Michael is a Partner and Solicitor at Watkins & Gunn and we were delighted to welcome him to the firm in 2014.
He is the Head of Public & Administrative law at Watkins & Gunn and is also a highly regarded personal injury lawyer. Michael has been involved in some of the highest profile cases in Wales in recent years that cover Judicial Review, Education law and Personal Injury matters. He is regularly asked to speak at national Personal Injury and Public Law conferences and events and has a back catalogue of high profile articles and media commentaries on his cases (see below).
Michael has been ranked as a leading Administrative Law Lawyer in both the Chambers UK Guide 2019 and the Legal 500 2019 Directory –independent guides that gather client opinion and that of other legal professionals to rank lawyers regionally and nationally. Chambers UK Guide 2019 says of Michael;
“Very good public lawyer” Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn has extensive experience in public and administrative matters. He is regularly instructed on local authority and Welsh government matters. “He is very well thought of and active in the area,” says a source.
Legal 500 2019 (Administrative & Public Law) says;
In spite of its small size, Watkins & Gunn Solicitors is recognised as ‘one of the best firms representing claimants in public law cases in Wales’, and is noted for its ‘very strong’ capability in relation to administrative law challenges concerning the decisions of local authorities. ‘Excellent and thorough’ team head Michael Imperato is recognised as ‘one of the very few proper public law lawyers in Wales’ and is noted in particular for his expertise at handling cases in the healthcare and education sectors. Praised for his ‘thorough preparation’ and ability to ‘appreciate complex legal arguments.’
In Personal Injury Michael is also recognised in Chambers UK Guide 2019 as one of the leading Claimant Personal Injury Lawyers in Wales. It states he ‘has a wide-ranging personal injury practice, which includes expertise in sexual abuse cases, as well as sports injury, accidents abroad and trade union claims.’
- Committee member Public Law Wales
- Member and Vice Chair of Legal Aid Agency Special Control Review Panel
- Member of Legal Aid Agency Funding & Costs Appeals Review Panel
- Honorary Legal Adviser BUSK (charity promoting safe school transport)
- Member and Fellow of Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)
- Former Co-ordinator APIL Wales
- Member of APIL National Executive Committee
- Member of Law Society Personal Injury Panel
- Member Law Society Civil Justice Committee
- Vice President and Committee member South Wales Confederation of Law Societies
- Member and former President of Cardiff & District Law Society
- Member Travel and Tourism Law Association
- Trustee Bevan Foundation
- School Governor
- Visiting Scholar Swansea University
- Member of panel of Chairmen of Valuation Tribunal of England.
Michael’s high profile Public Law matters include:
Haemophilia Public Inquiry
The inquiry, which started in 2018, is looking at how NHS patients were given infected blood products during the 1970s and 1980s. It has been called the worst-ever NHS treatment disaster. It comes after decades of campaigning by victims, who claim the risks were never explained and the scandal was subsequently covered up. About 5,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders are believed to have been infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses over a period of more than 20 years – about 2,500 of them have since died.
In 2017 Michael acted for Haemophilia Wales to challenge the Government in respect of calls for a Public Inquiry, calls which had been ignored by successive Governments. A legal challenge was prepared but prior to issue of Judicial Review proceedings the Government announced a full Judge led Public Inquiry. The Inquiry finally commenced in July 2018. It is one the biggest ever British Public Inquiries. Watkins & Gunn are one of a small number of designated firms acting for the victims. Watkins & Gunn are acting for over 300 victims plus for victim charities/support organisations Haemophilia Wales and Haemophilia Northern Ireland.
Michael has acted in a number of high profile hospital closure and downgrade cases.
Ysbyty Glan Clwyd
Acted for local campaign group fighting the closure of the Neo Natal maternity Centre at Glan Clwyd Hospital, North Wales. In early 2015 the local Health Board (LHB) had decided the unit had to close due to ‘emergency’ circumstances. However, this argument was exposed as flawed by the High Court and the LHB was ordered to consult. As part of the consultation the unit was again targeted for closure but following persuasive representations the threat was yet again shelved.
Michael continues to act in a number of hospital downgrade potential Judicial Reviews across the length and breadth of the country; from South West Wales (A&E services at Withybush Hospital, Pembrokeshire), to the far North West of England (services at West Cumberland Hospital). Another current high profile case is to save Local Maternity Hospitals in Shropshire.
Michael has acted in a number of high profile school closure cases.
Gwernyfed High School
This popular mid Wales secondary school was earmarked for closure by Powys County Council. With the support of the school and the local community Michael launched Judicial Review proceedings on the basis that the Council had not followed their own, and the Welsh Government guidance, in producing the closure proposal. In July 2015 the Council backed down, overturning the closure decision and saving the school.
Cymer Afan School
Michael acted for a community in the Afan Valley, north of Port Talbot, to attempt to save the local comprehensive school. Judicial Review Proceedings were launched Nov 2018. This is the first judicial review in Wales to invoke the welsh legislation, The Well Being and Future Generations Act. This is a very high profile matter which has attracted a lot of media coverage.
School Transport in Denbighshire
A case which had Wales-wide repercussions for rural free school transport involved two children in Denbighshire who took on their local council in a Judicial Review case in 2016 and succeeded. The children lived in a rural area in North Wales, twelve miles form their nearest school and nearly three miles from the school bus pick up point. As the route to the pick up point was accepted by everyone to be too hazardous to walk the children received free transport in a taxi to the pick up point until this was withdrawn by the Council. It was said it was the responsibility of their parents to deliver them to the pick up point and that this was one of the problems families living in rural Wales had to simply put up with. The council conceded shortly before trial.
Permanent exclusion form school can have devastating effects for a young persons education. In early 2015, by way of Judicial Review proceedings, Michael successfully overturned the exclusion of a teenage girl from the Wrexham area. The School had agreed a home tuition ‘education otherwise’ programme for her, but then took the extraordinary decision to permanently exclude before the programme had finished. To make matters worse, the schools actions were endorsed by the local authority independent exclusions appeals panel. It was argued this was unlawful and contrary to the Welsh Government guidance on exclusions. Wrexham Council eventually conceded and the exclusion was quashed.
In 2017 Michael successfully challenged the exclusion of a secondary school pupil in Newport for a one-off incident of forcing open a door and pushing a teacher on the basis that; the Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) failed to consider whether the pupil was guilty of “serious actual or threatened violence” under terms of government guidance on exclusions. The IAP also failed to follow guidance on managed moves to another school.
Michael has acted in a number of high profile library closure and downgrade cases.
Church Stretton Library
Shropshire County Council (SCC) decided in early 2015 to move the popular local town library out of the village Centre and into the Academy school. Local people fought this move alleging that the consultation by SCC was really predetermined and that the Council unfairly dismissed their alternative plans to the relocation. The Council conceded on the day of trial in May 2016.
In 2018 Michael acted to save 20 libraries in Northamptonshire from closure and won in a landmark judicial review challenge. This is now a leading legal authority on a number of issues relating to library closure cases.
Darlington County Borough Council decided in early 2016 to move the popular local town library. Local people fought this move alleging that the consultation was predetermined and that the Council unfairly dismissed their alternative plans to the relocation. A threat (by Michael) of Judicial Review succeeded in making the Council reconsider but the plan re-emerged in early 2017. Judicial Review proceedings were launched. The matter was lost at trial but the council decided in any event not to close the library.
Page, R (On the Application Of) v Darlington Borough Council (2018) EWHC 1818
Newport Head Teacher Historic Sex Abuse Cases
Michael acted for a number of victims of historic sex abuse carried out by a Newport primary school head teacher in the 1970’s. The perpetrator committed suicide in 2007 just as he was about to face criminal charges but his victims are still suffering the effects of his actions. This was one of the biggest and most high profile sex abuse cases in Wales.
Links to media coverage on this case:
Inquest into suicide of Pembrokeshire schoolboy
This was a tragic case of a 14 year old boy, who was in and out of council care, who committed suicide in late 2014 whilst in school. He had threatened suicide previously. This case raises important issues as to the level of care of social services in Pembrokeshire and possible lack of communication between social, health and education services.
- Akehurst & Others v Thompson Holidays 6 May 2003 (CC Cardiff) – Gerona Air Crash
- Rogers v National Assembly of Wales –  EWCA Civ 250 – Court of Appeal – Fatal Accident case, defective road surface
- Brown & Others v Corus –  EWCA Civ 374 – Court of Appeal – HAVS claims
- R (on the application of Lloyd v Pembrokeshire County Council  EWHC 2312 ( Hermon School Closure case) – High Court
- Ceredigion CC v Jones & Others  UKHL 24 – House of Lords
- Welsh Ambulance NHS Trust v Williams  EWCA Civ 81 – Court of Appeal, Fatal Accident case, Quantum in respect of deceased business owner.
- Re Sarika Angel Watkins-Singh v The Governing Body of Aberdare Girls’ High School & Rhondda Cynon Taf Unitary Authority –  EWHC 1865 (Admin) – School Uniform
- Gower Chemicals Group Litigation  EWHC 735 – High Court – Group Action arising from Chemical Poisoning
- R (on the application of Roberts) v The Welsh Ministers (2011) EWHC 3416 (admin) – School Closure.
- R (on the application of Flatley) v Hywel Dda UHB  EWHC 655 (Admin) – Hospital closure/downgrade
- R (On the application of Thomas) v Hywel Dda University Health Board  EWHC 4044 (Admin); (2015) PLLR 018 – Hospital closure/downgrade
- R (On the application of Tilley) v Vale of Glamorgan Council  All ER (D) 64 (Nov) – Library Closure.
- R (On the application of Edwards) v Flintshire County Council  EWHC 459 (Admin) (2016) E.L.R 208 – School Closure.
- R (On the application of Tilley 2) v Vale of Glamorgan Council (2016) EWHC 2272, Law Society Gazette, 16 January 2017 – Library Closure.
- R (On the application of LB) v Independent Appeals Panel of Newport City Council (2017) EWHC 2216 (Admin) – School Exclusion
- Page, R (On the Application Of) v Darlington Borough Council (2018) EWHC 1818 – Library Closure.
- WX, R (On the Application Of) v Northamptonshire County Council, QBD – Administrative Court  EWHC 2178 (Admin) – Library Closures
- R (on the application of DJ) v Welsh Ministers QBD (2018) EWHC 2735 (Admin) – Specialist Further Education