A leading practitioner with over 30 years’ experience, James Puzey is one of the most highly sought-after barristers in the fields of health and safety issues, inquests, environmental enforcement and tax. Across this unique mix of specialisms, James remains one of the most highly ranked practitioners in the country – by both legal directories (Band 1, Chambers & Partners, 2021; Tier 1, Legal 500, 2021) and is instructed by some of the most noted and high-profile public and private organisations in the UK, for their most complex issues. He is a ‘go to’ barrister for the Health and Safety Executive, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), various local authorities and leading private businesses.
Clients and instructing solicitors regularly comment that James is ‘truly excellent’, that his ability to ‘miss nothing and be on top of everything’ is invaluable and that his ‘commitment to hard work’ coupled with his ‘extremely dependable’ nature means that they turn to him time and again. Given his leading status, profile and experience, James’s current practice almost exclusively concerns cases of the utmost complexity, consequence and severity. Over recent years, James has been in particularly high demand for cases involving significant reputational risks, where there is a risk to the public at large or where novel or precedent-setting issues are considered, whether in health and safety, inquests, environmental or tax law.
James’ practice is tri-jurisdictional and, as may be properly expected, James is a highly experienced appellate advocate. He is frequently instructed on judicial review matters, as well as cases in the Court of Appeal.
James has a rare double accreditation when it comes to work in his specialist areas. He was appointed as a member of the Attorney-General’s Panel of Prosecution Advocates in 1998 and has been an “A” panel member of its successor, the List of Specialist Regulatory Advocates in Health and Safety and Environmental Law, since 2012. In addition, James is on the “A” list of the Attorney-General’s Panel of Civil Counsel, having been a panel member since 1996.
James has extensive expertise gained over 20 years of the most serious Health and Safety prosecutions. He appears regularly in the Crown Court in fatal accident cases and those involving risks to the public at large. He is equally comfortable acting for the prosecution or defence in the most complex matters. James’ cases tend to be multi-day cases requiring him to leverage his encyclopedic knowledge of health and safety laws, rules and regulations, his appetite for assimilating and dissecting volumes of evidence and his tactful, yet effective ability to handle and support witnesses of all types.
An eminent Crown Court advocate, James is also an experienced appellate advocate having appeared in significant cases such as R v ATE Truck and Trailer Limited  EWCA Crim 752, R v Mick George Limited and R v John Bruce. In addition, owing to his extensive expertise of legislation, practice and procedure, James has given presentations and seminars in Health and Safety and environmental law and recently presented at the National Safety and Health Conference.
James’ practice encompasses complex environmental work and his recent cases have involved large scale water or air pollution issues. As example, James has prosecuted statutory undertakings such as Severn Trent Water (on three occasions) and Yorkshire Water.
James is both a member of the ‘A’ list of the Panel of Specialist Regulatory Advocates for prosecution work, whilst also being on the ‘A’ list for the Attorney-General’s Civil Panel of Counsel. That relatively unusual double achievement, which James has held for nearly 10 years, demonstrates James’ expertise in both criminal and civil cases alike.
A snapshot of James’ extensive health and safety and environmental experience includes advising:
An experienced advocate and representative in the Coroner’s Court, James appears regularly at inquests across the UK. James intentionally maintains a balanced coronial matters practice, appearing for a wide range of interested persons at inquests, including insurers, the Health and Safety Executive, other statutory bodies, corporate clients and local authorities. James is a strong believer that the most effective practitioners must maintain a rounded client base, so as to be alert to all of the salient issues, the prevailing legislation and the latest rules of practice and procedure. James is particularly singled out in this arena for his calm demeanour, his ability to support the reasoned flow of a hearing by his expert handling of vulnerable witnesses and for his ability to tactfully and efficiently deal with the most complex, harrowing and serious of cases. He is well-versed in cases involving expert medical evidence
Over the last 6 or 7 years, James has been called upon to advise and represent interested persons in cases of the highest importance and significance. Those cases often involve significant underlying financial exposure to an interested party (in the form of fines or damages from resultant / following litigation), significant reputational risk, a risk of harm to the public at a large, cases that involve multiple fatalities or which otherwise carry serious consequences for an instructing party.
A snapshot of James’ extensive inquest and coronial matters experience includes:
James is an established indirect tax litigation specialist, with over 15 years’ experience. Many of his cases involve new or challenging points of law and/or have been reported and relied upon subsequently. His practice encompasses VAT and Customs and Excise duties appeals from the Tax Tribunal (Upper and First Tier) to the High Court and Court of Appeal. There are few areas of litigation before the Tribunal which James has not been involved in and he is considered a ‘go to’ barrister by HMRC.
A snapshot of James’ extensive tax and duties experience includes the following reported cases:
Professional and lay clients alike comment that James is a ‘calm, reasoned’ and ‘hugely efficient practitioner’. He is able to set clients, interested parties and witnesses at ease and, through hard work, a sharp eye for detail and his keen intellect, is able to cut straight to the salient issues of any dispute, inquiry or prosecution. James has the rare ability to combine an extremely personable and ‘down to earth’ nature, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the law and a robust approach to case and witness management. James regularly cross-examines expert medical and other specialist witnesses, drawing attention to often hidden and opaque points in the evidence, buried in the detail.
Professional clients in particular value his ability, despite a busy caseload and regular demand, to be on ‘top of everything’. Not only does James know his brief ‘back to front’, clients have come to rely upon the exceptional quality of his written advice, the calm and persuasive style of his courtroom advocacy and the prompt, efficient way in which he deals with each case.
‘A’ list of the List of Specialist Regulatory Advocates in Health and Safety and Environmental Law
‘A’ list for the Attorney-General’s Civil Panel of Counsel
The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple
Criminal Bar Association
Health and Safety Lawyers Association
“Jim is an impressive barrister. He has an excellent and calm manner with clients. He always ensures that the lay client fully understands the basis for his advice. He is a team player and works excellently with solicitors and barristers alike. His advocacy in court is thoroughly prepared and well presented.” Legal 500 2023
“James has an excellent bedside manner. He is highly regarded by clients and instructing lawyers and is swift in providing advice.” Chambers & Partners 2023
“James is extremely knowledgeable in this area of law.” Chambers & Partners 2023
“James is intellectually very capable.” Chambers & Partners 2023