Nikolaus Grubeck

Call: 2010

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Education

LLM (Harvard Law School); BA Law (Exeter College, Oxford)

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Introduction

“Really sharp and insightful, with both legal depth and clear strategic thinking, and he’s really good on his feet.”
Chambers UK, 2020

“He drafts beautifully and has a really good tactical sense of what works.” – Chambers UK, 2019

“Very intelligent, extremely friendly and easy to work with.” – Chambers UK, 2018

“Technically one of the most gifted barristers that I have come across, he’s absolutely meticulous.” – Chambers UK, 2017

Nikolaus has a busy practice spanning public & regulatory, civil and international law. He acts regularly in high-profile litigation, both in commercial and human rights matters. He has particular expertise in complex public law cases, competition law, data protection, and in claims involving issues of national security, armed conflict and international relations.

Nikolaus is a member of the Attorney General’s Public International Law C Panel of Counsel to the Crown and a former judicial assistant to Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury. Before coming to the bar, Nikolaus worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and Sudan. He was selected as one of “The Hot 100” in The Lawyer in 2017 and has been instructed in several of The Lawyer’s Top 20 cases of recent years.

  • News
  • Public & regulatory

    Consistently ranked as a leading junior in the legal directories, Nikolaus has a wide-ranging public and regulatory practice. He appears for and advises claimants and defendants, including individuals, companies, central government, regulators, local authorities, and public interest groups.

    He has particular expertise in major commercial public law and regulatory disputes, often with a competition angle, as well as in claims involving human rights and international law issues.

    Cases

    Recent and ongoing work includes:

    • Sainsbury v Competition and Markets Authority – Successful challenge to the fairness of the CMA’s procedures in the Sainsbury’s/ASDA merger [2019] CAT 1.
    • Royal Mail v Ofcom – Acted for Ofcom in an appeal against a fine imposed under its competition powers [2019] CAT 19.
    • R (Campaign Against Arms Trade) v Secretary of State for International Trade – Representing the interveners Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Rights Watch (UK) in a challenge to the licensing of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia [2019] EWCA Civ 1020.
    • R (OmegaFlex) v British Standards Institution & R (Ventcroft) v British Standards Institution – Acting for The British Standards Institution, the UK’s national standards body, in two separate judicial review claims concerning the setting and withdrawal of product standards.
    • R (PICAT) v Attorney General – Acted for the Attorney General in a challenge to the UK’s policy on the nuclear deterrent.
    • Independent Review of the Redress Scheme for Interest Rate Hedging Products (IRHP) – Junior Counsel to the Independent Reviewer, assisting in his investigation of the Financial Conduct Authority’s approach to, implementation and oversight of the IRHP Redress Scheme.
    • PHS v Competition and Markets Authority – Challenge concerning remedies in the Rentokil/Cannon merger.
    • R (BID) v Cabinet Office – Judicial review of the Government’s procurement policy in respect of whether G4S should be designated a ‘high risk’ supplier following abuses in immigration detention facilities.
    • R (Ul Haq) v Walsall – Claim under Article 9 ECHR regarding the burial arrangements in a Muslim cemetery [2019] EWHC 70 (Admin).
    • R (Actegy Ltd) v Advertising Standards Authority – Acted for the Advertising Standards Agency in a successful defence of a challenge to a ruling that an advertisement for a medical device contained claims that were unsubstantiated and misleading [2019] EWHC 2374 (Admin).
    • R (Coulter) v Independent Press Standards Organisation – The first judicial review claim against the independent press regulator IPSO [2018] EWHC 1017 (Admin).
    • Sharkproject v Marine Stewardship Council – Challenge to a scheme certifying fisheries as ‘sustainable’.
    • R (British American Tobacco & ors.) v Secretary of State for Health – Judicial review by several major tobacco companies, seeking the or the annulment of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. Court of Appeal: [2016] EWCA Civ 1182; High Court: [2016] EWHC 1169 (Admin) & [2016] ETMR 38.
    • Wang Yam v Attorney General / R (Wang Yam) v Central Criminal Court – Challenge regarding the power of the UK to restrict individuals from bringing secret material before the European Court of Human Rights. Supreme Court: [2015] UKSC 76; [2016] AC 771.
    • British Telecommunications Plc v Office of Communications (WMO) – “Pay TV litigation”: Acted for BT in an appeal against Ofcom’s decision to remove the Wholesale Must Offer (WMO) Obligation, which required Sky to provide its premium sports channels to competitors on a wholesale basis at a regulated price. [2016] CAT 25 (substantive) and [2016] CAT 1 (confidentiality ring).
    • R (Hotak and AL) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Secretary of State for Defence and the Attorney General – Representing locally employed staff serving the UK Government in Afghanistan in a discrimination challenge alleging that the protection and benefits offered to them remain more limited than what was offered to comparably placed staff in Iraq. [2016] EWCA Civ 438, [2016] 1 WLR 3791; [2015] EWHC 1953 (Admin).
    • Evangelou v McNicol and The Labour Party – Claim concerning the right of recent members of the Labour Party to vote in the party leadership election. [2016] EWHC 2058 (QB).
    • R (AI and XH) v Secretary of State for the Home – Judicial review claim challenging the Secretary of State’s decision purporting to withdraw the Claimants’ passports under the Royal Prerogative. Court of Appeal judgment pending [2016] EWHC 1898 (Admin), [2016] ACD 117.
    • Maxter Catheters SAS v Medicina Ltd. – Jurisdictional dispute regarding the proper application of Article 30 of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 (the Judgments Regulation) in the context of a claim concerning a medical devices distribution agreement. [2015] EWHC 3076 (Comm), [2016] 1 WLR 349.
    • R (O) v Secretary of State for International Development – Judicial review of DFID’s failure properly to investigate the apparent use of UK aid money for human rights abuses in Ethiopia. [2014] EWHC 2371 (QB).
    • R (GC and C) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis – A decision of the Supreme Court that a blanket policy allowing the continued retention of DNA and fingerprint data by the police was unlawful. [2011] UKSC 21, [2011] 1 WLR 1230.
    • Acting and advising in a range of sanctions cases, including individual delisting applications, e.g. in respect of the Iran, Iraq, Libya and terrorism sanctions regimes.
  • Competition

    Nikolaus’s acts in a range of major competition cases, including antitrust investigations, merger approvals, challenges to regulatory decisions, and damages actions. He has significant expertise in cross-jurisdictional claims and benefits from his technical public law knowledge and his extensive litigation experience in the appellate Courts. Nikolaus also has particular experience in the field of merger control, being instructed in many key mergers in recent years, such as Comcast/Sky; Sainsbury’s/Asda; Stars/Sky Betting and Gaming; Rentokil Initial/Cannon Hygiene; and HID Global/De La Rue.

    He is a contributing author of Bellamy & Child “European Union Law of Competition” (8th Edition).

    Nikolaus acts for regulators, private companies, and classes of claimants.

    Cases

    Recent and ongoing work includes:

    • Trucks competition damages litigation – Acting for DAF Trucks.
    • Royal Mail v Ofcom – Acted for Ofcom in an appeal against a fine imposed under its competition powers [2019] CAT 19; [2019] Cat 27; [2020] CAT 2.
    • Sainsbury v Competition and Markets Authority – Successful challenge to the fairness of the CMA’s procedures in the Sainsbury’s/ASDA merger [2019] CAT 1.
    • T-38/11 Cathay Pacific v European Commission – Acting for Cathay Pacific in the air cargo surcharges appeal. [2016] 4 CMLR 7.
    • PHS v Competition and Markets Authority – Challenge concerning remedies in the Rentokil/Cannon merger.
    • R (Actegy Ltd) v Advertising Standards Authority [2019] EWHC 2374 (Admin) – Advising on competition points raised in the context of a challenge to an Advertising Standards Authority ruling.
    • Advising in a range of mergers, including Comcast/Sky; Sainsbury’s/Asda; Stars/Sky Betting and Gaming; Rentokil Initial/Cannon Hygiene; and HID Global/De La Rue.
    • Advising in various competition investigations.
    • British Telecommunications Plc v Office of Communications (WMO) – “Pay TV litigation”: Acting for BT in an appeal against Ofcom’s decision to remove the Wholesale Must Offer (WMO) Obligation, which required Sky to provide its premium sports channels to competitors on a wholesale basis at a regulated price. [2016] CAT 25 (substantive) and [2016] CAT 1 (confidentiality ring).
  • Civil liberties & human rights

    Ranked as a leading junior, Nikolaus represents and advises individuals, companies, public interest groups, and government bodies in a wide range of high-profile human rights cases, including public and private law claims in the domestic courts as well as cases before international courts and bodies.

    He has particular expertise in matters involving issues of national security, armed conflict and international relations and regularly deals with complex and sensitive claims against the police, military and security and intelligence services.

    Cases

    Recent and ongoing work includes:

    • R (Campaign Against Arms Trade) v Secretary of State for International Trade – Acting for the interveners Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Rights Watch (UK) in a challenge to the licensing of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia [2019] EWCA Civ 1020.
    • Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence & Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Damages claim arising out of the UK’s role in the Claimant’s capture to Iraq and subsequent rendition to a US base in Afghanistan where he was detained for some eight years. Supreme Court: [2017] UKSC 1 and [2017] UKSC 3; [2019] EWHC 3172 (QB).
    • R (BID) v Cabinet Office – Judicial review of the Government’s procurement policy in respect of whether G4S should be designated a ‘high risk’ supplier following abuses in immigration detention facilities.
    • AW v United Kingdom – Acting for the Claimant in an ECtHR challenge to the compatibility of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 with Article 8 ECHR.
    • R (Ul Haq) v Walsall MBC – Challenge under Article 9 ECHR regarding the burial arrangements in a Muslim cemetery [2019] EWHC 70 (Admin).
    • R (Coulter) v Independent Press Standards Organisation – The first judicial review challenge of the independent press regulator IPSO [2018] EWHC 1017 (Admin).
    • Abdule v Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Damages claim concerning alleged collusion by the UK intelligence services in the torture and unlawful detention of a British national in Somalia [2018] EWHC 3594 (QB).
    • Dixon v Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trusts – Acting for the relatives of a man attacked and murdered by another patient while in NHS care.
    • Rabbani v DPP – A Case Stated appeal by the international director of the campaign organisation Cage, following his conviction for a terrorist offence after refusing to hand over passwords to his mobile phone and laptop during a Schedule 7 stop [2018] EWHC 1156 (Admin).
    • Mohammed v Ministry of Defence – Test litigation challenging the extent of the UK’s power to detain individuals captured by British forces in Afghanistan. Supreme Court: [2017] UKSC 1 and [2017] UKSC 2; Court of Appeal: [2015] EWCA Civ 843, [2016] 2 WLR 247; High Court: [2014] EWHC 1369 (QB).
    • Stewart v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – 3 ½ week jury trial in the High Court regarding claims for multiple incidents of false imprisonment, assault, trespass and breaches of Article 8 ECHR .
    • Wang Yam v Attorney General / R (Wang Yam) v Central Criminal Court – Challenge regarding the power of the UK to restrict individuals from bringing secret material before the European Court of Human Rights. Supreme Court: [2015] UKSC 76; [2016] AC 771.
    • R (AI and XH) v Secretary of State for the Home – Judicial review claim challenging the Secretary of State’s decision purporting to withdraw the Claimants’ passports under the Royal Prerogative. Court of Appeal judgment pending [2016] EWHC 1898 (Admin), [2016] ACD 117.
    • Evangelou v McNicol and The Labour Party – Claim concerning the right of recent members of the Labour Party to vote in the party leadership election. [2016] EWHC 2058 (QB).
    • R (Hotak and AL) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Secretary of State for Defence and the Attorney General – Representing locally employed staff serving the UK Government in Afghanistan in a discrimination challenge alleging that the protection and benefits offered to them remain more limited than what was offered to comparably placed staff in Iraq. [2016] EWCA Civ 438, [2016] 1 WLR 3791; [2015] EWHC 1953 (Admin).
    • Al Waheed v Ministry of Defence – Test case in the litigation brought by Iraqi civilians against the Ministry of Defence for damages arising out of their arrest, detention and ill-treatment during the occupation of Iraq and while the British army remained in Iraq until 2009. Supreme Court: [2017] UKSC 2.
    • R (O) v Secretary of State for International Development – Judicial review of DFID’s failure properly to investigate the apparent use of UK aid money for human rights abuses in Ethiopia. [2014] EWHC 2371 (QB).
    • Kololo v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – Acting for a death row prisoner in Kenya in a DPA claim that succeeded in obtaining potentially exculpatory evidence held by the Metropolitan Police. [2015] EWHC 600 (QB), [2015] 1 WLR 3702.
    • Zaw Lin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – Acting in a DPA claim for two death row prisoners in Thailand; on the facts the Court found that nothing in the data would be of real value to the Claimants’ criminal trial. [2015] EWHC 2484 (QB).
    • BA v Ministry of Defence – A claim by an eleven-year-old suspected pirate who was captured by British naval forces in the Indian Ocean and transferred to the Seychelles where he was acquitted on account of his age.
    • R (DPP) v Stratford Youth Court – Judicial review by the DPP of a Youth Court sentencing decision. [2016] EWHC 2047 (QB).
    • R (Kenyi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department – Judicial review of the Claimant’s lengthy immigration detention pending deportation to South Sudan following its independence from the Sudan.
    • R (PK) v Harrow LBC – ECHR Article 8 challenge to a local authority’s decision to provide accommodation for two young children but not their mother [2014] EWHC 584 (Admin).
    • R (L) v Youth Justice Board – A judicial review of the placement of a vulnerable 16-year-old remand prisoner [2013] EWHC 3083.
    • R (Serdar Mohammed) v Secretary of State for Defence – A successful challenge to the practice of transferring British-captured detainees to the Afghan security and intelligence services [2012] EWHC 3282 (Admin); [2012] EWHC 3454 (Admin) and [2012] EWHC 3946 (Admin).
    • R (RH) v HM Treasury – Challenging the lawfulness of the EU sanctions regime on Iraq in relation to the failure to provide for licenses for reasonable legal expenses.
    • R (GC and C) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis – A decision of the Supreme Court that a blanket policy allowing the continued retention of DNA and fingerprint data by the police was unlawful [2011] UKSC 21, [2011] 1 WLR 1230.
    • Death penalty cases in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore and Somalia.
  • Data protection & information

    Nikolaus is instructed in a wide range of data protection and information law cases. He regularly advises and represents the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as well as companies, individuals, government bodies and not-for-profit organisations in relation to complex data protection issues.

    Cases

    Recent and ongoing work includes:

    • Prof David Carroll v Cambridge Analytica & SCL – Represented Prof Carroll in his claim against Cambridge Analytica
      Equifax data breach investigation – Acted for the ICO .
    • Veale & Killock v Interactive Advertising Bureau & Google Ad Exchange – A complaint to the ICO regarding the real-time bidding adtech industry.
    • Moss v ICO – A test case concerning the enforcement of Information Tribunal decisions.
    • Advising clients on various GDPR / DPA compliance issues, such as controller / processor relationships; lawful bases for processing; and international data sharing arrangements.
    • North Lincolnshire Council v ICO – Acted for the local authority in a successful challenge against an ICO decision ordering the Council to disclose certain information under the Environmental Information Regulations.
    • Alzouabi v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis – Challenge to a national policy against DPA disclosure relating to Terrorism Act enquiries.
    • Kololo v the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis – acting for a death row prisoner in Kenya in relation to his DPA claim against the Metropolitan Police. [2015] EWHC 600(QB), [2015] 1 WLR 3702.
    • Zaw Lin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – Acting for two death row prisoners in Thailand in relation to their DPA claim against the Metropolitan Police. [2015] EWHC 2484 (QB).
    • ZZZ v Ministry of Justice and Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – Complex challenge regarding failures in the handling of personal data of an individual on a witness protection programme.
    • Trushin v National Crime Agency – DPA claim in relation to the NCA’s processing of personal data as the national contact point for INTERPOL [2014] EWHC 3551 (Admin).
    • Powell v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police – A successful damages claim against the police arising out of the unlawful publication of personal information.
    • X v Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a request for information by the family of a UK national killed in a drone strike abroad.
    • Shepphard v Foreign and Commonwealth Office – represented a family in a successful attempt to obtain information concerning the death of their son abroad, which had been provided by a foreign Government.
    • R (AW) v Secretary of State for Justice – a case concerning the disclosure of past criminal cautions and convictions. [2013] EWCA Civ 25.
    • GC and C v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (assisting Stephen Cragg QC) – a challenge to the retention of DNA samples of unconvicted individuals by the police. [2011] UKSC 21.
  • International

    Nikolaus is a member of the UK Attorney General’s Public International Law C Panel of Counsel. He works on a wide range of international matters, both in an advisory / consultancy capacity and in litigation before domestic and international courts (see civil liberties & human rights section).

    Nikolaus benefits from extensive field experience, including in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Iraq, Mali, Ethiopia, Libya, the Great Lakes Region and the Caucasus.

    Cases

    Recent and ongoing international work includes:

    • Advising the G5 Sahel Force
    • Advising the African Union Mission in Somalia on the establishment of a Civilian Casualties Tracking, Analysis and Response Cell pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2036 (2012) and 2093 (2013) (instructed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict, the United Nations and the UK Government).
    • Advising the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on its Protection of Civilians strategy.
    • Assisting the international military mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) with developing a Defensive Fire Policy.
    • Working with Libyan judges and prosecutors on developing transitional justice policies and implementation.
    • Investigating incidents of alleged severe human rights violations in a number of countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.
    • Trainings for military forces (US, Afghanistan, NATO), Governments (Afghanistan and Somalia), NGOs, journalists and human rights activists on human rights, international humanitarian law, civilian protection and responding to civilian harm.
    • Researching and writing an in-depth report for CIVIC and UNHCR on the impact of the armed conflict in Somalia on the civilian population.
    • Representing various NGOs on advocacy missions, including at the UN, NATO, national governments and NGO consortia.
    • Death penalty cases in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore and Somalia.
  • Additional background

    Languages

    Fluent German

    Conversational French

    Background 

    Before joining the Bar, Nikolaus worked for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and for Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. He specialized in the issue of civilian casualties, dealing with a range of incidents including the killing of civilians in airstrikes by international forces, targeted assassinations of non-combatants by insurgents and the shooting of unarmed protesters by Afghan Government forces.

    Nikolaus also worked as Special Assistant to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan and has undertaken a range of consultancy and academic assignments in countries including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Russia.

    After completing pupillage, Nikolaus was Judicial Assistant to Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury.

    He holds a BA in law from Oxford University and an LLM from Harvard Law School and completed the BVC with the highest mark in his year. He was awarded the Harvard Henigson Human Rights Fellowship as well as numerous prizes and awards for his research on legal structures in Somalia and on conflict mapping in Central Africa and Central Asia. Nikolaus is a qualified mediator under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules.

  • What the directories say

    Administrative & Public Law: “We found him very impressive, incredibly hard-working and dedicated to our case. He brought a fresh perspective as he has a diverse practice.” “Really sharp and insightful, with both legal depth and clear strategic thinking, and he’s really good on his feet. He was put on the spot and it was like water off a duck’s back.” “He was helpful, calm and patient, and he listened well. He answers quite meticulously, can break things down into a simple response and he’s able to translate all the jargon.” – Chambers UK, 2020

    Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “Incredibly hard-working and dedicated. He punches above his level of call.” “He’s sharp, insightful and really good on his feet.” – Chambers UK, 2020

    Leading Junior in Administrative & Public Law: “He uses his deep practical knowledge of national security to good effect.” – Legal 500, 2020

    Administrative & Public Law: “He has a phenomenal ability to understand the wide array of issues which arise. He’s good with clients and he has a great ability to inspire confidence.” “He’s really hard-working and gets to the point. He goes out of his way to help instructing solicitors, which is appreciated.” Chambers UK, 2019

    Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “He has a phenomenal ability to understand the wide array of issues which arise.” “He drafts beautifully and has a really good tactical sense of what works.” – Chambers UK, 2019

    Administrative & Public Law: “Very intelligent, extremely friendly and easy to work with.” “He is able to spot novel and difficult new points of law.” – Chambers UK, 2018

    Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “He has a detailed technical knowledge of the law and an ability to advise in a clear and workable manner.” – Chambers UK, 2018

    Administrative & Public Law: “Brilliant, writes beautifully, is hard-working and totally unflappable. He is really good with clients.” “A wonderfully creative litigator.” “Technically one of the most gifted barristers that I have come across, he’s absolutely meticulous.” – Chambers UK, 2017

    Administrative & Public Law: “He has a technical background which means he can add a whole different dimension to cases. He has years of experience in his fields of practice and is hugely connected.” “He works incredibly hard and is very well informed on all the technical public law questions.”Chambers UK, 2016

    Administrative & Public Law: “He is incredibly competent and very accommodating. He seeks to push the boundaries of the law, yet always offers pragmatic and realistic advice.”Chambers UK, 2015

  • Publications
    • Bellamy & Child – European Law of Competition 8th edition (contributing author), Oxford University Press, 2019
    • Lawfare in the Courts: Litigation as a Weapon of War in Media and Civil Society in 21st Century Conflict, IDEBATE Press (2014)
    • Taylor on Criminal Appeals 2nd edition (contributing author), Oxford University Press, 2012.
    • Civilian Harm in Somalia: Creating an Appropriate Response Mechanism (author), CIVIC, 2011.
    • Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan (contributing author), UNAMA, 2009.
    • Insurgent Abuses Against Afghan Civilians (editor), AIHRC, 2008.
    • From Hope to Fear: An Afghan Perspective on Operations of Pro-Government Forces (editor), AIHRC, 2008.
    • Armed Conflict and Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan (co-author), OHCHR, 2008.
    • Investigation into the Shooting of Demonstrators in Sheberghan on 28 May 2007 (author), AIHRC, 2007.
    • Investigation into the suicide bombing and shootings in Shinwar district on 4 March 2007 (author), AIHRC, 2007.
    • We Are Now Hoping For Death: Grave Human Rights Abuses in Gambella, Ethiopia (co-author), HIHRC, 2006.
    • Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Failed States: The Case of Somalia (author), Harvard Law School, 2006.
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