Conor McCarthy

Call: 2010 | 2016 (Northern Ireland)

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Education

University of Cambridge, PhD (international law, remedies) Harvard University, HKS, (Kennedy Scholar) University of Cambridge, LLM in International Law: 1st Class Hons. Queen’s Belfast: LLB: 1st Class Hons.

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Introduction

“An excellent drafter and an excellent advocate” with a “very impressive background” – Chambers UK 2019

“Very impressive”, “quick, efficient and helpful” – Chambers UK 2018

“Very thorough and compelling” – Chambers UK, 2018

Conor’s practice encompasses public law, civil claims and international law. He is regularly instructed in complex disputes, both public and commercial, across chambers’ core areas of work. He has particular expertise in the areas of competition law, data protection and in claims involving issues of public or private international law or civil liberties.

He has substantial experience of multi-jurisdictional commercial and competition disputes, often being instructed in matters raising issues of jurisdiction, applicable law or international enforcement. He also has expertise in international trade law and sanctions. He has been instructed in cases before both domestic and international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice. He was appointed independent expert to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Hearing on Sanctions.

Prior to coming to the bar, Conor was a fellow of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and taught international law at Cambridge University. He has published widely on issues of international law

  • News
  • Competition, regulatory and commercial

    Conor is instructed in a wide range of cases concerning competition law and commercial regulation. He has acted for claimants, defendants and regulators in matters concerning: cartels; abuse of dominance; the conduct of trade associations; private damages actions; and the enforceability of contractual arrangements in light of competition law requirements and related remedies. He has substantial experience in the fields of jurisdiction, applicable law and the enforcement of foreign judgments. He also has significant knowledge of merger control, having advised the CMA throughout its SKY / Fox merger investigation as well as in connection with a range of other merger inquiries, including Sabre/ Farelogix and Sainsbury’s / Asda.

    He has substantial litigation experience before courts of all levels, including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Competition Appeal Tribunal, all divisions of the High Court as well as the Court of Justice of the EU.

    Conor has been instructed in litigation or advisory work by a wide range of regulators including the CMA, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator, Ofgem, Ofwat and Ofcom. He is often instructed in matters of competition law or commercial regulation raising complex points of public law.

    Cases

    • Sabre v. Competition and Markets Authority: junior counsel to the CMA in challenge to prohibition decision in merger inquiry.
    • Payment Systems Regulator: Advising on a complex cartel investigation.
    • Advanz Pharma Corp v. Competition and Markets Authority [2019] EWHC 1605: junior counsel to Advanz in challenge to lawfulness of procedure of CMA’s investigation into abusive pricing in respect of pharmaceuticals.
    • Dixons Retail Ltd and ors v. MasterCard Incorporated & ors [2020] EWCA CIV 671 (Court of Appeal): junior counsel for Dixons in complex dispute on limitation as part of the interchange fees litigation.
    • Sainsburys v. Competition and Markets Authority: Advising CMA on challenge to CMA’s procedures in Sainsbury’s/ASDA merger.
    • 21st Century Fox/Sky – merger inquiry: Advising the Competition and Markets Authority on a wide range of issues concerning the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky.
    • R (Banks) v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (High Court) (2020): junior counsel for the Secretary of State in a complex state aid challenge concerning the government’s “contracts for difference” scheme to support renewable energy infrastructure in the United Kingdom.
    • R (Tempus Energy) v. Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (High Court) (2019): junior counsel for the Secretary of State in a state aid judicial review concerning the United Kingdom’s energy capacity market.
    • Emerald Supplies Limited v. British Airways and Ors (Air Cargo): Junior Counsel for several hundred corporate claimants in large mutli- jurisdictional damages claim arising from the Air Cargo Cartel.
    • Leeds City Council and others v Samsung Electronics Corporation, High Court, Chancery Division: acting for Claimant and advising on various jurisdictional matters in this follow-on damages claim in respect of the operation of the LCD Cartel.
    • Hyundai Heavy Industries and ors v. British Airways: Junior Counsel for the Claimants in damages claim based on both EU and foreign law.
    • Dixons Retail Limited and another v. MasterCard Incorporated & ors [2015] Comp. A.R. 199: Acting as junior counsel for the Claimant in CAT proceedings, in a claim involving complex issues of private international law jurisdiction and applicable law under both Rome II earlier enactments.
    • David Haigh v. Gulf Finance House Capital Ltd and ors (High Court, QBD): Instructed by Stephenson Harwood in a complex private international law claim in QBD involving issues of jurisdiction, applicable law and the torts of deceit, conspiracy to injury and unlawful means conspiracy.

    Conor has extensive experience of advising businesses and regulators on competition and commercial regulatory issues, including in relation to:

    • regulatory investigations concerning potential breaches of competition law, including by the CMA, PSR and Ofgem.
    • the compatibility and validity of contractual terms with competition law and related questions of remedies.
    • the legal obligations of companies, and other bodies, who hold a dominant market position.
    • complaints to the CMA and European Commission about the conduct of competitors.
    • competition and state aid issues arising from new projects or initiatives from central Government and other public bodies.
    • competition issues relating to trade organisations and industry bodies.
  • Public law and human rights

    Ranked as a leading junior in both public law and human rights, Conor has substantial experience in complex civil claims, or judicial review proceedings, involving public authorities.

    He is often instructed in heavy commercial regulatory, competition or state aid disputes, by companies, regulators or central government.

    He also has significant expertise in matters of data protection and information law (both judicial review and civil claims) as well as in disputes raising questions of international law, including trade law, export control, immunities, human rights, state responsibility, and jurisdictional disputes.

    In the field of human rights, Conor has has appeared before the European Court of Human Rights on many occasions. He also has considerable experience in the use of international mechanisms including the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, individual applications in other UN and regional human rights systems as well as in challenges to Interpol Red Notices.

    Cases

    • R (Elgizouli) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Information Commissioner Intervening) [2020] UKSC 10 (Supreme Court): junior counsel for the Information Commissioner in proceedings concerning information sharing between the United Kingdom and the United States and its compatibility with the Data Protection Act 2018
    • Campaign Against Arms Trade v. Secretary of State for Trade [2019] 1 WLR 5765 (Court of Appeal): Junior Counsel for the Claimant in landmark challenge to the legality of continued licensing of arms and military equipment for export to Saudi Arabia on grounds that weapons may be used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.
    • AK v. Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police (High Court): complex claim against Devon and Cornwall Police for breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, misuse of private information and Article 8, ECHR.
    • R (Banks) v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (High Court): junior counsel for the Secretary of State in a complex state aid challenge concerning the government’s “contracts for difference” scheme to support renewable energy infrastructure in the United Kingdom.
    • R (Tempus Energy) v. Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (High Court): junior counsel for the Secretary of State in a state aid judicial review concerning the United Kingdom’s energy capacity market.
    • Western Saharan Campaign UK v. (1) HMRC and (2) Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (High Court) [2016] 1 C.M.L.R. 36 (and C-266/16 R (O.A.O Western Sahara Campaign UK v. Revenue and Customs Commissioners (Grand Chamber) [2018] 3 C.M.L.R. 15: Junior Counsel for Claimant in challenge to legality of the EU-Morocco Association Agreement and the EU Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement on grounds of incompatibility with public international law obligations of the EU
    • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v G [2017] EWCA Civ 61 (Court of Appeal): Junior counsel for Claimant in landmark case concerning the interpretation and application of the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979.
    • R (on the application of T) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester [2015] A.C. 49 (Supreme Court): Junior counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the Supreme Court in case concerning disclosure of personal information by police.
    • Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales [2015] A.C. 1732 (Supreme Court): Junior Counsel for Welsh Women’s Aid in Supreme Court case concerning scope of protective duty under Article 2, ECHR and also concerning whether the police owe a duty of care in negligence to persons who contact them in an emergency.
    • Belhadj v. Security Service [2015] UKIP Trib 13 132-H (IPT): Junior Counsel for the Claimant in a landmark case concerning the interpretation and application of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the protection under Article 8, ECHR of confidential information, in particular, legally privileged information.
    • Chief Constable of South Wales Police v. Daniels and other (Court of Appeal) [2015] EWCA Civ 680, (led by Stephen Cragg QC), landmark judgment of the Court of Appeal on scope of immunity attaching to participants in legal proceedings.
    • R (On the application of Catt) v. Association of Chief Police Oicers and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2012] EWHC 1042 (Court of Appeal), junior counsel in intervention on behalf of Liberty in judicial review of decision to retain information on national extremism database in reliance on Article 8, ECHR.
    • Girleanu v. Romania, ECtHR, acting alone, represented Guardian News and Media Limited in a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in a case concerning the imposition of sanctions upon a journalist for possession of sensitive information alleged to impinge upon national security.
    • Couderc and Hachette Filipacchi v. France, ECtHR (Grand Chamber): acting alone, represented Media Legal Defence Initiative in an intervention before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR on issues of privacy and free expression.
    • David Haigh v. Gulf Finance House Capital Ltd and ors (High Court, QBD): Instructed by Stephenson Harwood in a complex private international law claim in the QBD involving issues of jurisdiction, applicable law and the torts of deceit, conspiracy to injury and unlawful means conspiracy.
  • Information, data protection, privacy and confidentiality

    Conor is regularly instructed in both private law claims and judicial reivew challenges in the field of information and data protection law, in cases raising issues concerning the retention, exploitation and disclosure of information. He has particular expertise in issues of confidentiality, including the protection of journalistically privileged material and free expression. He also has experience in the field of collective actions.

    He has been instructed in numerous civil claims raising issues of misuse of personal information, confidentiality and data protection, including claims under the DPA and GDPR.

    Cases

    • R (Elgizouli) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Information Commissioner Intervening) [2020] UKSC 10 (Supreme Court): junior counsel for the Information Commissioner in proceedings concerning information sharing between the United Kingdom and the United States and its compatibility with the Data Protection Act 2018
    • Big Brother Watch and others v. the United Kingdom, ECtHR Grand Chamber (2020): counsel for Bureau of Investigative Journalism in challenge to legality of regime in Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 for interception, storage, dissemination and destruction of journalistically privileged information.
    • R. (on the application of T) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester [2015] A.C. 49 (Supreme Court): Junior counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the Supreme Court in case concerning disclosure of personal information by police.
    • AK v. Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police (High Court): counsel in complex claim against Devon and Cornwall Police for breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, misuse of private information and Article 8, ECHR.
    • R (On the application of Catt) v. Association of Chief Police Officers and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (Court of Appeal): intervention on behalf of Liberty in judicial review of decision to retain information on national extremism database, in reliance on Article 8, ECHR.
    • Kupiec v. National Crime Agency and Chief Constable of West Mercia Police: Complex claim arising from the detention and imprisonment of a foreign national wrongly identified as wanted for extradition in a murder case.
    • Sheriff v. HMCTS and Chief Constable of Derbyshire: successful claim against both Defendants in a complex damages action for breach of the DPA, Article 8, ECHR and Article 5, ECHR.
    • Girleanu v. Romania, ECtHR, acting alone, represented Guardian News and Media Limited in a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in a case concerning the imposition of sanctions upon a journalist for possession of sensitive information alleged to impinge upon national security.
    • Couderc and Hachette Filipacchi v. France, ECtHR (Grand Chamber): acting alone, represented Media Legal Defence Initiative in an intervention before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR on issues of privacy and free expression.
    • Belhadj v. Security Service [2015] UKIP Trib 13 132-H (IPT): Junior Counsel for the Claimant in a landmark case concerning the interpretation and application of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the protection under Article 8, ECHR of confidential information, in particular, legally privileged information.
  • Public international law, WTO and investment treaties

    Conor has considerable experience of issues of general international law. He has been instructed in a range of international courts, tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, as well as in arbitral proceedings.

    In the field of human rights, he has considerable experience in cases utilising international mechanisms, including applications to the Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, as well as other UN and regional human rights treaties, including the ECHR where he has appeared on numerous occasions. He has also been instructed in applications for the deletion and removal of Interpol Red Notices.

    As regards international trade law in particular, Conor has experience advising on a range of areas including market access, MFN and national treatment issues, issues of treaty interpretation in the trade context (as well as in the context of a range of other international law disputes). Recent advisory work in the field of trade includes significant advisory work for the Westminster and Welsh Governments on a issues regarding WTO agreements. He is instructed by trade associations as well as companies to advise on issues of trade and export control as well as supply chain obligations and due diligence.

    Prior to coming to the Bar Conor completed a PhD in international law at Cambridge University, where he also taught international law.

    Cases

    • Costa Rica v. Nicaragua (Certain Activities Carried Out By Nicaragua in the Border Area) (Reparation Phase): instructed as junior counsel to Costa Rica in claim for reparation before International Court of Justice arising from, inter alia, environmental harm caused by breach of international obligations by Nicaragua
    • Campaign Against Arms Trade v. Secretary of State for Trade [2019] 1 WLR 5765 (Court of Appeal): Junior Counsel for the Claimant in landmark challenge to the legality of continued licensing of arms and military equipment for export to Saudi Arabia on grounds that weapons may be used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.
    • Western Saharan Campaign UK v. (1) HMRC and (2) Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (High Court) [2016] 1 C.M.L.R. 36 (and C-266/16 R (O.A.O Western Sahara Campaign UK v. Revenue and Customs Commissioners (Grand Chamber) [2018] 3 C.M.L.R. 15: Junior Counsel for Claimant in challenge to legality of the EU-Morocco Association Agreement and the EU Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement on grounds of incompatibility with public international law obligations of the EU
    • David Haigh v. Gulf Finance House Capital Ltd and ors (High Court, QBD): Instructed by Stephenson Harwood in a complex private international law claim in the QBD involving issues of jurisdiction, applicable law and the torts of deceit, conspiracy to injury and unlawful means conspiracy.
    • UK National v. State Official from Middle Eastern State (confidential): Advised the claimant on state immunity in respect of a potential private international law civil claim.
    • Jones v. the United Kingdom, ECtHR: Landmark case before the European Court of Human Rights (Grand Chamber) concerning State immunity and Article 6, ECHR.
    • Zubaydah v. Lithuania, ECtHR: work for Interights in case concerning extraordinary rendition, extraterritorial jurisdiction and torture.
    • Garzon v. Spain, ECtHR: Produced an expert opinion with James Crawford SC on permissibility under international law of application of limitation periods in respect of grave violations of international human rights law.
    • Matua & Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office: the ‘Mau Mau’ litigation, relating to claims for colonial-era ill-treatment in Kenya.
    • Haquim v. Secretary of State for Defence (High Court, Administrative Division): led by Martin Westgate QC, claim relating to the transfer of Afghan detainees from UK custody to Afghan detention.

    Recent advisory work includes:

    • Advice for a trade association in respect of certain public international law trade issues arising from Brexit.
    • Advising a governmental body on certain international law issues in connection with Brexit.
    • Advising a Caribbean State in connection with potential international litigation
  • Private international law

    Conor has considerable expertise of issues of private international law. He regularly advises on private international law claims, particularly in connection with tortious liability, including applicable law, the application of foreign law, jurisdiction, procedural issues arising in such litigation as well as issues arising under Rome II Regulation (EC) No 864/2007. He has advised in relation to such proceedings both inside and outside the EU, including a variety of States in the Middle East.

  • What the directories say

    Administrative and Public Law: “I’d highly recommend him for any judicial review with international elements. He’s one of the few people who really understands this niche area well.” “He provides very thorough, detailed and comprehensive advice.” – Chambers UK, 2020

    Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “A good junior and pleasant to work with.” – Chambers UK, 2020

    Administrative and Public Law: “An excellent drafter and an excellent advocate.” “Has a very impressive background as an academic and is a very good lawyer with substantive knowledge.” Chambers UK, 2019

    Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “An effective human rights lawyer.”Chambers UK, 2019

    Administrative and Public Law: “He is very thorough and compelling.” Chambers UK, 2018

    Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “Very quick, efficient and helpful.” “He is a very impressive international human rights specialist.”Chambers UK, 2018

  • Publications

    Conor has published numerous articles in leading peer reviewed journals on questions of international law, in particular in the areas of remedies in international law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law including pieces in the Journal of International Criminal Justice (Oxford University Press), European Human Rights Law Review (Sweet and Maxwell) and the International Journal of Transitional Justice (Oxford University Press) among others.

    Conor’s book, Reparations and Victim Support in the International Criminal Court (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) explores the ICC’s regime of victim redress and the role it plays within the context of other systems of remedies for grave violations of international law at the national and international levels.

    Conor’s published articles include the following:

    “Victim Redress and International Criminal Justice: Competing Paradigms or Compatible Forms of Justice?”, 10 Journal of International Criminal Justice (2012).

    “What Happens to the Frozen Fortune? The Libya Situation and Claims for Reparation”, 3 European Human Rights Law Review (2011).

    “Reparation for Gross Violations of Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law at the International Court of Justice” in Reparations for Victims of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes: Systems in Place and Systems in the Making, C. Ferstman, M. Goetz and A. Stephens (eds.) (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2009) .

    “Reparations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and Reparative Justice Theory”, 3 International Journal of Transitional Justice 250 (2009).

    “Human Rights and the Laws of War under the American Convention on Human Rights”, 6 European Human Rights Law Review 762 (2008) .

    “Legal Conclusion or Interpretative Process? Lex Specialis and the Applicability of International Human Rights Standards”, in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law: Towards a New Merger in International Law, in N. Quenivet and R. Arnold (eds.) (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008).

    “Legal Reasoning and the Applicability of International Human Rights Standards during Military Occupation”, in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law: Towards a New Merger in International Law, N. Quenivet and R. Arnold (eds.) (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008).

    “The Paradox of the International Law of Military Occupation: Sovereignty and the Occupation of Iraq”, 10 Journal of Conflict and Security Law 43 (2005).

    “Optimal Protection of International Law: Navigating between European Absolutism and American Voluntarism”, Joost Pauwelyn, book review, Irish Yearbook of International Law, 2008 (Oxford: Hart Publications, 2010).
    “International Governance of War-Torn Territories: Rule and Reconstruction”, Richard Caplan, book review, 20 Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict 62 (2007)

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