Richard Atkins QC
Chair of the Bar 2019
Call 1989 | Silk 2011
Described in the Legal 500 as “The dedicated Richard Atkins QC is a powerful and persuasive advocate who attracts praise for his ability to command and control the courtroom and proceedings.”
Placed in Band 1 of the Chambers and Partners Directory which names Richard as “A quintessential jury advocate” and “a very smooth performer.”
Richard specialises in serious criminal and regulatory offences concentrating on homicide, fraud, health and safety and consumer law and trading standards cases. He has extensive experience in murder and manslaughter cases; complex multi-defendant high value frauds and serious sexual offences. He defends and prosecutes in equal measure and his reputation is as an approachable, engaging and entertaining advocate. He is well known for his ability to assimilate a large amount of facts and to put the matters across to the tribunal he is appearing before in an effective and easily digestible manner. He has appeared regularly in the Court of Appeal.
His regulatory practice comprises of Consumer Law and Trading Standards cases, Health and Safety cases including associated inquests and cases arising from business offences. He has appeared before the Professional Golfers’ Association National Disciplinary Committee and has advised the Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association. He has prosecuted for the Serious Fraud Office. He has previously dealt with liquor and entertainment licensing cases.
He is regularly instructed to defend in privately funded cases and encourages the use of fixed or capped fees providing certainty of costs for clients. He is Direct Access qualified. Depending on the nature of the case he is prepared to act without a junior.
Richard regularly gives seminars in St Philips Chambers on Regulatory and Criminal Law topics. He has also been instrumental in providing in-house seminars for clients tailored to their specific needs and requirements and has recently delivered a seminar to the West Midlands Police National Fraud Forum.
Richard sits as a Crown Court Recorder and is authorised to try all criminal offences except homicide. He has recently been appointed as one of a small number of Judicial College Tutor Judges in which role he trains Crown Court and High Court Judges and Recorders. He is also a Midland Circuit and Gray’s Inn Advocacy Trainer.
Richard is the Head of the St Philip’s Chambers Criminal Group and a member of the St Philip’s Chambers Regulatory Group.
Richard is Chair of the Bar 2019.
He is a member of the BARCO escrow account committee. He was vice-Chairman of the 2013 Bar Conference and the Chairman of the 2014 Bar Conference. He helped to launch the Bar Council Speakers for Schools project and is actively involved in the Bar Council’s “Speak up for others” programme, regularly giving talks to schools and Universities in and around the Midlands about the Law. He chairs the St Philip’s Chambers and Aston University annual “Access to Law and the Bar” Conference. He has also acted as a Judge in the Finals of the Bar Council National Schools Mock Trials Competition. As both a Midland Circuit and Gray’s Inn Advocacy trainer, he trains pupils and new practitioners in the art of advocacy.
Richard is the first Barrister to be elected to the Birmingham Law Society Council. Richard was Chairman of the Governors of the Coventry Schools Foundation (2011-2014), which governs King Henry VIII Senior and Preparatory Schools and Bablake Senior, Junior and Pre-Prep Schools. In this role he has also chaired tribunals dealing with teachers’ and parents’ grievances and heard appeals from the decisions of the Headmasters.
Richard is also a professional after-dinner speaker and has spoken at such events as the Birmingham Law Society President’s Dinner, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners Dinner, the Birmingham Medico-Legal Association Dinner and the Association of Cardiovascular Intervention Physicians Annual Dinner. He enjoys 20th Century Military History, Ballroom dancing, good red wine and (last but not least) his family.
Homicide (Murder and Manslaughter)
Richard has extensive experience of homicide cases, both prosecuting and defending. He has dealt with numerous killings arising out of domestic arguments including acting for the defence in a high profile case where the body of a young Polish woman was found in a suit case on wasteland in Burton on Trent and in another case in Stafford where a son killed his mother whilst under the influence of solvents. In the latter case the issues included fitness to plead, diminished responsibility by reason of abnormality of mental functioning, and self-induced intoxication. He has considerable experience of dealing with cases involving the deaths of young children and cases with complex medical issues involving pathologists, toxicologists and paediatricians.
He led for the defence in a case of perverting the course of public justice linked to a very high profile murder. He prosecuted a murder where all of the evidence was circumstantial and the case relied heavily on forensic scientific evidence. He has also prosecuted a number of high profile gang related shootings in and around the West Midlands and defended in drugs related killings.
Most recently Richard was instructed to lead for the defence in the high profile case of R v Pavlo Lapshyn who was charged with the murder of an 82 year old Muslim man in a random attack in the street In Birmingham, 3 counts of causing an explosion relating to the planting of bombs at Mosques in Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton and 1 count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts which related to future planned attacks. The case was heard at the Old Bailey (The Central Criminal Court). Richard persuaded the Prosecution to accept pleas to fewer charges and limited the basis of the pleas in relation to the terrorist and bomb offences. After making submissions relating to European, Human Rights and English law, he successfully persuaded Mr Justice Sweeney not to pass a whole life sentence.
- R v Pavlo Lapshyn (2013). Defended the Ukrainian charged with the murder of an 82 year old Muslim and the setting off of bombs at Mosques in and around the West Midlands.
- R v Small (2013). Defended a man charged with the murder of his drugs supplier.
- R v Cummins (2012). Prosecuted a man charged with the murder of his girlfirend. All of the evidence was circumstantial.
- R v Young (2012). Defended the man accused of being the “getaway driver” in the Birmingham riots killing case.
- R v Cupori (2012). Defended a man charged with the murder of his mother whilst under the influence of butane gas. Issues included the new partial defence of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, insanity, mental capacity and intoxication.
- R v Chima (2011). Defended a man charged with the torture and murder of a fellow alcoholic.
- R v Sobczak (2011). Defended a man charged with the murder of a young woman whose body was found in a suitcase on wasteland in Burton-on-Trent.
- R v Price (2010). Defended a man charged with a gang related killing in Wolverhampton.
- R v Asghar (2010). Prosecuted a man for the killing of a prostitute who fell from his car.
- R v Hand and Westwood (2009). Prosecuted the parents of a vulnerable child who had died in their care. They had lost a previous child which had initially been viewed as a non-suspicious death but which in the light of the subsequent death was re-investigated and formed part of the evidence in the case.
- R v Oliver Weldon and Price (2008). Prosecuted the murder of an innocent man who was mistaken for the intended victim and whose body was burned and buried in a field.
- R v Hamilton (2008). Defended a man charged with attempted murder arising from gang related activities in Wolverhampton.
- R v Perks (2008). Defended a man charged with the alleged homosexual killing of a homeless man.
- R v Patterson (2007). Defended a man charged with the killing of his wife following a row over a pizza.
- R v Hamilton (2007). Prosecuted an attempted murder where the victim who had suffered serious brain damage was called as a Prosecution witness.
- R v Dooley (2005). Defended a man charged with a gang related murder.
- R v Beckford and others (2004). Prosecuted a gang related murder arising out of a drugs dispute.
Corporate and Gross Manslaughter Negligence Manslaughter
Richard is currently advising on behalf of the defence in a substantial corporate manslaughter investigation which has yet to reach charge. The police are still investigating the death and Richard has been retained by a leading firm of Solicitors to advise and then represent the company should charges be brought. He has extensive experience of Health and Safety cases particularly where fatal accidents have occurred and this combined with his experience in dealing with homicide offences is a major asset when considering and advising in this relatively new area of law.
He has previously prosecuted a manslaughter where both unlawful act and gross negligence manslaughter were possible alternative or joint verdicts. In what was a ground breaking approach he persuaded the Judge to leave a single count of manslaughter to the jury with a request that they indicated when delivering their verdict on which basis they convicted. In the event they indicated both unlawful act and gross negligence. The matter was not appealed.
Fraud, Business and Financial Crime
As a Silk and a Junior, Richard has defended and prosecuted in a number of substantial and lengthy fraud trials. As a Junior he was an “A” list prosecutor for the DTI (now BIS), and was instructed by the SFO in the prosecution of a substantial green form legal aid fraud. In November 2013 he was asked to deliver a 2 1/4 hour seminar at the West Midlands Police National Fraud Forum. He regularly defends businessmen facing trial in relation to allegations of dishonesty and fraudulent trading, as well as matters arising from insolvency or bankruptcy. He has defended and prosecuted a number of substantial international boiler room frauds. In early 2013 he was instructed for the Defence in what was estimated to be an 8 week long trial to be heard in Liverpool in relation to offences of Cheating the Revenue. After legal argument and submissions the prosecution re-considered their position and dropped the most substantial part of their case in relation to Corporation tax and accepted limited pleas in relation to Income Tax offences only. He is currently instructed for the defence in 2 separate cases for business men charged with offences of dishonesty. From 2008 to 2012 Richard led for the for the Crown in a what was ultimately a 14 week multi-million pound multi-Defendant fraud. This was subsequently appealed by the defence in relation to numerous matters, including jury irregularity. All grounds of appeal were dismissed after extensive argument before the Lord Chief Justice (R v Lewis 2013 EWCA Crim 776).
He has prosecuted amongst other matters a $5million international credit insurance fraud perpetrated on the makers of Sendo mobile telephones; a £2 million multi-defendant fraud perpetrated upon banks and credit card companies; and a series of cases dealing with a sophisticated international boiler-room fraud with links to America and the Far East where investors were duped into investing in non-existent worthless shares and then targeted again to invest in further non-existent shares. Related to these offences are the Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation hearings of which Richard has extensive experience and in September 2011 he chaired the St Philip’s Chambers Proceeds of Crime Act Seminar.
- R v H (2013). Defended a businessman charged with Cheating the Revenue out of millions of pounds.
- R v Lewis 2013 EWCA Crim 776. The appeal of Lewis Geeling and Fellows heard by the Lord Chief Justice in which all grounds of appeal were dismissed.
- R v Lewis Geeling Fellows and others (2009-2012). Prosecuted a 14 week multi-million pound multi-Defendant fraud relating to the theft and re-cycling of beer kegs. The second trial cracked after a the main defendants were convicted in the first trial.
- R v Ahmed, Ahmed, Ahmed & Choudhary (2010). Prosecuted an 8-week multi-million pound fraud on banks and businesses.
- R v Singh (2010). Defended a businessman charged with involvement in a conspiracy to defraud the West Midlands Police in relation to contracts for the supply of goods and services.
- R v Whittlestone (2010). Defended a businessman charged with involvement in an international boiler room fraud.
- R v Capewell (2008). Prosecuted an international boiler room fraud. R v Aftab & Panthaky (2007). Prosecuted a multi-million dollar international credit-insurance fraud perpetrated on the makers of Sendo mobile telephones.
- R v Rathbone (2007). Defended a man charged with defrauding the company he was managing director of.
Organised Crime and Terrorism
In 2013 Richard was instructed to lead for the defence in the high profile case of R v Pavlo Lapshyn who was charged with the murder of an 82 year old Muslim man in a random attack in the street, 3 counts of causing an explosion relating to the planting of bombs at Mosques in Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton and 1 count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts which related to future planned attacks. The case was heard at the Old Bailey (The Central Criminal Court). Richard persuaded the Prosecution to accept pleas to fewer charges and limited the basis of the pleas in relation to the terrorist and bomb offences. He then successfully persuaded Mr Justice Sweeney not to pass a whole life sentence after making submissions relating to European, Human Rights and English law.
In recent years he has dealt with several cases concerning international drugs importations as well as boiler room frauds and an international credit insurance fraud. In one such case investors were duped into investing in non-existent shares and then targeted again to invest in further non-existent shares. The case had links to America and the Far East. In 2010 he prosecuted a multi-million pound multi-handed fraud which targeted banks, businesses and credit card companies.
In 2009 he defended a man charged with kidnap and blackmail arising from organised crime in a 6-week long trial. He successfully challenged Prosecution hearsay applications relating to allegedly reluctant witnesses and secured the ultimate acquittal of his client.
In 2008 he led for the defence in a three month cannabis importation case prosecuted by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The case involved telecommunications evidence and he cross-examined a telephone expert for two days. The case also involved intercept evidence which is not admissible if carried out in the UK but is admissible if it is carried out abroad in accordance with the law applicable in the country where the intercept takes place. As a result of this he had to cross-examine a Dutch Law Professor and Dutch Prosecutor and call a Dutch Law Professor for the defence.
- R v Pavlo Lapshyn (2013). Defended the Ukrainian charged with the murder of an 82 year old Muslim and the setting off of bombs at Mosques in and around the West Midlands.
- R v Ahmed, Ahmed & Ahmed (2010). Successful prosecution of a multi-million pound, multi-Defendant fraud which targeted banks, businesses and credit card companies.
- R v Griffin (2010). Defended a man charged with involvement in an international drugs importation ring. Negotiated a basis of plea that meant he retained his liberty. Successfully resisted the subsequent Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation proceedings.
- R v Whittlestone (2010). Successful defence of a businessman charged with involvement in an international boiler room fraud.
- R v Woodstock (2009). Successful defence of a man charged with the kidnap and blackmail of an alleged rival criminal in a 6 week trial.
- R v Capewell (2008). Successful prosecution of an international boiler room fraud with links to America and the Far East.
- R v McKenzie-Crow (2008-2009). Defended in an 11 week multi-million pound drugs importation case involving issues of telecommunications intercept and Dutch law. Dealt with the subsequent Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation applications.
- R v Aftab and Panthaky (2007). Successful prosecution of an international credit insurance fraud perpetrated on the makers of Sendo mobile telephones
Serious Sexual Offences
Richard has lectured to defence solicitors, the CPS and the West Midlands and Warwickshire Police on the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and subsequent cases and developments. He has dealt with all types of sexual offences from rape to sexual assault, voyeurism, exposure and downloading of indecent images. Many of the cases have involved child witnesses; people with mental health problems; and historic sexual abuse. His defence cases include those of a man charged with the historic rape and sexual abuse of his step daughters in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s; a man with mental health problems who was accused of the sexual abuse at knife point of a 15 year old boy; a man charged in the same trial with both the historic sexual abuse of his step daughter and the recent sexual abuse of the daughter of the woman he was then in a relationship with; and a man charged with the historic abuse of his nephews. He accepts private instructions in relation to sex cases. His prosecution cases have included a serial rapist targeting prostitutes in the Coventry area; a homosexual gang rape; and both historic and recent child abuse. Richard is one of a limited number of Crown Court Recorders who is authorised to try serious sexual offences.
- R v S (2011). Privately instructed to defend a man charged with the homosexual assault of a police officer when under arrest. Negotiated a plea to a reduced number of charges and a basis of plea which resulted in the client receiving a non-custodial sentence.
- R v G (2011). Defended a man charged with the historic rape and sexual abuse of his step-daughters.
- R v W (2010). Defended a man charged with the historic rape of female family members.
- R v K (2009). Defended a man charged with the rape of a female family friend.
- R v M, F & R (2009). Prosecuted the gang rape of a teenage girl.
- R v Nicklin (2009). Prosecuted a serial rapist of prostitutes. R v R (2009). Defended a man charged with the historic abuse of his nephews.
- R v R (2009). Defended a man charged with the historic abuse of his step-brother and step-sister.
- R v M (2008). Defended a man charged with historic and recent sexual abuse tried together.
- R v H (2008). Defended a man with considerable learning difficulties charged with the sexual assault at knifepoint of a young boy.
- R v Johnson & Myers (2007). Prosecuted a homosexual gang rape.
Trading Standards, Consumer Protection & Food Safety
Richard prosecutes and defends trading standards, consumer protection and food safety cases. In 2013 he led Jonathan Salmon in the prosecution of Tesco Stores Limited pursuant to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for their misleading pricing of strawberries. The case was brought in relation to pricing throughout all of their stores in England and Wales. The defence took issue with the legality of the prosecution which they argued over the course of 3 days. The trial Judge ruled in favour of the Prosecution whereupon Tesco Stores Limited then pleaded guilty and were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay the prosecution costs.
In May of 2013 he led Ben Mills and successfully appealed a terminating ruling made by a Judge in a trial of a company selling security systems targeted at elderly and vulnerable consumers. The prosecution alleged that the company concerned were guilty of unfair commercial practices and misleading actions contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The trial Judge had acceeded to defence submissions of no case to answer. The Court of Appeal agreed with Richard’s submissions and reversed all of the trial Judge’s rulings and ordered a re-trial. Lord Justice Leveson gave the judgment of the Court (R v X Ltd 2013 EWCA Crim 818) in which he gave guidance for the first time on the important terms of “commercial practice” and “transactional decisions” in the Regulations. The judgment is also important for clarifying what needs to be proved when recklessness is alleged on the part of a company, the Court of Appeal once again accepting Richard’s submissions.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 are a topic on which Richard has also lectured. He has delivered seminars at St Philip’s Chambers on Consumer Law and Trading Standards matters and recently has been instrumental in organising, Chairing and delivering seminars to Local Authorities tailored to their specific requirements on aspects of Consumer Law and Trading Standards and other areas of Regulatory Law.
Richard is currently retained to advise the defence in respect of a major Food Safety investigation and has advised the prosecution in relation to a potential major prosecution relating to counterfeit goods.
- Birmingham City Council v Tesco Stores Limited: Prosecution for committing offences contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in relation to the pricing and marketing of strawberries which led to a £300,000 fine.
- R v X Ltd 2013 EWCA Crim 818: Prosecution of a company for committing offences contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in relation to the sale of security equipment to a vulnerable old age pensioner. The case was the subject of a terminating ruling in the Court of Appeal.
Health & Safety, Corporate & Gross Negligence Manslaughter
Richard has prosecuted and defended health and safety cases involving both death and serious injury throughout his career at the Bar. The cases have included fatal accidents at work involving falls from height, collapsing trenches and falling equipment. Other cases have involved serious injuries caused by falls, dangerous machinery and deficient workplace practices.
Richard is currently instructed for the defence in two fatal accident cases and one associated inquest. Both involve falls from height, one because of a lack of protective scaffolding and a failure to comply with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the other beacause of alleged failures to comply with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
Instruction at an early stage before the Health and Safety Executive has decided whether to bring charges or what charges to pursue can be of benefit to the client. In particular, instruction to attend at an inquest can ensure that appropriate procedures are followed at the inquest hearing and appropriate verdicts are left for the consideration of the inquest jury. In cases where fatal accidents have occurred there is a growing tendency on the part of the Health and Safety Executive to seek to prosecute for offences of Corporate Manslaughter and to use the inquest hearing as a vehicle to gather evidence that would otherwise not be available to them. Richard has had success in ensuring that the verdict of “unlawful killing” was not left to an inquest jury thus reducing the prospect of his client subsequently facing corporate manslaughter charges. The instruction of an advocate of Richard’s quality to appear at an inquest to make measured but forceful submissions can have substantial benefits in relation to the subsequent outcome of any case.
Richard is currently instructed to advise and appear for the defence in respect of a Corporate Manslaughter case and also a possible prosecution which has yet to reach charge. His extensive experience of Health and Safety cases where fatal accidents have occurred and his experience in dealing with homicide offences is a major asset when considering and advising in this relatively new area of law. He has previously prosecuted a manslaughter where both unlawful act and gross negligence manslaughter were possible alternative or joint verdicts. In what was a ground breaking approach he persuaded the Judge to leave a single count of manslaughter to the jury with a request that they indicated when delivering their verdict upon which basis they convicted. In the event they indicated both unlawful act and gross negligence. The matter was not appealed.
Inquests & Coronial
As is the case with many advocates Richard cut his teeth as a very junior Barrister dealing with inquests. Time has though moved on and the enactment of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and the appointment of a Chief Coroner has led to a sea change in the way inquests are now dealt with. The previously slightly amateur approach to inquest hearings is now no longer appropriate. With the Health and Safety Executive in particular seeking to use the inquest hearing as an extra weapon in their armoury in an aim to bring ever increasingly severe charges it has never been more important to ensure that an advocate of the highest quality is instructed to appear at an inquest.
Richard is currently instructed on behalf of a major company in a serious fatal accident at work case. He attended the pre-inquest hearing and was successful in persuading the Coroner not to leave a verdict of “unlawful killing” to the inquest jury. As a result of Richard’s submissions the Coroner ruled that there was no evidence of the offence of Corporate Manslaughter on the face of the papers and would not allow the inquest to be used as a vehicle to re-open the investigation into possible Corporate Manslaughter charges which had already been ruled out by the CPS. Richard’s knowledge of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and associated rules and procedure were instrumental in securing such a favourable outcome for his clients.
Richard has recently attended the Health and Safety Lawyers Association Conference where one of the lectures was given by Michael Burgess OBE, the former Coroner of the Queen’s Household, on the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Richard is also due to Chair the St Philip’s Chambers Inquest and Coronial Law seminar in February 2014 which will be attended by the Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Thornton QC.
Disciplinary Tribunals & Professional Regulation
As Chairman of the Governors of King Henry VIII and Bablake Schools in Coventry Richard has had considerable experience of chairing disciplinary tribunals and “ill-health” tribunals. In his professional practice he has appeared before numerous tribunals and most recently represented a client before the Professional Golfers’ Association National Disciplinary Committee. He has also advised a major sport’s body in relation to how to conduct disciplinary tribunals in relation to youths.