Christopher Johnston QC

Call 1990 | Silk 2011

Christopher Johnston QC | Call 1990 | Silk 2011

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Chris is a top flight medical silk. He heads Chambers’ award-winning clinical negligence team and co-chaired the esteemed PNBA Clinical Negligence weekend from 2014-2018.  A recognised leader in the field of product liability, he is a team player with extensive experience of large class actions. He edits a seminal medical ethics book. Chris was lead counsel for the injured claimant in the ground breaking Supreme Court case of XX v Whittington. Described by the directories as “phenomenally detailed”, “ferociously bright”, “meticulously prepared” and ” so easy to work with”. Chris was awarded Clinical Negligence Silk of the Year at this year’s Chambers & Partners Bar Awards.

Chris is clerked primarily by Lee Johnson, Clare Sabido, Natasha Southgate and Alicia Lutumba.

“He is the full package; phenomenal attention to detail, wonderful with clients and brilliant to work with.”
The Legal 500

Chris successfully represented the injured claimant in the groundbreaking case of XX v Whittington.
Click here to watch the Supreme Court hearing and here for press coverage from The Guardian and The Telegraph.

experience & expertise

Chris has been recognised as a leading clinical negligence practitioner for many, many years. Before the age of 30, Legal 500 included him in their “top 40 barristers under 40. As a silk he has undertaken the most complex cases legally and technically for both top claimant and defence firms. He is a team-player, ensuring he works with his talented solicitors to get the best from their experts. He adopts a meticulous forensic approach. Through focussed questioning of specialists, he distils complex medical and scientific ideas into a straightforward presentation for the court. His empathetic approach ensures that clients understand their own cases and the legal team’s assessment of their merits.

His extensive experience has been recognised by his peers: he was appointed as co-chair of the Professional Negligence Bar Association’s Clinical Negligence weekend (2014-2018). He has been exposed to nearly every conceivable type of medical case, ranging from complex retinopathy of prematurity to high value cerebral palsy and brain damage cases (such as the recent Fieldfisher case in which a £9m award was secured for Rebecca Ling, whose heroism in the face of her profound disabilities was recognised when she carried the Olympic flame). As a junior he had extensive experience of high profile inquests and in silk he has continued his specialist practice in fatal cases including recently acting for Irwin Mitchell in a £4 million settlement for the family of an investment banker who died after receiving sub-standard medical treatment.

He has unrivalled technical expertise in dealing with vast group actions as both junior and silk. He is computer-savvy using his Excel skills to create impressive shortcuts for juniors and solicitors through mountainous damages and disclosure exercises.

Chris leads the Serjeants’ Inn Clinical Negligence and Healthcare Team.


Chris is highly rated by both the leading legal directories for clinical negligence, product liability and Court of Protection work.

He is described by Chambers & Partners as “a very, very clever man. Exceptionally bright and capable. A super brain and a nice man too.”

Other recent directory editorial includes:

  • his disarming application of logic has an equal tendency to dishearten opponents and impress judges;
  • he fights furiously for his clients, but never lets that get in the way of common sense and reasonableness;
  • an outstanding silk who is at the top of his game;
  • a truly brilliant advocate;
  • he is the full package;
  • makes the most complex information digestible;
  • always phenomenally well prepared;
  • supremely intelligent;
  • incredibly thorough and an excellent advocate;
  • has meticulous forensic rigour;
  • ferociously bright and a formidable opponent;
  • he is extraordinarily bright, brilliant at detail and using innovative technology;
  • always meticulously prepared and gets fantastic results;
  • exceptional advocacy skills;
  • phenomenal attention to detail;
  • streets ahead in use of technology;
  • he takes an innovative approach to the complex cases and is so easy to work with;
  • a very, very clever man;
  • an all-rounder who assimilates huge amounts of information and targets his approach;
  • he’s fantastic on quantum;
  • cuts through the peripheral issues that often plagues high-profile group litigation;
  • very knowledgeable on products law;
  • very organised and very analytical;
  • particularly strong in the healthcare and police sectors;
  • practical and committed;
  • he is incredibly thorough and an excellent advocate;
  • someone who can see the bigger picture;
  • he has an incredible technical ability;
  • he is excellent;
  • very tactically astute;
  • his pleadings are a master class in succinctness;
  • methodical and very well prepared;
  • he has an incredible mind and an excellent manner with clients;
  • highly experienced;
  • incredibly quick, accurate, organised and dedicated individual;
  • widely admired for his user-friendly manner;
  • a very, very balanced and sensible performer;
  • he is a joy to work with and clients love him;
  • incredibly analytical but also grounded;
  • a very strong court advocate and a good strategic thinker;
  • credited with achieving consistently excellent results;
  • his pleadings are extremely accomplished;
  • always on top of the detail and approachable with a very easy manner;
  • solicitors rely on him;
  • an experienced advocate;
  • he’s always incredibly well prepared;
  • very approachable, very collaborative, and quick to respond;
  • he produces drafting of a high quality;
  • very powerful on his feet;
  • brings a forensic analysis of the papers yet a commercial approach to the litigation process;
  • has the ability to explain ferociously complex cases in simple, straightforward language;
  • tremendous preparation and attention to detail;
  • his forensic approach to the issues means no stone is left unturned;
  • absolutely excellent, and addresses and anticipates everything;
  • tirelessly hard-working with a fresh and always compelling view of the fast-emerging law in this area;
  • a joy to work with;
  • has meticulous attention to detail;
  • an original thinker;
  • comes up with ideas that haven’t been thought of before.
  • always good to have him on your side;
  • very good strategic mind;
  • extraordinarily good and very patient with clients
  • debunks the mysteries associated with litigation, makes things understandable and puts [clients] at ease;
  • produces really high-quality paperwork;
  • exceptionally detailed;
  • his preparation for conferences is second to none;
  • you always know he’ll have got to grips with everything;
  • has fantastic client care skills and he’s very clever;
  • a star;
  • Chris has a great ability to focus on the key issues you need to be successful and win your case;
  • he’s very bright;
  • exceptionally hard-working;
  • user-friendly, intelligent, committed and demonstrates good judgment;
  • produces excellent pleadings;
  • an impressive silk receiving instructions from the biggest firms in claimant-side product liability;
  • brings to the table a very clear, straightforward, logical approach;
  • can make very complicated matters appear so simple;
  • a tremendous strategic thinker;
  • has a lot of enthusiasm for his cases;
  • his attention to detail and preparation is phenomenal;
  • a charming silk with unsurpassed conference preparation;
  • quite superb;
  • his tenacious, detail-oriented style makes him a real favourite;
  • hugely clever;
  • especially adept at cases involving injury caused by medical or pharmaceutical products and devices;
  • very bright and approachable;
  • pleadings and conferences are always astonishingly well prepared;
  • rigorously addresses every single detail;
  • you can always be completely confident in his judgement;
  • reliable, clever and good with clients;
  • an exceptional grasp of the medical issues;
  • known for invariably making the right moves in a case;
  • his ability to explain very complex ideas in simple ways is a true sign of quality; and
  • he is a hands-on silk and is fantastic with clients.


I wanted to be an astronaut. My earliest memories are of watching the Apollo moon buggies. I was devastated when I learnt aged eight that my colour-blindness meant my dreams of being an astronaut could not be fulfilled. That visual defect was obviously the only reason it was Tim Peake and not me hanging out with the Russians in orbit. I did settle on being a barrister a surprisingly short period of time after giving up on my space odyssey. The Bar was repeatedly mentioned to me as a career option. I liked to think it was because of my combination of skills in maths, science and the arts at school. I now realise it was probably because I never shut up and loved “drama” whether on stage, or in life more generally.

“All my cases entail human interest stories… People are at the core of the work.”

Spreadsheets are your friend. I should have invented Facebook and not been a barrister. As a kid for a time my only real friend was my Acorn Atom computer with its cassette tape program storage system. The publication of my Formula 1 racing game and Morse code decoder software should have given me the hint that there was money to be made in this new-fangled computer world. I love to bring the latest technologies into my preparation and presentation of cases with my latest best friends being my iPad Pro and my Apple pencil. Technology should be your friend in litigation.

It’s the humanity, stupid. However, for all my love of gadgets, what makes me so passionate about my work is its humanity. All my cases entail human interest stories: tragedies and follies, resilience and bravery. People are at the core of the work. Understanding the human relationships that underpin medical interactions is endlessly fascinating. It is also a privilege to work with solicitors, experts and clients as a team to understand complex medico-legal cases. The resilience and fortitude of injured clients and their families never ceases to amaze me – and put one’s own trivial woes into proper perspective.

There’s no such thing as a silly question. Asking highly specialist doctors and experts a series of simple questions about a technical topic is always revealing. The apparently stupid question often reveals either a central nugget of understanding or – as often – the ultimate limitations of scientific understanding of the human brain and body.

A bit of humility goes a long way. As we sit bewigged in our ivory chambers, we must always guard against over-confidence and the glib easy answer. The more I have learnt about litigation over the years (and specifically medico-legal litigation) the more I realise I don’t know. The work requires long hours. It is never easy but it is never boring. My pupil supervisor, Dame Nicola Davies DBE, was a highly gifted advocate. Yet despite her reputation as a “natural” and “instinctive” advocate, she instilled in me the key litigation mantra: “preparation, preparation, preparation.”


Educated at Ballymena Academy in Northern Ireland, Chris obtained a first class degree in Law from Cambridge University (Trinity Hall).


He edits Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law (Bloomsbury Professional, 3rd ed, 2016) and writes for the Medical Law Reports. He wrote “A personal (and selective) introduction to product liability law” (2012) J.P.I.L. 1. He has spoken to wide-ranging audiences including the PEOPIL conference in Malaga, and Europol in the Hague.

He is the current co-chair with Nick Peacock of the PNBA Clinical Negligence weekend, hosting it for the third time this year.


As a contributing editor, Chris has recently reported on the following cases for the Medical Law Reports:

  • R (Dyer) v The Welsh Ministers, [2015] EWHC 3712 (Admin), [2016] Med LR 185
    Judicial review – Public law duties – Resource allocation in NHS Wales – Medium secure accommodation – Necessity to provide medium secure accommodation in Wales – Margin of discretion – Failure to collate information – Appropriate cohort of patient to consider – Resources for those with autistic spectrum disorder and learning disability.
  • R (SSP Health Ltd) v CQC, [2016] EWHC 2086 (Admin), [2016] Med LR 473
    Judicial review – Common law duty of procedural fairness – Procedure for curing factual inaccuracies in CQC inspection report – Approach to challenge of factual accuracies if lacuna in procedure – Internal independent review process versus judicial review – Health and Social Care Act 2008.
  • Robshaw v United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, [2015] EWHC 923 (QB), [2015] Med LR 339
    Damages assessment – Tetraplegia – Reduced life expectancy – Strauss data – “Reasonable needs” – Whether child rearing costs recoverable – Home-based swimming pool.
  • Laughton v Shalaby, [2014] EWCA Civ 1450, [2015] Med LR 1
    Clinical negligence – Breach of duty – Similar fact evidence – Assumption of negligence with rare complications.
  • A v Uni Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, [2015] EWHC 366 (QB), [2015] Med LR 204
    Quantum – Assessment of damages – Injury of utmost severity – Correct approach to assessment of damages – Whether proportionality of sum sought material – In-home hydrotherapy claim – Whether to set-off sum for parental rent or mortgage payment in accommodation claim.
  • Smith v Bailey, [2014[ EWHC 2569 (QB), [2014] Med LR 408
    Interim payment application – Appropriate approach to calculation of future accommodation claim – Capital sum versus periodic payment approach – Whether award of periodic payment for rent appropriate.
  • Warren v Care Fertility (Northampton) Ltd, [2014] EWHC 602 (Fam), [2014] Med LR 217
    Consent to storage of sperm – Right to a family life – interpretation of fertility regulations in accordance with right to family life – Human Rights Act, section 3.


Christopher adopts and adheres to the provisions of the privacy notice which can be accessed here.


For further details of Christopher’s practice please click on the links to the left or contact a member of the clerking or client service team.

Bar Council Membership No: 26289
Registered Name: Christopher George Johnston
VAT Registration No: 524446062