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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 Human rights Inquests Judicial review

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."

What the directories say

Merry is exceptional; she is really great in terms of the commitment she makes to her clients. She is very smart, strategic, and the work she puts into a matter is just brilliant.

Chambers and partners 2024

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:

  • Molly Russell coroner calls for review of children’s social media access Guardian 14.10.22
  • What I learnt from speaking to the lawyer for Molly Russell’s family: Merry Varney is a key player in shaping how this story is being told and shared Independent 7.10.22 
  • Lawyer in the news: Merry Varney LSG 11.2.19
  • Why grieving families need legal representation at an inquest Open Democracy 6.12.18
  • Top lawyer ready to take on Jeremy Kyle Show over guest’s death Guardian 19.5.19
  • Bereaved woman asked to pay £1,000 for private room at inquest Guardian 10.9.18
  • CPR and Article 8 LexisNexis June 2016
  • A dignified departure: rights and options for end of life care Brain Injury News Autumn 2015
  • Surrogacy: The difference a due date makes BioNews 26.1.15
  • Foetal alcohol syndrome and the right to compensation Lexis PSL 9.12.14
  • Autistic boys ‘shut in tiny room’ at Stoke-on-Trent school
  • Family goes to appeal court in fight over patient resuscitation decisions Guardian 5.5.14
  • Crohn's patient Lizzy Rose accepts clinic's egg-freezing offer BBC News 17.4.14
    Listen to Merry's interview on BBC Radio 4's File on 4, Second-class patients? 6.11.12

What our clients say

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
Inquests Human rights

A lack of independent advocacy contributed to a 22-year-old mother taking her own life after her baby was taken into care, an inquest has found

The lack of an independent advocate on a regular, consistent and continuous basis for a 22-year-old mother whose baby was taken into care contributed to her decision to take her own life, an inquest has found.

News Article
High Court
Human rights Pre-inquests High court

Pre-inquest review into the death of Jodey Whiting, aged 42

A pre-inquest review hearing into the death of Jodey Whiting will be held on Friday 24 November 2023 at 11am at Teesside Magistrates Court in Middlesbrough.

News Article
Coroner's Sign
Gambling Inquests Human rights

Coroner concludes Luke Ashton died as a result of gambling disorder and a lack of meaningful intervention from Betfair

The inquest into the death of Luke Ashton has concluded that a gambling disorder caused his death by suicide. It is believed that this is the first time that this has ever been recorded in an inquest. Area Coroner Ivan Cartwright added that he will be making a Prevention of Future Deaths report, which will include his concerns about a lack of meaningful interaction or intervention in Luke’s gambling by the gambling operator Betfair, owned by Flutter.