In the past three years Mary has secured the acquittal of the youngest person in the United Kingdom to be accused of terrorism. She represented the stepmother of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes at her trial for murder and cruelty and successfully argued at the Court of Appeal that her sentence was not unduly lenient. She secured the acquittal of the alleged leader of a significant organised crime group who was said to run the sale and supply of drugs and firearms in the Coventry area of the Midlands by violence and threats. She secured the conviction on retrial of Emma Magson and the conviction of John Jefferies who killed two young men in revenge for damaging his car. In addition she has secured the conviction for murder of the parents of Finley Boden for his savage death.
Mary Prior KC has a reputation for being a powerful, persuasive advocate who commands the respect of the court room and gets results. She has particular expertise in prosecuting and defending cases where parents are accused of killing a child and the case relies on forensic examination of medical and factual evidence. She has especial expertise with the vulnerable including people on the autistic spectrum, with ADHD, learning difficulties, addictions, sex workers, those in the “looked-after” system. She is regularly instructed to prosecute and defend cases where the key witnesses are vulnerable (children/special needs). Mary takes highly complex factual and legal cases and presents them in a simple manner to ensure everyone understands the issues. She takes great care to ensure that all relevant material is considered and utilised. When prosecuting, she gains the trust of the families of the deceased and works well as part of a team of officers and lawyers. When defending she regularly visits her clients, gains their trust and determines a focussed trial strategy. Mary is fearless when cross-examining those who require a robust approach. She ensures that the best points in a case are not lost by focus on irrelevancies. She prosecutes and defends in equal measure in the best traditions of the independent Bar. She provides early and thorough written advice and strategy as to the best approach. She is often commended by Judges for her handling of complex cases and of witnesses.
She is often instructed in homicides with a history of domestic violence, all homicides, organised crime groups using firearms and violence to distribute drugs on a massive scale. She is instructed in multi-defendant and complainant historic sexual offences which involve the control of people, slavery and sexual exploitation.
She was called to the Bar in 1990 and has over 30 years experience as a criminal barrister.
TIER ONE LEADING SILK MIDLAND CIRCUIT LEGAL 500
WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2020 WOMEN IN THE LAW UK
FINALIST FOR LEADING SILK OF THE YEAR 2019 LEGAL 500
RECORDER IN CRIME
RECORDER IN FAMILY
VICE CHAIR OF THE CRIMINAL BAR ASSOCIATION
BENCHER AT GRAY’S INN
Particularly good at questioning vulnerable witnesses."
- Homicide – death of children
- Homicide – history of domestic violence
- Homicide – youths
- Organised crime
- Rape and serious sexual offences and historical sexual offences
- Large scale child sexual exploitation
- Institutionalised child sexual abuse
- Large scale conspiracies to import drugs
- Work which crosses family and criminal law - arson, child abduction, homicide, cruelty.
Appointments & Memberships
- Appointed KC 2017
- Bencher at Gray's Inn
- Vice Chair of the Criminal Bar Association
- Deputy Head of the Criminal Team, 36 Crime
- Vice Chair of Education - Outreach - Gray's Inn
- Chair of RASSO Group CBA
- Vulnerable Witness trainer/facilitator ICCA
- Gray's Inn advocacy and ethics trainer
- Women in Criminal Law – Joint Chair Midlands Branch
- Trainer for Leicestershire Police disclosure champions
- Co-Chair Leicestershire Schools Courts Competition
- Midland Circuit
- South Eastern Circuit
- Criminal Bar Association
- Gray's Inn
- Visiting professional fellow Aston University. Editorial Board The Contemporary Law Forum -India Women in
- Criminal Law
- Patron of Bristol University Criminal Justice Society Patron of Northumbria Bar Society
- Trustee of Bringing (Dis) Ability to the Bar
- Champion of Neurodiversity in Law
- Patron of the Non-Russell Group of Lawyers
R v Craig Crouch and Gemma Barton Derby Crown Court 2023
Prosecution of parents for the savage killing and abuse of a 10 months old baby boy and cruelty to a 9 years old over a period of 12 months. Complex medical evidence and telephone contact.
R v Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden Derby Crown Court 2023.
Prosecution of mother and father for the savage murder of 10 months old Finley Boden who suffered 57 fractured bones, sepsis and burns.Complex medical evidence.
R v Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes Coventry Crown Court 2022. Court of Appeal. 2022
Murder and cruelty to a six years old boy. Complex medical evidence of causation. Salt poisoning. Represented step-mother accused of murder and cruelty to Arthur Labinjo Hughes. Much of the cruelty was caught on video recordings. Death was caused by a shaking and blunt impact mechanism. Child was poisoned with salt and only had one kidney. Very complex cut throat defence requiring significant cross- examination of the medical experts and the co-accused. Convicted. Prosecution appealed the sentence on the basis that it was unduly lenient following public outcry. Court of Appeal rejected that contention following argument.
R v Goodwin and others Birmingham Crown Court 2022
Telephone evidence, cell site, joint enterprise, defendant with significant learning disabilities. Represented the first defendant for the murder of AS, a male, in a drive by shooting outside his address. Defendant had significant learning disabilities not diagnosed prior to the case. Intermediary throughout to assist. Defendant was able to give evidence for four days. Issues as to disclosure and bad character evidence. Application made to discharge the jury. Case is subject to appeal.
R v Emma Magson Birmingham Crown Court 2021. Court of Appeal
Domestic violence. Diminished responsibility. Bad character evidence.
Magson was accused of the murder of her partner JK following an unpleasant incident in Leicester City Centre when he had been asked to leave a club and had pushed her over in the street. Both parties were intoxicated. Magson killed JK with a knife wound to the chest and heart. He did not die immediately and after the stabbing Magson told a series of lies to his family, the paramedics and the police as to the deceased being fine when he returned from the town centre but having been assaulted by bouncers. She was convicted after trial in 2016 and appealed successfully in 2020 on the basis of fresh evidence of significant mental health difficulties which may afford her a partial defence. A retrial took place in Birmingham which was prosecuted by Mary Prior QC and Paul Prior. The defence was self-defence. Bad character of the deceased and the defendant was admitted which demonstrated that whilst Magson had been subjected to domestic violence she had also been a perpetrator. Significant challenge was made to the defence psychiatric and psychological evidence which was rejected by the jury. Magson was convicted. On appeal she argued that the jury should have been given the householder defence. This was opposed and the Court of Appeal rejected her appeal.
R v Jefferies 2021 Nottingham Crown Court, Court of Appeal
Revenge attack. Murder and attempted murder. Loss of control.
Prosecuted male for deliberately driving his vehicle at two males who had caused criminal damage to his car. Defence was accident and/or loss of control. Case turned on CCTV and complex mechanical evidence in respect of the vehicle that the defendant drove. Convicted. Appeal on the basis that the Judge should have left loss of control to the jury.
Appeal dismissed. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire- 56378377
R v Fisher Nottingham Crown Court 2021
Rape of partner, recording of conversations about the rape
Defence of a male in his sixties accused of raping his partner just as the parties separated following a lengthy period of incarceration. Careful examination of phone records not provided by the prosecution revealed recordings of conversations between the parties which demonstrated that the allegations were likely to have been fabricated and the prosecution offered no evidence.
R v Scott Moore and Others (2021)
Defendant lead defendant in an organised crime gang where the allegations were of supply of firearms, drugs and violence. Cut throat defence. Forensic examination of SOE chart and telephone evidence revealed major investigative errors which resulted in not guilty verdicts on the main offences.
R v H (2020)
Represented the youngest person in the United Kingdom charged with terrorism to be found not guilty. The youth was arrested from his home address. The police discovered that the youth had made a number of homemade explosive devices, drawn plans for further explode devices including trip switches and had made a series of videos expressing his desire to be a martyr and explaining how to make a bomb. It was necessary over a series of meetings to gain the trust of the defendant and an intermediary was instructed to assist with communication. Involved cross-examination of a world renowned expert on terrorism.
R v Sorthi 2020 Leicester Crown Court
Honour killing. Loss of control. Diminished responsibility.
Prosecuted male for savagely stabbing his Hindi wife who refused to go through with an arranged religious marriage. All the witnesses gave evidence through an interpreter. Issues loss of control and diminished responsibility. Complex psychologist and psychiatric evidence. High profile case. News Articles - The Daily Mail, The Sun, BBC
R v Botan Leicester Crown Court 2020
Gang violence over drugs in Leicester City Centre. Murder by group with knife. Cut throat. Joint enterprise. Issue intent.
Mr. Botan was a young man who was accused with others of killing a young male by group action in stabbing him to death in broad daylight in Leicester City Centre. Cut throat defence. One of the defendants wrote a rap in which he discussed the killing. Incident caught on CCTV. Botan did not give evidence. Death threats had been made to him by co-accused. Acquitted.
R v Moyo Birmingham Crown Court 2020
Domestic violence – wife on husband mental health disorders
Wife with serious mental health issues caved her husband's head in with a granite pestle and mortar. Unfit to plead and to stand trial Finding of fact hearing.
R v Andrea Cristea Ipswich Crown Court 2021.
Murder by children of man in town centre. Intent
Defended young Roma male who was part of a group who kicked and punched a male to his death in Ipswich City centre. Case heard during Covid. Complex medical evidence revealed death caused by the first punch.
Defendant had to have virtual conferences with an interpreter. Severe learning disabilities. After significant negotiation guilty plea to manslaughter. Complex and difficult sentencing exercise. Following a public outcry the case was referred to the Attorney General who asked the Court of Appeal to consider that the case was unduly lenient. Leave was not granted
R v Samantha Pink Nottingham Crown Court December 2020
Manslaughter of baby whilst suffering from a mental health disorder
Prosecution of a mother who smothered her child in a mother and baby unit within the Royal Derbyshire Hospital whilst suffering from significant mental health difficulties.
R v Brian Coote Luton Crown Court 2020
CCU prosecution of neighbour who savagely murdered his 72 years old neighbour in Flamstead. Following significant work, guilty plea. News articles - The Times and The Telegraph
R v Jamal Jeng and others – Luton Crown Court 2019
Drugs, group attack, intent.
Jeng, a 21 years old young man, who had ADHD and who had grown up in the care system, was one of five defendants who broke into the home of the deceased at 0200. All five men concealed their identity and once the door was kicked open the deceased was viciously assaulted by at least three of the group. The defendants could be seen entering the flat on CCTV. This was a cut throat defence. It involved issues of identification, telephone evidence, cell site analysis, challenges to forensic evidence of blood stains and footprints. Jeng was alleged to have made a full confession to a cell mate which was robustly challenged. The issue in his case was intent. He was acquitted of murder and convicted of manslaughter. Three of the others were convicted of murder and received life sentences with a minimum term of 26 years. News articles - The Daily Mail and The Mirror
R v Denton and Eves Central Criminal Court 2019.
Murder of a baby. Medical evidence. Autism.
Represented mother jointly charged with murder of 6 weeks old baby with 44 fractures and bleeding to the brain. After meeting the mother it was plain to me she was on the autistic spectrum. Diagnosis revealed that this was correct (she had no previous diagnosis) and that she had a series of other complex mental health difficulties which entirely altered the basis of the prosecution case against her. After considerable careful negotiation the prosecution offered no evidence. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-50316062
R v Jeremy Clarke – Leicester Crown Court 2019
Domestic violence – alcohol- hypoglycaemia.
Clarke murdered his partner by cutting her throat in the couple's bathroom. There were at least two cuts. Initially Clarke confessed to the crime to the police but then determined to defend the matter at trial by indicating that he had suffered a hypoglycaemic attack. The presentation of the evidence to the jury was almost entirely on screen with a visual depiction of his movements as shown on CCTV and by the forensic and telephone evidence. The defendant confessed to his daughter who was called as a prosecution witness and to his cousin. The case involved complex medical evidence. The defendant was convicted of murder.
R v Gilbert Luton Crown Court 2019
Baby in permanent vegetative state. Causation. Brain injury.
Prosecution for CCU of G who caused fractures of two occasions and a brain injury on a third. Issue was the timing of the bleed to the brain which was crucial as to who caused the bleed (mother was a Crown witness). Substantial and complex medical evidence presented in a manner which received a commendation from the Judge.
R v James Atherley Birmingham Crown Court 2018
Revenge, drugs, intimidation of witnesses, self-defence.
Atherley was convicted of the murder of a young man which occurred on the balcony of a flat where a party was being held. No-one saw the murder, but several party goers saw the deceased run bleeding from the balcony followed by the defendant who was shouting that that was what “grasses” or “snitches” got. The deceased had previously made a statement in a stabbing involving a friend of Atherley. Atherley made good his escape and made significant attempts to prevent others from testifying. At trial he raised self defence indicating that the deceased in a cocaine fuelled rage had come at him with a knife. Issues, self defence, pathology, forensic evidence, impact of alcohol on memory.
R v Ashwin Daudia – Leicester Crown Court 2018
Domestic violence, murder, concealment of the body.
AD had learning difficulties. He became enraged as his wife had determined to leave him and sell the house. He waited until she returned from work and then killed her by banging her head repeatedly on the bannister whilst strangling her with her own scarf. He placed her body in a suitcase which remained in the house when his teenage son returned from college. He took the suitcase and put it by a neighbour's bin to be collected by the bin men the following morning. The body was discovered. In interview he denied causing the death. He eventually admitted the assault but said he acted in self defence. Previous history of violence. Requirement to cross-examine the two sons of the family as to mother's violence and the defendant's account that both sons had been violent to him. Convicted. News articles - The Mirror and The Sun
R v Sero Hemmings – Leicester Crown Court 2018
Drugs, road rage, alibi.
SH and his brother were indicted with the murder of AJ. This was a case with a background of drug dealing and road rage. SH was the driver. The issue was alibi. The case relied on careful examination of CCTV, telephone records, cell site analysis, blood staining and DNA profiling on the weapon. News articles - The Daily Mail and The Sun
R v Pendery and Crane – Leicester Crown Court 2018 Alcoholics, joint attack, revenge.
CP was an alcoholic with mental health difficulties who went with CC to the home of another alcoholic. The deceased was assaulted over a period of hours and sustained injuries from which he eventually died. The issues were whether the deceased died as a result of this incident or from drink related injuries. The defendants admitted presence. Each blamed the other for the injuries. Crane was convicted of murder and Pendery of Manslaughter. News articles - Leicester Mercury and The Daily Mail
R v ML Nottingham Crown Court 2018
Youth, ADHD and autism, attempted murder, robbery, use of knife.
ML had autism and ADHD. The autism had been undiagnosed. He was part of a group of children who determined to rob the complainant of his mobile telephone in the early hours of the morning. All of the other children indicated that ML produced a knife and proceeded to stab the complainant causing life threatening injuries. The group fled to ML's home where the complainant's telephone was found in the toilet by the police. ML denied that he was responsible. Very careful cross-examination of vulnerable children in care revealed the weaknesses in the identification of ML as the person with the knife. Acquitted of attempted murder. Convicted of robbery.
R v TR Birmingham Crown Court 2018
Youth, ADHD, self-defence, drugs.
TR had ADHD and complex difficulties. He was accused of murder and attempted murder of two cousins who had arranged with TR to meet them in order for them to rob TR of the drugs that they had ordered. One of the two produced a stun gun. TR produced a home made knife that he had concealed and stabbed both youths numerous times causing life threatening injuries to one and death to the other. Defence was self defence. TR was able to give evidence with the assistance of an intermediary. He was acquitted of murder and convicted of section 18 on the second youth.
R v Craig Keogh Birmingham Crown Court 2018
Burglary, robbery, rape, murder by suffocation.
Keogh (aged 26) broke into the home of an elderly frail pensioner. He stole her jewellery, ripping it from her body. He conducted an untidy search of the house taking money. He raped her vaginally and anally and then suffocated her with a pillow. He admitted sexual activity but said that she had paid for it. He denied causing her death arguing natural causes or that her death was at the hands of another. The case involved a new complex forensic method which revealed finger marks on her pillow at the edges. The medical evidence was challenged. The case involved CCTV, forensic evidence of rape and the cross-examination of a number of
key witnesses who were friends of the defendant. He was convicted. News Articles: ITV and The Sun
Manslaughter by gross negligence
R v Smith and Dunn Birmingham Crown Court 2018
Drowning of child due to lack of supervision.
S was the step father of a six years old boy. D was the mother. Both had learning disabilities. They took the boy to Bosworth Water Park and left him unsupervised for over 20 minutes at a lake. The boy could not swim and had no water aids. He was discovered by other children. His sister saw his body being recovered. Complicated prosecution with many child witnesses and a requirement to piece together evidence as to the boys whereabouts to show the absence of supervision. Defence was a momentary lack of supervision. Bad character evidence of previous episodes where there had been a lack of supervision admitted. In the middle of the trial S admitted guilt and D admitted cruelty by neglect.
R v Pinney Leicester Crown Court 2018
Grooming, obtaining indecent images, sexual assaults.
Pinney was a young man with Kleinfelter's Syndrome, learning disabilities and complex physical and emotional needs. He was indicted with offences of grooming, sexual assaults and incitement against 26 children. He was said to be a prolific offender who pretended to be a female teenager using several different identities to target vulnerable males. He persuaded them to be in an online relationship with him and got them to send him indecent images. He denied that he committed the offences and indicated that his computer and electrical devices had been hacked. The case involved complex computer evidence and the examination of thousands of pages of messages and social media communications to try to establish who the user of the devices was. He was able to give evidence via an intermediary who was present throughout the trial.
R v A 2018 Leicester Crown Court 2018
Sexual assaults on a patient by a GP. Denial.
This GP was accused of sexual assaults on a vulnerable patient within weeks of the death of the patient's baby. He was said to have given the patient oral sex, masturbated him and inserted a finger in his anus. There was forensic evidence of DNA from the GP on the patient's penis. The patient made an immediate complaint. The GP denied in interview that he had a sexual interest in men. Bad character evidence was admitted that the GP used male dating websites and had engaged in sexual activity with males in his waiting room. The GP denied the activity.
R v Anwar Ismail Leicester Crown Court 2017
Rape by carer in children's home. Victim deceased, hearsay application. Child sexual exploitation.
Ismail befriended an extremely vulnerable young teenage boy. He sexaully abused him and raped him. He groomed him sufficiently for him to escape from the children's home after Ismail was dismissed. Ismail eventually set the boy up in a flat pretending the boy was his younger brother. The aim was to provide the boy for sexual activity with other adults. The boy complained to a care worker and made an ABE. Ismail then suggested he had cancer to try to get the boy back. The boy took his own life before trial. Evidence admitted udner hearsay provisions. Defence argued that because of his difficulties the evidence was unreliable. At trial matters were denied on the basis that they had not happened and that the boy had a crush on him – he was just trying to help. Convicted.
R v Khan Leicester Crown Court 2016
Gang rape, child sexual exploitation.
Khan was the lead defendant of a group of Asian males accused of grooming a teenage girl with learning disabilities giving ger drugs, raping her and then providing her to others for his gain. When she complained he attempted to intimidate her into withdrawing her complaint. He was also accused of rape and serious assaults on a partner and sexual abuse of a family member. The main complainant was extremely vulnerable and cross-examination of her was limited to two hours. It was sufficiently effective for Khan to be acquitted of all bar one count of rape. A public commendation was given by the Judge for the manner of cross-examination. He admitted possession of a stun gun.
Operation Daybreak - ongoing
Child abuse in Nottinghamshire Care Homes 1970-2000 Child sexual exploitation
Prosecution of a series of trials of social workers, teachers and workers at Children's Homes in Nottinghamshire. Large scale, complex investigation. All the complainants were extremely vulnerable both as children and then as adults coming forward. Cases ranged from rape to cruelty.
Other posts and committees
- On the working committee for the questioning of inebriated witnesses/complainants
- Legal advisor to Healed with Compassion
- Co-organiser of the Leicester Schools Mock Trials Competition
- Bar Council Social Mobility Advocate 2019
- Publishes Quarterly RASSO newsletter Midland Circuit
- Publishes academic papers on memory and intoxication, interview techniques for inebriated witnesses
Provision of advice work in respect of the criminal elements of cases which are being resolved in the family courts where advice is required as to the safety of a conviction, the extent of the evidence and the likelihood of conviction.
Human Rights in Criminal Law Bloomsbury, contributor.
Alcohol and memory for sexual assault, with Heather Flowe PhD.
Flowe, H., Carline, A., Takarangi, M., Humphries, J., French, S., & Prior, M. (2015). Sexual violence and complainant intoxication. Criminal Justice & Law Weekly, 179 (34).
Contributor to Alcohol and Remembering Rape - New Evidence for Practice Palgrave McMillan.