Eleanor Grey QC (1984)

Eleanor came up in 1984 and read History at Merton. Reflecting on her arrival, her tutor, Professor Robert Gildea, said,

"From her admissions interview, Eleanor impressed by her subtle intelligence and a style and sophistication beyond her years. It was obvious that she was going somewhere, and she did."

During her time in Oxford, she became the first Sabbatical President of Oxford's Student Union elected as an independent. Upon graduating with a first, Eleanor recognised that academic jobs in History were in short supply and so decided to take a Diploma in Law at City University in London.

In 1990, Eleanor was called to the Bar and became a member of 39 Essex Chambers, where she has remained throughout her career. She developed a specialism in health law and served on the Attorney General’s ‘A’ Panel (Public Law) for eight years before taking silk in 2011. Eleanor sits as a Tribunal Judge in the First-Tier Tribunal (Mental Health), and in 2014, she was appointed as a Visiting Judge of the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber). She also holds a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from the London School of Economics.

Eleanor has an impressive list of notable clients including the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, the Professional Standards Authority and the General Medical Council. She represented the House of Commons in the MPs’ expenses challenges before the Information Rights Tribunal and has also acted as senior Counsel in countless well-known public inquiries, including the Independent Review of paediatric cardiac services in Bristol.

One of her most high-profile cases was serial killer Ian Brady’s application to the Mental Health Tribunal for discharge, where she represented Ashworth Hospital Authority. During an eight-day public hearing in 2013, she cross-examined the Moors Murderer in what was his first public appearance since his trial in 1966. When covering the story, the BBC reported that Brady, ‘despite…trying to command the room...did not like being put on the back foot during cross-examination.’

Eleanor continues to be a major force in health law and is currently leading the Department of Health and Social Care’s response to the Infected Blood Public Inquiry. She is also presently representing the Labour Party in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, known as the Jay Inquiry.   

Eleanor has been warmly recommended many times in Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500. Besides her professional life, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage daughters, as well as meeting friends at the occasional Merton Gaudy. Another of her History tutors, Philip Waller, summarizes her qualities thus:

"Elegance and acuity of mind, drive and dedication, personal composure and unflappability, were Eleanor’s hallmarks as an outstanding undergraduate. The Law has benefited by her choice of it as her profession, but she would have shone in any. I’m utterly delighted by her high achievement and equally unsurprised."

Merton & Me

Thinking of the first day you walked through the Merton Lodge arch as a student, what was your first impression?

Awe blended with nerves - awe at the college's beauty and history, nerves about whether I would cope...

Do you have a particular memory that stands out from your time at Merton?

Finishing finals?  Ten papers in five days, so many essays I couldn't write a word more...

Tell us something about yourself that we would not know.

I enjoy cycling on a road e-bike, which makes me think of my sister's work on batteries.

What tips would you give your younger self to prepare for the career you’ve achieved?

Listen much more than you talk and remember that honesty, trustworthiness and integrity count for far more than cleverness.

Describe Merton in three words.

Challenging; empowering; enduring.

An interview with Eleanor Grey QC