014) ILJ 485.
• The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Does the Equality Act 2010 Measure Up to UK International Commitments? [2011] ILJ 428, 40th Anniversary Edition on Equality.

Recent highlight publications (Clinical negligence):

• "Failed Sterilisation and Similar Mishaps" and "Congenital Disabilities" chapters, Lewis on Clinical Negligence, 7th edn.
• Clinical Negligence and Article 8 - pushing the boundaries? Clinical Risk, May 2011.
• Reverse Indemnities: Friend or Foe? Clinical Risk, January 2008
• The Personal Injury section of Bullen and Leake
For a full publication list, see:


MA (Cantab)

(1* in Labour Law)



• IWGB v Cordant and University of London: junior counsel in "joint employer" claim before the CAC, discussed in the Guardian. [2019] EWHC 728 (Admin)
• Gunny v HCA: junior counsel in complex group contract worker status appeal.
• Dewhurst v CitySprint: junior counsel in high profile cycle courier worker status claim, discussed in the Guardian.
• McTigue v University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust [2016] ICR 1155; [2016] IRLR 742. Sole counsel. Important appeal before Simler P dealing with the extended definition of worker in whistleblowing claims.
• Morrissey v University of London [2016] ICR 893; [2016] IRLR 487. Meaning of to "elect or appoint" negotiating representatives in Regulation 14 ICE Regs.
• Ibarz v University of Sheffield UKEAT/0018/15. Sole counsel in successful appeal dealing with the meaning of series of similar acts under the Fixed Term Employees Regulations and Part Time Workers Regulations. In addition, successfully persuading the EAT that Goldwater v Sellafield [2015] IRLR 381 was wrongly decided and thus recovered fees paid by a union.
• GMB v Henderson [2016] EWCA Civ 1049 and [2015] IRLR 451. Successfully responding to appeal in the EAT and CA concerning political belief and burden of proof. Very high profile matter involving Prime Minister's Question Time.


• Junior Counsel to the Infected Blood Inquiry. Led by Jenni Richards QC.
• Zeromska Smith v United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust [2019] EWHC 552 and 980. High value psychiatric claim following negligent still birth. Junior counsel.
K: Inquest dealing with the failure to recognise occlusion of a prosthetic mitral valve arising out of the deceased's pregnancy and under anti-coagulation. Following submissions, a Report to Prevent Future Deaths was made.
• Various women v Frimley Health: a number of high profile claims dealing with negligent treatment by Urogynaecologist.
• Ketley v Hull and East Yorks NHS Trust – unlawful killing claim following extubation involving Articles 2 and 8, successful settlement.
• ENE - successful settlement of hypoxic brain injury claim for £8million; junior to Patricia Hitchcock QC.
• ETS - successful settlement of cerebral palsy claim for £8.1million; junior to Simon Taylor QC.
• Z - successful settlement of cerebral palsy claim for over £9 million; junior to Simeon Maskrey QC.
• Claim for failure to treat wet macular degeneration - successful settlement for 82 year old woman for £122,000.
• Cerebral palsy claim arguing for the extension of the duty of care to provide an effective remedy for an Article 8 breach.


• Bains v. Moore & K2 (2017) High Court action, alleged breach of privacy and confidence by an 'industrial spy'.
• Cedric Slack & Partners Ltd (in liquidation) v Slack [2010] EWCA Civ 204 – responding to appeal regarding constructive trusts and laches.