Ben Close Crime

Call: 2009

Introduction

Ben has been a specialist criminal practitioner since he started his career in 2009. He moved to St Philips at the beginning of 2015, since which time he has developed his practice to encompass regulatory fields.

Ben is instructed by various prosecuting authorities and the defence, typically in serious and complex cases. As well as appearing regularly in the Crown Court, he has also appeared successfully numerous times in the Court of Appeal including in reported cases, where he has been complimented for his thorough approach.

He became a Grade 3 prosecutor at a very early stage in his career. He is on the specialist Grade 4 lists for Serious Crime and Proceeds of Crime and he is on the Grade 3 specialist Fraud panel. He has also been appointed to the CPS specialist rape panel.

Ben has been appointed to the ‘B’ list of Specialist Regulatory Advocates.

Ben has earned a reputation for a hard-working and thorough approach, but without losing sight of the importance of being personable and persuasive. He is equally at home addressing juries or judges.

After obtaining a First Class degree in Law where he achieved the highest marks in his University year, Ben completed an LLM in Criminal Justice prior to completing the Bar course. He now assists with advocacy training events and lecturing Bar students. He is a member of St Philips’ pupillage committee and is the editor of the criminal team’s newsletter.


Crime

Recently, notable prosecution successes include (all involved convictions after trials without a leader):

  • 2017 – 2019: Prosecuting 7 defendants for large-scale heroin supply at trial (Operation Granthall);
  • 2016 – 2018: Prosecuting a gang of 4 money launderers, based in London but who operated nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of pounds were seized (Operation Mantle);
  • 2017 – 2018: Prosecuting 5 armed robbers in a trial which was featured on a national television programme (Operation Chainstay);
  • 2017 – 2018: Prosecuting an armed robber who killed his accomplice by driving the getaway vehicle dangerously; and
  • 2016: Prosecuting a 7-defendant affray where one defendant was represented by a senior silk at trial.

Recent notable defence successes include:

  • 2018: Securing a suspended term of imprisonment for a driver who killed two people in a case of careless driving;
  • 2016: Obtaining an acquittal after a trial for a defendant faced with an allegation of s.18 assault involving injuries including multiple broken limbs;
  • 2016: Obtaining an acquittal after trial for a teacher facing sexual allegations made by a pupil; and
  • 2016: Obtaining an acquittal after trial for offences of violence for an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD.
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Fraud, Business and Financial Crime

Ben has considerable experience of fraud cases including, most recently, frauds committed by company directors, courier frauds, VAT fraud, identity thefts, benefit frauds, and frauds in breach of trust more generally. He is a specialist Grade 4 Proceeds of Crime prosecutor and a specialist Grade 3 Fraud prosecutor.

Examples of cases include successfully prosecuting trials in: a fraud targeting deceased customers’ bank accounts and then laundering the proceeds - 9 defendants were successfully prosecuted, one of whom worked inside the bank; a 9 defendant courier fraud case targeting elderly victims across multiple force areas; a former special constable for stealing her mother’s pension in a case involving sophisticated attempts to frustrate the investigation giving rise to further offences.

His experience of prosecuting multi-defendant fraud cases also extends to a 17 defendant (identity theft) case, again without a leader.
He is currently prosecuting a case involving an NHS employee working in another person’s identity.

Ben also has extensive experience of benefit fraud cases. As well as appearing for the defence and prosecution in benefit claimant cases, he has also successfully prosecuted larger conspiracies. That work has often been high-profile, for example, cases involving a local politician and a defendant who received disability benefits whilst working as a stage-actor.

As part of his fraud practice, Ben has amassed considerable experience of confiscation hearings. He prosecuted complex confiscation proceedings in a conspiracy involving drug importations valued at £1billion (without a leader). He was also a junior in a case where more than £2m was confiscated as a result of drugs offences (benefit figures were between £16 and £17million).

He has been successful in several hearings involving the determination of ownership of assets in accordance with the changes introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015. One case litigated over 2 weeks involved multiple defendants as well as a third party and resulted in the successful confiscation of more than half a million pounds worth of property. His experience extends to prosecuting specialist Queens Counsel in this area.

He has successfully appeared in the Court of Appeal in multiple cases including R v. Malhi [2016] EWCA Crim 2025 and R v. Muddassar [2017] EWCA Crim 382.

His experience also extends to restraint and enforcement hearings, encompassing legal argument in those fields and appearing in a related multi-track trial in the County Court, again on the issue of ownership of property.

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Motoring and Road Traffic

Ben has acted and advised in a full range of road traffic matters including cases involving allegations of dangerous driving resulting in death and serious injury. In one recent case where dangerous driving causing serious injury was alleged (and indeed, caused), he successfully acted for a bus driver where the prosecution ultimately accepted a guilty plea to careless driving avoiding the loss of his employment and resulting in an absolute discharge and a finding of special reasons.

He secured a suspended sentence in a case of careless driving where the defendant killed two occupants of another vehicle in a motorway collision.

Ben played a leading role in defence submissions accepted by the Court of Appeal in the case of R v. Needham [2016] EWCA Crim 455, providing guidance on sections 35A and B of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

Ben has prosecuted grave road traffic cases including causing death by dangerous driving.

He has experience of calling expert witnesses, in one such case successfully arguing that a defendant’s ability to drive was not impaired notwithstanding (accepted) use of illicit drugs.

In the Magistrates’ Court his work has encompassed document offences, mounting successful arguments in relation to ‘exceptional hardship’ and ‘special reasons’, and successful procedural arguments concerning the taking of samples.

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Organised Crime and Terrorism

Recently, Ben successfully prosecuted trials in (all without a leader):

  • 5 defendants (3 at trial) for conspiring to rob and burgle. The case involved car-key burglaries and robberies of high-powered cars, and then using those vehicles in robberies of small shops and cash in transit robberies, including at a bank. The offences also included the theft of a vehicle after it was seized by the police for its continued use in the crime-spree (case featured in a national television programme);
  • 7 defendants, 5 at trial, for 2 heroin conspiracies in Birmingham and Bradford. The case involved the bulk supply of importation-grade drugs with cumulative sentences of more than 50 years’ imposed;
  • A defendant for the armed robbery of a shop and then killing his accomplice whilst acting as the getaway driver;
  • 4 defendants for importing and supplying Class B and C drugs, including offences of perverting the course of justice involving attempts to frustrate the investigation of those offences. The drugs included former ‘legal highs’ and other drugs not catered for in the sentencing guidelines; and
  • 2 defendants for the armed robbery of a jewellers using a shotgun which was used to assault the employees.

Ben was the junior for the prosecution in what was described by the trial Judge as the largest ever cannabis case in the UK. The case involved the prosecution of those at the head of a criminal organisation responsible for the production of cannabis across the country including its sale using Bitcoin. More recently, he prosecuted a case involving the growing of cannabis at 10 sites including large disused commercial premises.

He has been instructed in numerous cases involving ‘street supply’, including prosecuting 15 defendants for conspiracies to supply cocaine and heroin in Birmingham.

Ben is currently the prosecution junior in an extremely complex case of drug importation and supply spanning various drugs, many years and multiple jurisdictions. The case also involves allegations of money laundering.

In 2018, Ben secured a positive outcome when defending in a multi-million pound case of sophisticated tobacco smuggling. The case ran to many thousands of pages of evidence.

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Serious Sexual Offences

Ben has prosecuted and represented numerous defendants in cases involving a broad range of sexual offences including successfully acting in rape cases and cases involving historic allegations. He is a specialist advocate on the CPS rape panel.

In 2016, acquittals included a teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student, and a nurse accused of assaulting a patient. Other notable successes include defending a schoolboy alleged to have assaulted a younger classmate.

Ben was the junior for the defence in a case where the defendant was charged with sexual offences against 13 victims, male and female and adults and children, over three decades, a case with complex issues around disclosure and bad character (mixed verdicts followed a lengthy trial).

He has successfully prosecuted cases of rape and other serious sexual offences. That experience encompasses the use of special measures, now typical in cases involving vulnerable witnesses including children.

He has undertaken specialist courses in the handling of vulnerable witnesses and other courses required of a specialist prosecution advocate in this field.

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