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Merry Varney


Merry is a partner in the human rights department and head of the Leigh Day inquest group

Court of Protection Inquests

Merry has expertise in actions under the Human Rights Act 1998 and in judicial review, and her team is instructed in both claims for compensation and challenging decisions of public authorities. Merry also regularly represents bereaved families in inquests and has particular specialism in rights of vulnerable adults, patients and children. Most of Merry’s work is funded by legal aid.

Merry qualified in 2004, having trained at Linklaters, who seconded her to both Mary Ward Legal Centre and Liberty's Human Rights Litigation Unit. Having qualified, Merry spent several years working at Liberty, the human rights organisation, and as a social welfare solicitor focusing on homelessness and access to healthcare.

Merry joined Leigh Day as a solicitor in 2007, originally working with Frances Swaine.
She is recognised as a leader in her field in the legal directories.

What people say

"We were very impressed with Merry Varney and her team, professional and friendly at all times and I would unreservedly recommend them."
- quote from a former client

"I have to say, stress aside, it was a real privilege to witness such sharp minds at work, alongside the fact that you balanced this with a genuine compassion and humanness, which meant a lot (and is not always easy to find!)."

Merry Varney "is absolutely brilliant. She is extremely efficient, she has a tactical mind and she is a very kind woman.

"Thank you so much to you and your team for all the help , support and kind words . Mum would have not won this battle without your assistance."

“Just when we thought there was no hope we found Merry, She was the light at the end of our tunnel.

After all the heartache she helped us achieve the best gift we could ever have wished for, our beautiful boy”.
- Dawn

"The amount of work and time that you have given to our case has been immense. This letter can never express my gratitude to you for all you have done."

Merry Varney is an excellent and supportive lawyer. The firm is well resourced with many departments that complement each other.

Legal 500 2021

Legal expertise

Examples of her significant cases include:

  • R (Tracey) v CUHNFT & another – Merry was instructed by David Tracey, husband of the late Janet Tracey who had a Do Not Resuscitate order placed on her medical file by doctors, who neither told her what they had done nor consulted with her before doing so. The Court of Appeal held Janet’s human rights had been violated and sent a clear message to health professionals that clear information and consultation is legally required.
  • R (Rose) v Thanet CCG – Merry acted for Lizzy Rose, who was about to undergo chemotherapy likely to render her infertile, in her successful challenge against her CCG policy denying NHS funding for fertility preservation treatment before chemotherapy.
  • RKA v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions – successfully achieved compensation for a mother of a child born through surrogacy who did not receive any paid leave or protection from redundancy while caring for her newborn child.
  • Inquest into the death of Jack Portland
  • Inquest into the death of Colette McCulloch
  • Settlement of claim for degrading treatment of a vulnerable patient while in an NHS hospital.

Merry Varney in the media:

Merry has regularly appeared in the media to support her clients and to give expert opinions on healthcare issues and inquests. Merry current sits on the Steering Group of INQUEST’s Lawyers Group and blogs and campaigns about improving the inquest process for bereaved families. She gave evidence to the Joint Committee of Human Rights regarding inquests and regularly provides training internally and externally.

A selection of Merry’s blogs and media:

Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to my case. Nobody could have done more to right the wrongs my family suffered, or stop them happening to others. You truly have been a light in some dark moments.

Client of Merry


News Article
Philippa Day

Conclusion of inquest into death of Philippa Day

A coroner has delivered a damning indictment of systemic problems at the Department of Work and Pensions that contributed to the decision of Philippa Day to take an overdose that led to her death.

News Article
Patrick Casey
Inquests Human rights

Conclusion of inquest into the death of Patrick Casey

A coroner has concluded that the death of a man who died after he choked whilst in the care of Priory-run care home was avoidable and due to failures

News Article
Jodey Whiting
Human rights Inquests DWP Universal Credit

Application submitted for second inquest into death of Jodey Whiting

Family of Jodey Whiting submit application to seek second inquest to investigate the role of the DWP in the events leading to her death