John is a highly experienced criminal defence practitioner, appearing in both Crown courts and courts martial. He acts regularly as leading junior and junior alone. He has unique experience as lead counsel acting in historic international criminal tribunals in Sierra Leone and Bangladesh.
John specialises in cases of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, use and supply of firearms, drugs, and complex sexual offences with an emphasis on vulnerable witnesses.
Recently he has appeared for the defence in nationally reported cases, e.g. the ‘burst football’ manslaughter (R v B and J, recently subject of a Sky TV documentary), the notorious HMP Pentonville escape (R v B), the ‘Epsom Pizza Hut’ kidnap, multiple rape and attempted murder (R v V) and the street-shooting of an Essex drug dealer (R v K) in which the defendant was acquitted.
He has developed a niche practice in the area of vulnerable witnesses and defendants and has lectured on legal developments in this fast-changing area of law and procedure.
He is a CPS Grade 3 prosecutor and also on the rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) list.
International Criminal Practice
In previous years John gained vast experience in international practice. He acted as lead counsel for the former rebel leader Augustine Gbao on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Special Court of Sierra Leone (2004–09). Uniquely, this case was the first in international legal history to try the use of child soldiers, forced marriage/sexual slavery and the abduction of UN peacekeeping forces, each of which Gbao alone was acquitted.
Having been barred by the Bangladeshi government from acting as lead counsel in situ for several defendants tried for genocide at the international Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka, John advised local defence teams remotely 2011-14 until the eventual conviction and execution of all but one of the defendants.
In late 2013 John travelled as part of a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office-backed delegation to southern Turkey to advise émigré Syrian law enforcement groups.
R v W, 2019
Alleged date-rape of serving US marine by British soldier with jurisdictional and evidential issues re polygraph tests. Sennelager military court, Germany.
R v P, 2018
Leading junior in 5 week, multi victim/count case of gay rape of minors following grooming over several years. Maidstone Crown Court.
R v P, 2018
Acted for 78 yr old defendant in ‘paedo-hunter’ case alleging attempted grooming of 15 yr old boy on gay chat line. Having established he had lied to the jury about substantial payment for his activities John successfully applied to cross examine the informant on his previous conviction for serious fraud. Referring to the informant’s overall conduct and ignored written warnings from Essex police to Cease and Desist, John submitted on Abuse of Process (citing inter alia the 2018 CA authority of R v TL), reviewing the current law on entrapment and distinction between conduct of state and private informants, with emphasis on prosecutions brought by the state despite proven misconduct and dishonesty by the informant himself. Chelmsford Crown Court.
R v S and Others, 2018
Historic, multi-handed rape and kidnap reported 44 years after its alleged commission. Case required unique investigation into local history. Successfully defended. Canterbury Crown Court.
R v B, 2018
Acting for prosecution in nationally reported case of high value fraud by self-styled carer of brother of former cabinet minister suffering from Alzheimers. Highly sensitive case involving intermediary and expert medical and forensic accounting experts. Trial pending at Southwark Crown Court.
R v MR, 2018
Leading junior in multi-victim, multi-count case of familial rape and sexual offences presenting complex issues of vulnerability and cross-admissibility. MR was partially convicted after a 6 week trial conducted in a hostile atmosphere requiring police intervention. Snaresbrook Crown Court.
R v P, 2018
Multi-victim, multi-count case of familial rape within travelling community involving vast 3rd party disclosure from social and medical services over a 45 year period. St Albans Crown Court.
R v B and J, 2017
John acted for Natalie Bollen, a vulnerable person with serious mental health problems, who ran a ‘cut-throat defence’ against her co-defendant father, William Jelly, in the nationally reported ‘burst football’ case of manslaughter. Leicester Crown Court
R v B, 2017
While awaiting sentence for attempted murder B was charged with the common law offence of breaking prison as one of two men who escaped from HMP Pentonville. He pleaded guilty at trial, abandoning his original defence of necessity that had referred to the recent murder of an associate on his prison wing and threats to his life. Mitigation centred on official reports of conditions in HMP Pentonville G wing – culminating in a 30-month sentence that fell far below the tariff in R v Coughtrey. Blackfriars Crown Court.
R v OA, 2017
Attempted murder where cross examination largely negated the findings of prosecution facial mapping/recognition expert. Defendant was subsequently investigated for terrorism activity. Chelmsford Crown Court.
R v W and others 2017
Multi-handed conspiracy to transfer automatic firearms between cities in north of England involving legal submissions onadmission of pleas of co-defendants. Case involved vast telephone and surveillance evidence and resulted in high sentences. Leicester CC.
R v K, 2016–17
Acquittal at retrial of defendant charged with the point-blank shooting of rival drugs dealer he allegedly lured to the scene; case involved competing forensic/ballistic issues as to which party carried the weapon and as to the direction of fire. Hung jury after three-week trial; acquittal at retrial after successful challenge to fresh ballistic evidence. Chelmsford Crown Court
R v V, 2016
Leading junior in nationally publicised case of attempted murder, multiple rape, kidnap (and other charges) after the defendant abducted a female victim at knifepoint from Epsom Pizza Hut. Defendant acquitted of attempted murder and awaits sentence on other matters. Guildford Crown Court.
R v S, 2016
Leading junior in murder trial where the defendant had beaten the victim to death after drinking binge. S suffered from a serious alcoholic illness; the defence ran manslaughter through loss of control. Cross-examination of forensic pathologist assisted the judge, upon conviction, to dismiss torture as an aggravating feature when passing sentence. Guildford Crown Court.
R v S, 2016
Acquittal on all counts of defendant charged with multiple specimen counts of rape, alleged by teenage step-daughter in family home. Persistent applications for third-party disclosure, social services, medical and school records eventually impugned complainant’s credibility. Reading Crown Court.
R v H, 2016
Retrial of multiple count indictment alleging serial historic, grave sexual abuse by step-grandfather on four now adult sisters. The trial, attracting local notoriety, required special measures to assist complainants who the defence acknowledged were deeply traumatised. Second jury were also hung; defendant was eventually formally acquitted. Leicester Crown Court.
R v S, 2016
Defendant charged with possession of firearm with intent to endanger life after apparent drugs-war shooting at occupants of Range Rover in south London. Acquitted of intent to endanger life on defence submission after cross examination in which eyewitnesses conceded the gun was not aimed at occupants as shots were fired. Central Criminal Court.
R v H, 2016
Acquittal of defendant alleged to have sexually assaulted his partner’s daughter. Trial involved video-link cross examination of complainant, aged just five. St Albans Crown Court.
R v B, 2015
Notorious case attracting national TV and press coverage. Lengthy trial where the defendant was charged with grave sexual offences, including unlawful intercourse, against young girls – as well as making and distributing vast numbers of images and videos of his victims and others unknown. Aylesbury Crown Court.
R v N, 2015
Historic rape allegation dating back to early 1980s. Allegation arose during defendant’s trial for similar matters, where peculiar modus operandi were strikingly similar. Complex evidence involved the discovery and eventual service of archived local government documents, police/court records and handwriting experts regarding personal diaries. Ipswich Crown Court.
R v K, 2015
‘Date rape’ case. Victim had learning difficulties; defendant met her through a dating site and allegedly falsely imprisoned her at her flat. Acquitted of rape; convicted of GBH with intent after systematic and brutal beating of victim causing multiple injuries. Chelmsford Crown Court.
R v M, 2014
Leading junior in notorious case, where several Royal Military Police personnel were charged with GBH and sundry military offences after an initiation ceremony in which a recent female recruit had to be repeatedly resuscitated after taking extreme quantities of mixed spirits. Defendant acquitted. Sennelager Court Martial Centre, Germany.
John has lectured and trained in the law, procedure and practice within international criminal tribunals here and abroad. He has lectured at the American Society of International Lawyers in Washington DC and at St Antony’s College Oxford. He has advised the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US State and Defense Departments and the Nigerian National Security Advisor.
More recently he has lectured at 9 Bedford Row on changes in the law regarding sexual offences. He has appeared regularly on TV and radio and written has extensively in publications from Counsel to the New York Times.
John has been published in Counsel, the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune on international crime issues.