James Keeley was called to the Bar in October 1993. He was born and brought up in inner city Birmingham. Ever tenacious James Keeley will always go the extra mile and fight for anybody he represents. He is especially understanding of the weak and vulnerable and has been involved in some of the most significant cases in legal history.
He began his career in London as a judicial assistant on two of the biggest fraud trials in history. The first case was Brent Walker with HHJ Geoffrey Rivlin QC, now a consultant with the SFO, this involved allegations of dishonesty against the former boxer and one time owner of William Hill bookmakers, George Walker. The second case was Maxwell with Lord Phillips this case has set the standard for fraud trials with its use of technology and the so-called Maxwell hours. From early on he learnt of the hard work, discipline and incisiveness that any serious fraud demands.
Also whilst in London Mr. Keeley was involved in two more high profile cases: Serafinowicz, the first ever War Crimes Trial and the appeal of the Bridgwater Four. In Serafinowicz, Mr. Keeley was asked to stand in at short notice for John Kelsey-Fry QC and was junior during the trial to both Sir John Nutting QC and the then Solicitor General, Sir Derek Spencer QC. In Bridgwater, Mr. Keeley assisted Alun Jones QC in going through Vincent Hickey’s interviews in order to assess whether or not there had been any irregularities.
After a few years he decided to move to Leeds where he has developed a practice both prosecuting and defending the most serious of criminal matters, including murder, large fraud and rape. He has led junior counsel in significant cases, for example a multi-million pound fraud that was featured on a “Rogue Traders” special.
He has appeared on numerous occasions in the Court of Appeal on appeals against sentence and conviction, Attorney General References and in the High Court on a Case Stated from the Magistrates Court.
James Keeley always ensures that he both inspects and advises upon unused material when both prosecuting and defending. In terms of expert evidence He has many years of experience of the following people and areas: cell site analysis, accountants, psychiatrists, psychologists, surgeons and paediatricians.
Whilst practising at the Bar he undertook and successfully completed a Masters Degree in Employment Law and has subsequently acquired a speciality in Whisltleblowers.
After helping the late Sir Stephen Tumim inspect prisons James Keeley takes a real interest in prisoner’s rights and other aspects of Human Rights and Judicial Review.
He has a great deal of experience of representing and advising police officers in Criminal and Disciplinary Hearings, employment disputes (including whistleblowing) and in Inquests (Deaths in Custody).
Examples of Modern Day Slavery and related cases that James Keeley has been involved in:
(a) he successfully prosecuted a Romanian man who brought a vulnerable young woman into this country and forced her to work as a prostitute.
(b) Kolompar - there were two victims both from Hungary. One had disappeared and arranging the other to get to Court was exceptionally difficult but achieved. Mr. Keeley made a successful hearsay application to play the interview of the other complainant who had disappeared. After hearing the opening the Defendant changed his pleas and accepted that he was guilty of both Servitude and Forced Labour offences. This case is due to be sentenced by Mrs. Justice Carr in November. Also in November Mr. Keeley is due to prosecute one of the first cases of its kind where a husband and wife kept a woman as a slave.
Mr. Keeley is also an expert in the most serious sexual and sensitive offences. He has appeared on Radio 4, Women’s Hour, where he discussed anonymity in Rape Cases. He is on the specialist panel of Rape Prosecutors.
Mr Keeley represented one of the women being prosecuted under section 128 of the Serious and Organised Crime Act 2005 for allegedly trespassing at Menwith Hill. This was the first case of its kind.
James Keeley regularly gives lectures and has done so on Human Rights, the Death Penalty, Adverse Inferences from Silence, Applications to Dismiss, Whistleblowing, Closing Speeches, Apportionment in Proceeds of Crime Cases, Violent Offender Orders, Sex Abuse cases (How to cross examine vulnerable witnesses and pre-recorded cross examination and Slavery and People Trafficking which he has called “Breaking the Chains”.
James is passionate about bringing on the next generation of advocates, is a trainer of Advocacy at Middle Temple, is a specialist trainer in respect of the cross examination of vulnerable witnesses, has done a lot of work with the citizenship foundation and has judged moots at Bar School. James is an elected member of the Bar Council, serves on the Bar Council Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility Committee, a co-opted member of the Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee and Middle Temple’s Hall Committee.
James is a vice president of a charity for young people called Endeavour and a patron of a charity called “True Honour”. This organisation fights against domestic abuse, FGM and so called honour killings. He recently gave a speech on Honour Based Crime at a Public Policy Forum Event in Westminster. Anti-slavery is another one of his specialist areas. James has written blogs on the Rule of Law and Open Justice and has seen several of his letters published in the Times and Guardian on Modern Day Slavery, Prison Reform, Anonymity for defendants in sexual allegations, demanding an independent inquiry into child abuse at Cheetams School of Music, how best to defeat domestic violence and in favour of Gibraltar having its own MP in Parliament.
The Rule of Law and Open Justice
Appointments & Memberships
- An elected member of the Bar Council
- Bar Council and Middle Temple’s Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility Committees, Middle Temple’s Hall Committee
- Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee.
- South Eastern Circuit
Successfully prosecuted a case of historical sexual abuse, mother on son.
Represented a police officer who was accused of sexually abusing twenty complainants over thirty years (one of the largest cases of sexual abuse in 2016)
Voyeurism: Defended a police officer who filmed his step daughter in her bedroom.
Secured the acquittal of a faith healer who had allegedly sexually abused someone who had gone to pray with him.
Represented a father who burnt his child.
Appeared in the Court of Appeal on an Attorney General’s Reference in respect of an abuse of trust case where a step father had consensual sexual relations with his step-daughter (section 25 Sexual Offences Act 2003)
Appeared for the Prosecution in the Court of Appeal in relation to an appeal against sentence in a Rape case.
Appeared in a Stated Case in the High Court. The Prosecution appealed the decision of a Youth Court where it had acquitted a teenager of a sexual assault
Defending an 18 year old, Chinese national who attempted to rape another Chinese national
Defending another 18 year old who was accused of rape by his former girlfriend of two years.
Defending a sixteen year old who had previous convictions assault who targeted a teenage girl and sexually assaulted her.
Defending a man of borderline intelligence accused of raping and indecently assaulting his niece and nephew both of who were children.
Defending a man, once again of a borderline intelligence accused of committing incest with his sister.
Defending a man accused of indecently assaulting his sister.
Defending a teacher who indecently assaulted a pupil at his school over a number of years
Defending a man accused of indecently assaulting his daughter.
Internet Porn: Defending a former trainee police officer of downloading child pornography. Part of Operation Orr
Defending a man charged with falsely imprisoning and indecently assaulting his girlfriend
Child Abduction. Defending a man who had run away with a 14-year-old child and also defending a man who tried to abduct a five year old child
Defending an optician who had allegedly groped a customer whilst she came into his shop in order to have her eyes tested.
The Stalking Postman, defending a postman who subjected over 20 women to a campaign of sexual telephone call over a number of years.
Defended a man accused of serial rape, one of the victims being a 77 year old lady.
Defending an 18 year old youth convicted of indecently assaulting a teenage girl on a bus in the centre of Leeds. The seriousness of this matter is increased by virtue of the fact that the defendant was one member of a gang of youths who were said to be involved in this incident.
Child Cruelty, Mr. Keeley has experience of defending women accused of subjecting their children to neglect and of seriously ill-treating them.
Defending a man who subjected his step-daughter to a campaign of rape and indecent assault. This Defendant was imprisoned to twelve years imprisonment.
Defending a former karate instructor who was accused of sexually assaulting his two step children.
Defending a man who had allegedly subjected his wife to what can only be described as a campaign of rape.
Defending a man in his first trial and in a re-trial accused of raping his partner. The Defendant was portrayed as a control freak who was said to have broken the will of the complainant.
Defending a young man accused of having sexual intercourse with an underage girl.
Defending a shop worker accused of sexually touching a 10 year old girl at the shop he was working at. The Judge halted this case after a half time submission was made.
Defending a young man accused of raping his then partner.
Mr. Keeley has vast experience in prosecuting and defending all matters of violence from Murder, Violent Disorder and section 18 assaults to Common Assault. Some Cases of note are listed below:
- Murder (shooting).
- Murder (The killing of an alleged paedophile)
- Attempted Murder (Grandmother attacked with a hook by her grandson. The victim fit and healthy beforehand left totally incapacitated by the attack)
- Attempted Murder. An 82 year old man allegedly being beaten with a hammer in his own home (Defending)
- “The Lord Of the Flies Case” as quoted by the Daily Mail. Prosecuted four children, the youngest being 13 for attempting to cause Grievous Bodily Harm on a 15 year old with a mental age of 8. The victim was lured to some woods where he was stripped, beaten unconscious, laid in a make shift grave and urinated upon. Mr. Keeley worked alone with the Officer in the Case ensuring that all additional work for trial was done. This case generated a large amount of national media interest. Mr. Keeley rejected the Defence pleas of assault occasioning actual bodily harm leaving the Defence to finally offer pleas to the Indictment that he drafted of Attempt to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm on the day of trial.
- In June 2006 prosecuted a two week case involving three Defendants. The case involved a gang of white people attacking an Asian takeaway whilst using racist language.
- Prosecuting a nurse for illegally administering a drug, which could have had potentially fatal consequences, to a severely disabled child.
- Prosecuting an eight-handed affray. This case involved a group of racist thugs, attacking a family and then beating a man who came to their rescue.
- Defending a young Asian man, accused of being in a gang of fourteen, some of whom were said to have guns, who allegedly smashed a restaurant in Skipton to pieces.
- Defending a young man who allegedly stamped on another youths’ head outside a night-club, thereby causing potentially life-threatening injuries.
- Defending a man who was found to be legally insane at the time he brandished a gun at two community psychiatric nurses who had come to visit him in order to dispense his medication.
- Armed Robbery. Defending an alleged Iraqi armed robber who prayed on a take away outlet in Bradford.
- Defending a large scale, violent disorder in the centre of Doncaster where it was, quite literally bouncers versus customers.
- Prosecuting an affray, where the defendants were attacking the police, on the notorious Little London Estate.
- Defending in a multi handed allegation of affray that occurred at a railway station. This case is particularly serious in that the alleged victim was hit by a train during the incident.
- Mr. Keeley was asked to prosecute a plea involving a multi-handed violent disorder that had racial undertones and involved two rival gangs.
- Defending a young Asian man who was accused of threatening a teenager and then a mother and her baby with an imitation firearm.
Drugs and Customs Offences
Mr. Keeley has prosecuted and defended many individuals who have had drugs of Class A and B in their possession with intent to supply.
- Entrapment. Mr. Keeley was asked to advise several clients in Hull, arising out of a major police operation, in respect of their chances of running the defence of entrapment in line with the European case of Teixeira de Castro v. Portugal.
- Mr. Keeley was led in a case whereby over a million pounds worth of heroin was found in Bradford.
- Defending a man in possession of a large quantity of firearms and heroin, worth in the region of £150,000.
- Mr. Keeley led another junior barrister in defending the mastermind behind a series of crack cocaine houses in Chapeltown. This was a major Conspiracy case with voluminous documentation involving six defendants in all.
- Representing a Polish National who was accused of conspiring to import 1.7 million cigarettes into this country.
Following on from his experience of Fraud early on in his career Mr. Keeley continues to develop his practice in this area. He has been instructed on many occasions by the Department of Work and Pensions and the NHS to prosecute large and complicated frauds. The cases have involved people claiming benefits whilst not declaring they were living with another working partner, those claiming benefits whilst working and those claiming benefits who have substantial savings and capital. There follows some of the most prominent cases that Mr. Keeley have been involved in:
- Leading another advocate in a multi-million pound conspiracy to defraud elderly people.
- Being led in a four week Conspiracy to Defraud trial in Newcastle. Two Company Directors were said to be involved in hiring cheap labour from the Newcastle area and transporting them to Northumbria where they worked cleaning caravans. The cheap labour that they were hiring was claiming benefits and not declaring its earnings.
- Prosecuting a man who dishonestly obtained over fifty thousand pounds (£50,000) in benefit. The case was complicated in that some vital documents were lost and the Recorder of Leeds suggested that the Prosecution consider whether or not to continue with the case. Mr. Keeley stuck with the case. The Defendant pleaded guilty and the DWP successfully obtained nearly a quarter of a million pounds (£250,000) in the subsequent confiscation proceedings.
- Leading another barrister in respect of a large scale benefit fraud. The Defendant is a man of substantial means but claimed state benefits, over 30,000, over a large amount of time.
- Prosecuting a man who was charged with defrauding the taxpayer of £21,000 in benefit. The Defendant pleaded guilty to everything. The Defendant not only paid back the £21,000 as reflected on the indictment but a further £4,000 that he also illegally obtained. The Prosecution recovered £3,000 in costs.
- Prosecuting a man who was running a business whilst illegally claiming £50,000 in benefits.
- Prosecuting a trial at Hull involving a woman who was living with her partner, a serving soldier, whilst claiming benefits and not declaring her relationship. The amount of benefit illegally obtained is in the region of £20,000.
- Defended a man accused of having over £30,000 of the proceeds of crime in his possession also and of dishonestly claiming benefits for a man who had left this country for Iran and subsequently died. Mr. Keeley, successfully negotiated a basis of plea on both Counts:
(i) the £30,00 figure coming down to under £3,000
(ii) in respect of the second count an acceptance of dishonesty, but not from the outset and without him profiting from the fraud, the monies being passed on.
The Defendant received a non custodial sentence and did not have to pay either confiscation or compensation.
Other cases of fraud include
- Prosecuting a former Chief Executive of a company for Obtaining Money by Deception and Theft.
- Representing a woman at trial who was accused of abusing her position of trust as a care worker by stealing money from an elderly person’s home.
- Defending an accountant accused of Theft and False Accounting. This particular accountant worked for the Samaritans.
- Defending a small businessman in respect of False Accounting
Involving false invoices being sent to his bank with which he had a factoring agreement.
- Defended a woman accused of defrauding housing benefit over a number of years. This case involved consideration of the law relating to money transfers and the famous case of Preddy.
- Prosecuting a man for obtaining money by deception from elderly women for allegedly holding himself out to be an accountant when he was not.
- Defending a woman accused of conspiring with her employer, a chartered accountant, to steal from an accountancy firm.
- Defending a Polish national who was accused of importing 1.7 million cigarettes into this country.
- Breach of Trust: Defending a woman who allegedly stole money from an elderly woman in her care.
- Defending a policeman accused of housing benefit and mortgage fraud both in criminal and subsequent disciplinary hearings.
Other cases of Note:
Conspiracy to Steal
- Mr. Keeley was been instructed in a large Conspiracy to Steal case. It involved several defendants and hundreds of thousands of pounds of stolen equipment.
- Defending a man accused of conspiring with two others of stealing copper from a firm in Doncaster
- Prosecuting a man accused of lying on oath in the magistrates’ court.
- Defending a man, on two occasions, of starting a fire in the houses where he lived.
- Defending a twelve-year old boy who burnt down a factory worth £250,000
Nominated by the Recorder of Leeds
- Defended a man who was without legal representation in circumstances where he had either sacked his legal representation or where they had applied to come off the record. The Recorder of Leeds asked Mr. Keeley to represent this man without the assistance of instructing solicitors. This man was acquitted of a violent offence against a former partner.
An example of some of the work Mr. Keeley has done:
- Represented a police sergeant who was founded to have sold his wife as a dominatrix.
- Successfully defended a female police officer who was alleged to have illegally looked at the Police National Computer for her own personal reasons.
- Appeared in disciplinary proceedings for a Decective Constable who had an affair with a victim of crime.
Mr. Keeley is passionate about bringing on the next generation of advocates and is a trainer of Advocacy, both pupils and those up to three years call, at Middle Temple, judges moots for Bar students and gives interview training for those trying to obtain pupillage. He is an elected member of the Bar Council, serves on both the Bar Council and Middle Temple’s Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility Committees, Middle Temple’s Hall Committee and is a member of the Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee. Mr. Keeley is also a Lead Facilitator in respect of the training to be given to the Bar in respect of new regime of questioning for vulnerable witnesses. Outside of the law, James the vice president of a charity young people called Endeavour, a very keen on long distance running (he has raised money for a Children’s hospital and for young men and women leaving care). He is due to run three marathons this year. Other interests include classical music, Opera and writing poetry. In the past James has stood for Parliament.