Press release

Honorary QC nominations: period now open

You are invited to nominate people for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘honoris causa’ (honorary silk).

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

You are invited to nominate people for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘honoris causa’ (honorary silk). Nomination forms must be returned to us by 31 July 2012.

The Ministry of Justice intends to recommend a number of people to Her Majesty for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘causa’ (honorary silk) in spring 2013.  We are inviting both the legal sector and the wider public to make nominations.

How to make a nomination

We welcome nominations for honorary silk from anyone. If you would like to suggest someone for appointment, please let us have the following information:

  • the person’s full name
  • their contact details, if you know them
  • their legal qualifications, if you know them
  • your reasons for believing that the person you are nominating has made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts.

Please tell us:

  • what the person has done, where, and (if appropriate) for whom
  • how, in your opinion, this amounts to a major contribution - beyond what might normally be expected for someone in this person’s position.

Please give as much detail as you can. The more we know about a nominee, the easier it is to assess whether they meet the honorary silk criteria. If we have only a limited amount of information about someone, it is unlikely that we will be able to recommend them for appointment.

You can nominate as many people as you like, but please ensure that you keep their details separate.

You need to fill in the nomination form and send it to us by 31 July 2012 preferably by email or alternatively by post to:

Jo Sawyers
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France

Please note, we will only accept nominations which are included in the pro forma attached to this webpage. Letters of support for a candidate will not be accepted or attached to a nomination. In cases where more than one person wishes to nominate a single candidate, each individual must send in a separate form for the nominee in order to give a fuller representation as to the candidate’s suitability for Honorary Silk.

Criteria for appointment

In making a nomination you should ensure that your nominee meets the required criteria set out below:

  • The award is open only to qualified lawyers and to legal academics. However, although the substantive QC rank can be awarded only to lawyers with rights of audience in the higher courts, the honorary rank is not so limited. It is available to any practising lawyer, whether in private practice, working as an employed lawyer, or in public service. ‘Public service’ includes any public-sector organisation - national government, local government, or other public bodies such as the CPS or the NHS - and also lawyers working in bodies such as charities or not-for-profit agencies. We recognise that non-lawyers make equally valuable contributions to public life, and may have done so in similar fields, but we regret that the award of honorary silk is not available for such contributions. If you feel that someone in that position ought to be recognised, you can instead nominate them for an honour. If anyone is nominated for honorary silk who is not a lawyer, we will not refuse the nomination - we will instead include their name in the Ministry of Justice’s consideration of honours. However, if anyone is nominated for honorary silk who has been nominated for an honour this year or has already been honoured in the last year, it is very unlikely that we will be able to put their name forward.
  • Honorary QC is not a ‘working rank’. It cannot be used in practice as a lawyer and, although this has never been a problem, we strongly discourage holders from exploiting the rank to attract business. This does mean, regrettably, that honorary silk cannot be awarded as an alternative to the substantive QC rank for people who, for whatever reason, do not fit its eligibility criteria.
  • ‘Major contribution to the law of England and Wales’ can be interpreted as widely as you like. It means not only contributions to the development of the law, but also to people’s understanding of it, their ability to make use of it, and its promotion.
  • ‘Outside practice in the courts’ will generally mean that the award is made for an achievement other than a person’s normal practice as a lawyer or academic, which also brings with it a significant degree of public benefit. However, there is no definite boundary to this - for instance, the development of pro bono work is usually closely associated with practice. We would also like to recognise particular distinction in both practice and academic law.
  • Honorary silk is awarded only in England and Wales. There is no parallel to it in Scotland or Northern Ireland. This does not, of course, mean that achievements of this nature cannot be recognised in those jurisdictions. The honours system is able to do that. If you would like to nominate someone whose work is in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can contact the Scottish Executive or the Northern Ireland Court Service.

Honorary silk is awarded to lawyers who have made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts which has not been recognised through other forms of honors’. This can potentially cover a wide range of activities so, while it is difficult to give a definitive list, we would like to make clear that we are happy to consider accomplishments in any area. Traditionally, honorary silk has been awarded to distinguished legal academics and to some lawyers in public service for achievements beyond their normal responsibilities.   The five appointees in 2012 were:

Professor Ann Dawn Harrison Oliver (likes to be known as Professor Dawn Oliver) was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1965. She is Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law at University College London. She served as Dean of the Faculty and Head of Department from 1993-8 and as Dean in 2007. She has contributed strongly to the reputation of the Faculty of Laws at UCL and she is widely published in the constitutional law field. Her contributions to public affairs include appointment to the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords (1999-2000). She served as the Treasurer of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 2011.

Michael Andrew Hartland Payton - was admitted as a solicitor in 1967. His work as Senior Partner of Clyde & Co, has greatly contributed to its growth into a leading firm. He has been involved with many major commercial disputes, for example, Piper Alpha loss, Aggregation issues following 9/11 in New York, Deepwater Horizon in the U.S Gulf and catastrophic pollution that followed, amongst others. He is involved in pro bono work. He was for many years Honorary Legal Adviser to Southwark Citizens Advice Bureau. He received on behalf of Clyde & Co an award in 2007 of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Stephen Ernest Grosz - was admitted as a solicitor in 1978. His work has greatly contributed to the development of equality & human rights law. He is widely published, and is co-author of The 1998 Act and the European Convention, (2000) and Human Rights: Judicial Protection in the United Kingdom (2008). He has been or is currently a member of various legal and human rights bodies, for example, JUSTICE, Liberty, the British Institute of Human Rights and the Human Rights Lawyers Association. He has organised and spoken at many conferences and lectures. He also contributed to the planning of the Judicial Studies Board’s (JSB) training programme for full and part-time judiciary on the Human Rights Act 1998.  His work has included seminal cases before the courts, for example, Marshall v Southampton and S.W. Hants Area Health Authority (which related to sex discrimination in retirement ages, and to remedies for discrimination), and R v Foreign Secretary ex parte World Development Movement (which related to the legality of aid for the Pergau Dam).

Charles Pritam Singh Dhanowa - was admitted as a solicitor in 1986. His work has greatly contributed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) as Registrar and co-architect of the CAT’s procedural rules. He is the Secretary-General of the Association of European Competition Law Judges. His work includes harmonising legal systems in Europe, providing a better understanding of English law in both procedural and substantive aspects.  

Professor Sandra Fredman - is a barrister, legal academic, and a Fellow of the British Academy. She was called to the bar in 2002. Her work has greatly contributed to the fields of discrimination and human rights law. She has published widely in law journals and written a number of books, including Discrimination Law which has been translated into other languages. She has been invited to give numerous lectures and keynote addresses internationally. She has been an expert adviser on discrimination law in several countries, and has worked closely with the European Commission. She is currently Rhodes Professor of the Laws of the British Commonwealth and the USA at Oxford University and Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town.
As you can see, this is a wide range of achievements and we are keen to ensure that the award continues to be at least as widely available as this.


We intend to make the next QC appointments in spring 2013 and we plan to include honorary silk appointments with them. In line with standard practice, we would like to allow as much time as possible for nominations to be made, but we do need time to consider them and decide who should be recommended to Her Majesty. Because of this, please ensure that your nominations reach us no later than 31 July 2012. If we receive nominations after this date, we will do our best to include them, but we cannot guarantee that they will be considered.


The rank of Queen’s Counsel is awarded to advocates (barristers and solicitors) who have demonstrated particular skill and expertise in the conduct of advocacy. It has been awarded in various forms for around 400 years. Since 2005, an independent Selection Panel has made recommendations to the Lord Chancellor, using a new system of assessment based on competencies and rigorous analysis of evidence.

The rank of Queen’s Counsel honoris causa is separate. The first awards were made in the late nineteenth century and it has been the practice for governments to recommend a small number of lawyers for the honorary rank with each round of substantive appointments. Despite its name, honorary silk is not part of the honours system and is administered separately within the Ministry of Justice.

Both versions of the QC rank were suspended in 2003 while the Department for Constitutional Affairs (as it then was) conducted a consultation exercise about the future of Queen’s Counsel. The QC Selection Panel was the result of that consultation. The first new awards of QC and QC honoris causa were made in October 2006.

Contact us

If you would like any more information about honorary silk or how to make a nomination, please feel free to contact us by phone on 020 3334 4270, or by email:

Published 1 June 2012