Richard Atkins QC – Head of Chambers
Call 1989 | Silk 2011
Head of St Philips Chambers, Chair of the Bar of England and Wales in 2019 and Leader of the Midland Circuit from 2014 to 2017, Richard has been part of the leadership team of the profession for a number of years. He has dealt with senior Government Ministers and officials and the country’s most Senior Judges. He has had considerable involvement with both the Legal Services Board and the Bar Standards Board dealing with the regulation of the profession.
Richard is one of the country’s most eminent criminal silks. He has consistently featured at the top of the legal rankings since taking silk in 2011. Recent comments in the legal directories have included:
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
A quintessential jury advocate – A very smooth performer – A born advocate – A very authoritative silk A very impressive silk; juries love him – A very compelling jury advocate – Conscientious, meticulous and fearless
He is a highly experienced advocate and is admired for his serious crime practice, which features both prosecution and defence work, in cases ranging from murder to fraud
He’s very hard-working and has an excellent manner with juries – He is a very intelligent and very sharp advocate
Richard specialises in serious criminal and regulatory offences concentrating on fraud, homicide, sex, health and safety and consumer law and trading standards cases. He also deals with the proceedings following a finding of guilt including Proceeds of Crime Act applications. He defends and prosecutes in equal measure. 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 appears regularly in the Court of Appeal.
During his year as Chair of the Bar of England and Wales, Richard has presented to a large number of international gatherings of lawyers across the globe. Richard has regularly lectured to solicitors, barristers, police officers and a variety of professional bodies on a wide range of legal topics and is a much sought after speaker and moderator. He is an advocacy trainer and a vulnerable witness advocacy trainer.
Richard sits as a Crown Court Recorder (part-time criminal Judge) and is one of a small number of Judicial College Tutor Judges who train Crown Court Judges. He sits as a fee-paid (part-time) Judge of the Mental Health Tribunal and a Tribunal Chair for the Financial Reporting Council.
Richard is regulated by the Bar Standards Board
Richard is a member of the following bodies:
- The Criminal Bar Association
- The Health and Safety Lawyers Association
- The Association of Regulatory and Disciplinary Lawyers
Seminars and Lectures
As Chair of the Bar in 2019 Richard has lectured across the globe. Richard has chaired and spoken at many seminars and lectures on a variety of legal topics. He has regularly lectured to Solicitors, police officers and Local Authorities. He has spoken at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health on several occasions. He has also lectured to the West Midlands Police National Fraud Forum.
- Helped launch the Bar Council Speakers for Schools project and is actively involved in the Bar Council’s programmes for improving public legal education and social mobility.
- Regularly gives talks to schools and Universities about the law and the profession.
- Chairs the St Philip’s Chambers and Aston University annual “Access to Law and the Bar” Conference.
- Judges the finals of the National Schools Mock Trials Competition.
- As a Midland Circuit and Gray’s Inn advocacy trainer and vulnerable witness advocacy trainer, he trains pupils, new practitioners and senior practitioners in the art of advocacy.
- First Barrister to be elected to the Birmingham Law Society Council.
- 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 also chaired tribunals dealing with teachers’ and parents’ grievances and heard appeals from the decisions of the Headmasters.
- A sought after after-dinner speaker who has spoken at such events as the Institute of Bar Clerks Annual Dinner, 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.
- Richard enjoys 20th Century military history, ballroom dancing, good red wine and (last but not least) his family and grumpy Lakeland terrier.
Fraud, Business and Financial Crime
Richard has defended and prosecuted a large number of substantial and lengthy fraud trials. He regularly defends business executives facing allegations of dishonesty and fraudulent trading, as well as matters arising from insolvency or bankruptcy. He has defended and prosecuted a number of international boiler room frauds. In one case of Cheating the Revenue, the prosecution reconsidered their position after Richard’s legal submissions and dropped the most substantial part of their case in relation to Corporation tax, accepting limited pleas in relation to Income Tax offences only.Richard led Jenny Josephs for the Crown in a 14-week multi-million-pound, multi-Defendant, fraud that took four years to prepare, and then successfully upheld the convictions in the Court of Appeal before the Lord Chief Justice (R v Lewis 2013 EWCA Crim 776).
Richard is currently leading a large team, including James Puzey and other junior Barristers, for HMRC in the First Tier Tribunal Tax Chamber relating to VAT.
As Junior Counsel, Richard was an “A-list” prosecutor for the DTI and was also instructed by the SFO in the prosecution of a substantial green form legal aid fraud.
Richard often has to deal with the associated Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation applications.
He has previously chaired the St Philips Chambers Proceeds of Crime Act Seminar and the St Philips Chambers “Fraud: A 360 Degree Approach – A Criminal and Civil Crossover Conference.”
Richard has lectured to the West Midlands Police National Fraud Forum.
Throughout 2018 Richard led Nicholas Smith prosecuting a series of international cigarette importation trials involving 25 Defendants for HMRC. He previously prosecuted a large HMRC “Cheating the Revenue” case (leading Jonathan Barker) in Nottingham. He has defended cases concerning international drugs importations, including a three-month cannabis importation trial prosecuted by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (leading Stuart Baker). 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.
He has dealt with several international boiler room frauds and an international credit insurance fraud. In one case which had links to America and the Far East, investors were duped into investing in non-existent shares and then targeted again to invest in further non-existent shares. In another he prosecuted a multi-million-pound multi-handed fraud which targeted banks, businesses and credit card companies.
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 ultimately secured the acquittal of his client.
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 incidents and of children killing their parents. He has dealt with cases involving fitness to plead issues; and diminished responsibility both by reason of abnormality of mental functioning and self-induced intoxication.
He has considerable experience of dealing with cases with complex medical issues involving psychiatrists, pathologists, toxicologists and paediatricians.
In the case of PL, a terrorist murder, Richard persuaded the Judge not to pass a whole life sentence.
In the case of YM, Richard successfully argued before the Court of Appeal that a murder conviction should be overturned and that no retrial should be ordered.
In the case of UA, Richard secured the acquittal before the jury of a client charged with conspiracy to murder.
In the case of GA, Richard represented a client charged with the murder of his father. He represented the client at the hearing where he was found to be unfit to plead and then conducted the hearing to determine whether he had committed the fatal act.
In the high-profile case of LJ, Richard prosecuted a trans-gender athlete who attempted to murder a senior official at the British Athletics Federation.
In the case of CC Richard prosecuted a man who had killed both of his parents. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
Richard has prosecuted a number of murders where the Defendants have been under the age of 18, including the case of PK & ZM where the younger Defendant was only 13 years of age.
Health & Safety, Corporate and Gross Negligence Manslaughter
Richard has prosecuted and defended health and safety cases throughout his career at the Bar. The cases have included fatal accidents at work involving falls from height, collapsing trenches and failing equipment. Other cases have involved serious injuries caused by falls, dangerous machinery and deficient workplace practices.
Richard is regularly instructed by major firms of solicitors to advise corporate clients (pre-charge) who are under investigation in relation to fatal accidents and are facing possible charges of corporate or gross negligence manslaughter. He advises pre-charge and then represents the client at Court if charges are brought. 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 considerable benefit to the defence 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. Instructing an advocate 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 has had success in ensuring that the verdict of “unlawful killing” was not left to an inquest jury thus reducing the prospect of the client subsequently facing corporate manslaughter charges.
In the case of DM Richard advised that a corporate client should not attend an oral interview but should provide written answers. The prosecution did not then bring corporate manslaughter charges. At the subsequent trial at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) on health and safety charges Richard led James Puzey and after a 6-week trial, they secured acquittals on all charges.
In the separate cases of MR (leading David Munro) and St (leading James Puzey), Richard was instructed to represent national bus companies in relation to fatal accidents.
In the case of A (leading David Munro), Richard represented a carer charged with the gross negligence manslaughter of a patient she had fed inappropriate food to, who had then choked death. Richard persuaded the Prosecution to accept lesser charges and persuaded the Judge to pass a non-custodial sentence.
Richard has acted on behalf of business operators charged with breaches of Fire Safety offences.
Richard has lectured on several occasions at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health annual conferences.
In ZA, Richard defended a man charged with terrorist offences who had been “bedroom-radicalised” and built a nail bomb in his bedroom, which it was alleged, he planned to detonate near to the main London to Birmingham railway line. After Richard’s cross-examination of the Police CCTV identification expert, the trial Judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, directed the jury to disregard the CCTV evidence as Richard had demonstrated it to be completely unreliable.
In the high profile case of PL (leading Ian Speed) Richard represented a Polish man 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 the West Midlands and one count of engaging in conduct in preparation of future terrorist acts. 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 the High Court Judge not to pass a whole life sentence after making submissions relating to European, Human Rights and English law.
Serious Sexual Offences
Richard regularly defends people charged with serious sexual offences. 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. In two of his most recent cases he successfully defended a professional man charged with indecency with a 15-year old girl and in another case, he successfully defended a businessman alleged to have raped two separate women. He is adept at analysing huge amounts of digital material such as is now contained on mobile telephones in preparing cases.
Trading Standards, Consumer Protection, Food Safety & Regulatory Offences
Richard prosecutes and defends trading standards, consumer protection, food safety and other regulatory cases.
He prosecuted Tesco Stores Limited (leading Jonathan Salmon) pursuant to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for their misleading pricing of strawberries 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.
Richard has advised a number of local authorities in respect of the prosecution of national companies.
In the case of X Ltd (leading Ben Mills), he successfully appealed a terminating ruling made by a Judge in a trial of a company selling security systems which targeted elderly and vulnerable consumers. The prosecution alleged that the company was guilty of unfair commercial practices and misleading actions contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The Court of Appeal (R v X Ltd 2013 EWCA Crim 818) agreed with Richard’s submissions and reversed all of the trial Judge’s rulings and ordered a re-trial. Lord Justice Leveson gave guidance (for the first time) on the important terms of “commercial practice” and “transactional decisions” in the Regulations. The judgment also clarified 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.
In the case of AR, YR & FK, Richard (leading Naomi Gilchrist), prosecuted a high-profile trading standards case for Birmingham City Council which had featured on the BBC’s Watchdog programme. It concerned companies which were committing fraud by false representation. The Defendants pleaded guilty at trial and Richard and Nami dealt with the subsequent POCA proceedings.
Richard has considerable experience of defending offences relating to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and is currently engaged in a long-running case representing a landlord in a high value Proceeds of Crime Act application.
In the case of GP, Richard defended a tradesman charged with defrauding customers in relation to the supply of thermal roof coating and persuaded the sentencing Judge not to send his client to prison.
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 has organised and Chaired seminars to Local Authorities tailored to their specific requirements on aspects of Consumer Law and Trading Standards and other areas of Regulatory Law.
Inquests & Coronial Law
As is the case with many advocates Richard cut his teeth as a very junior Barrister dealing with in-quests. 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. 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 a high-quality advocate is instructed to appear at an inquest.
In one fatal accident case, Richard 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. Richard’s knowledge of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and associated rules and procedure were instrumental in securing a favourable out-come for his clients.
Disciplinary Tribunals & Professional Regulation
Richard has considerable experience of Tribunal work and has appeared before the Professional Golfers’ Association National Disciplinary Committee. He sits as a fee-paid Judge of the Mental Health Tribunal and is also a Chair of the Financial reporting Council Disciplinary Tribunal.
As Chairman of the Governors of King Henry VIII and Bablake Schools in Coventry he chaired disciplinary tribunals and “ill-health” tribunals.
He has also advised a major sport’s body in relation to how to conduct disciplinary tribunals in relation to youths.
Appointments and Memberships
Chair of the Bar of England and Wales 2019
Vice-Chair of the Bar of England and Wales – 2018
Master of the Bench of Gray’s Inn – 2014
Leader of the Midland Circuit – 2014 – 2017
Fee-paid Judge of the Mental Health Tribunal – 2014
Queen’s Counsel – 2011
Crown Court Recorder – 2005
Called to the Bar – 1989