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.
What the Directories Say:
- “A quintessential jury advocate.” and “He is a very smooth performer.” – Chambers UK 2019
- “A born advocate.” and “A very authoritative silk.” – Legal 500 2019
- “A very impressive silk; juries love him.” – Legal 500
- “Conscientious, meticulous and fearless.”, “He has risen quickly to senior-silk status.” – Legal 500
- “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.” – Chambers UK
- “He is a very intelligent and very sharp advocate.” – Chambers UK
Qualifications and Appointments:
- Judicial College Tutor Judge – 2012
- Queen’s Counsel – 2011
- Recorder of the Crown Court – 2005
- Bar Finals – 1989
- BA (Hons) Jurisprudence, St Catherine’s College, Oxford University – 1988
- King Henry VIII School Coventry – 1973-1984
Richard is Leader of the Midland Circuit and a member of the South Eastern Circuit. He is Chairman of the Bar Council Member Services Board, and sits on the General Management Committee of the Bar Council.
He is a member of the BARCO escrow account committee. He was vice-Chairman of the 2013 Bar Conference and is 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.
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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.+ Add to Brochure
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.
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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.+ Add to Brochure
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.
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