Abigail Scholefield, Senior Associate, Regulatory
- Manchester office
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- +44 (0)161 200 1782
I am a public and administrative lawyer specialising in acting for high-profile and complex public inquiries and inquests. I act for inquiry panels, chairs and coroners, as well as for witnesses giving evidence to such proceedings.
I am currently working full-time with the Solicitor's team at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, where I am the investigation lawyer for the Anglican Church and Residential Schools investigations and am assisting on the Westminster investigation. My public inquiries and inquests work has also included working as the Assistant Solicitor to the Litvinenko Inquiry regarding the death of the Russian emigré. I have also previously advised and represented Iraqi witnesses giving evidence to the Al Sweady Public Inquiry into British Armed Forces' involvement in the detention and deaths of Iraqis in 2004.
I have particular expertise in carrying out investigations and preparing and managing public hearings, including public inquiries and inquests, and also regulatory and healthcare fitness to practise hearings over the last 10 years.
I have strong planning and organisation and project management skills in relation to delivering investigations on time, managing priorities, deadlines and resources and adapting and amending the approach in order to deliver a successful hearing. I identify potential risks and challenges and advise on these at a high level. I develop streamlined and proportionate practices and procedures whilst taking into account the client's duties and responsibilities to act fairly and within its remit.
I have an excellent ability to communicate clearly, confidently and effectively with witnesses, members of the public, stakeholders and external agencies. I develop a strong rapport with witnesses and clients which enables me to get to the heart of the issues which are relevant to witnesses and also to the client and translate this into a targeted approach to gathering information and evidence.
I have also worked in the professional, childcare/education and healthcare regulatory sectors, advising on their powers and processes and helping them conduct particularly challenging investigations and hearings.
My highlights include:
- I have previously advised a healthcare and life-sciences regulator on licencing decisions and represented the authority in a hearing to determine whether a clinic's licence should be renewed. I also represented the authority in an appeal against the decision to refuse to renew a licence. This ground-breaking case was the first appeal heard under the relevant legislation.
- I have previously advised the General Medical Council on the merits of certain decisions to investigate, close, issue a warning or refer cases to the fitness to practise panel, and whether or not there is a realistic prospect of establishing that a practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired.
- I've also advised the national regulator and inspector of childcare, children's services and schools on the merits of decisions to restrict childminders', childcare providers' and children's homes' registration and where decisions to suspend or cancel registration are challenged, I have successfully defended many appeals brought in the first tier tribunal.
I am a member of the Association of Regulatory & Disciplinary Lawyers and ProManchester.
I regularly speak at Fieldfisher's annual Student Fitness to Practise seminar and deliver bespoke in-house training to Higher Education Institutions on investigating fitness to practise and conduct concerns and advise on how to run a fair investigation and hearing which will withstand legal scrutiny and challenge.
I live in the Peak District and in my spare time, I enjoy climbing, skiing, biking and walking, followed by food and wine with friends.