James specialises predominantly in  Health, Safety & Environmental Law and has an established practice in Disciplinary & Regulatory cases. He has a considerable background in complex industrial accident cases, fraud and corruption casesFinancial Services, multi-jurisdictional confiscation proceedings and Public Law.

James’ reputation is for prompt assistance to all professional clients in all disciplines; detailed preparation, calm, reasoned and practical advice for all lay clients as well as robust advocacy, fearless cross examination and sound tactical sense in Court.

In 2014, James was the Chambers and Partners Professional Discipline Junior of the Year, and in 2017 he was the Chambers and Partners Health and Safety Junior of the Year.

As at 2022, James Leonard is one of only two barristers at the Bar of England and Wales to whom Chambers and Partners have afforded the ‘Star’ status in Health and Safety law.

Against the background of his fraud, corruption and financial services experience, James is regularly instructed in relation to allegations of Contempt of Court in relation to disobeying court orders in relation to assets and disclosure thereof.


James’ Health & Safety and Environmental work leads to appearances in Courts at every level but his caseload includes the most serious cases. They invariably include fatalities in the work place, allegations of gross negligence manslaughter and offences under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

He represents nationally known companies (including Comet Group PLC, Sainsbury Group, Dyfed Steels Ltd, RWE Npower PLC, Western Power Distribution PLC, Virgin Media Group, BOC (UK) Ltd, BFK Joint Venture on the Crossrail project, Babcock DSG Ltd, Barratt Developments PLC, Toppesfield Ltd,  ConocoPhilips (U.K.) Ltd, British Airways PLC, British Car Auctions Ltd and British Land PLC) as well as smaller limited companies and their directors.

His most recent work includes representing British Airways PLC in respect of a prosecution arising out of a serious baggage hall accident at Heathrow’s T5 and WH Malcolm Ltd in relation to the death of an 11 year old boy on a private rail network.

James’ Health and Safety-related work is extensive and nationwide, and extending to Australia. He regularly represents corporates and individuals in jury and non-jury inquests particularly when an individual is thought to be at risk of prosecution. In Inquests, robustly managing an individual’s right against self-incrimination in a potentially hostile tribunal is a particular specialty. James has extensive experience in Article 2 Inquest proceedings having appeared in a number of prison death cases and deaths relating to police activity including the Tomlinson G20 Inquest and the suicide of a mental health patient in a south Wales hospital. He has particular experience with health and safety issues arising out of Care Home facilities, having represented a number of care home owners and service providers arising out of fatal accidents to and/or unexplained deaths of residents. His health care work includes experience in the GMC and GDC (see professional discipline tab) and representing registered Care Homes and Managers in relation to CQC investigations and prosecutions as well as appealing notices of suspension to the First Tier Tribunal.

James’ Inquest experience includes representing, as Leading Junior, a building sub-contractor in the three-month Lakanal House Fire ‘Super’ Inquest in London. In 2015, he represented the BFK Joint Venture at an Inquest in relation to a death on the Crossrail project. In July 2016 he represented a PFI Company in relation to the death of a patient from Legionnaire’s disease in a major public healthcare facility and more latterly represented Barratt Developments PLC at an Inquest arising out of a landslide at Looe in Cornwall.

Alongside his Inquest work James has extensive Public Inquiry experience having represented the Chief Pathologist for the Northern Ireland in the Hyponatraemia Inquiry in relation to the Royal Hospital in Belfast and CS Stokes Assocs Ltd, the Fire Risk Assessor for the Tower one of the primary Core Participants in the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.

In the context of Health and Safety prosecution, James’ work is nationwide. He regularly appears in the Crown Court and, when necessary, the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, for example recently for the successful appellant in R (HSE) vs. ATE Ltd (2018). Consideration of relevant regulations and criminal liability (or not) as a result of alleged breaches is a specialty. He regularly advises individuals and companies faced with HSE or LA enquiries on strategy, response and internal investigation.

His recent homicide experience includes defending for the Princes Sporting Club Ltd when the company was prosecuted for Corporate Manslaughter, defending in R v. John Binning (gross negligence manslaughter arising out of a fall from height in farming/commercial premises) and (in 2016) defending Dr Errol Cornish (arising arising out of a death in hospital alongside an NHS Trust charged with Corporate Manslaughter. In 2022 (charged with gross negligence manslaughter) R v. Robinson, he is defending (as a leading Junior) the director of a demolition company.

He has lectured extensively on the new guideline to the Health and Safety Lawyers Association (in London and Scotland) and to solicitors and corporate clients alike.

In addition to his experience in relation to major industrial accidents for power, utility and COMAH installations for RWE nPower PLC and BOC (UK Ltd), he was instructed by Freshfields Bruckhous Deringer for ConocoPhilips (U.K.) Ltd in relation to a prosecution arising out of the LOGGS gas emission in the North Sea – one of the biggest ever of its kind – which went to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).

In the autumn of 2016 James was instructed to advise Masuri Group Ltd (manufacturers of cricket helmets) in relation to its appearance before the NSW Coroner (Australia) for an Inquest into the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes.

He is currently instructed for the site owners of the Didcot Power Station, which collapsed in February 2016 leading to four fatalities.

Although predominantly a defence advocate, James is instructed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in relation to prosecutions arising out of fatal accidents at sea and prosecuted R (MCA) v. Bowman-Davies in 2017 for a double fatality which resulted in the longest prison sentence ever handed down in an MCA prosecution for offences pursuant to the Merchant Shipping Act and its regulations.

He also has a well-established practice defending death by dangerous driving cases in the Crown Court and Court of Appeal Criminal Division particularly for commercial drivers.

James manages the UK Health and Safety Lawyers Group on LinkedIn and was awarded the prize of Health and Safety Junior of the Year in the Chambers and Partners UK Bar Awards 2017.


His fraud and financial services experience includes allegations of tax fraud, VAT/MTIC fraud, FCA interventions and investigations, and corruption at the very highest level especially appearing as a Leading Junior. The management of evidence, disclosure, privilege and unused material in vast cases are particular specialties.

His financial services work includes money laundering offences and investigations and complex multi-jurisdictional confiscation proceedings involving Switzerland, the Channel Islands, Spain, Andorra, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Gibraltar and the United States of America.

James has an established practice representing corporate clients, Trusts and fiduciary services companies in relation to financial structures and in particular the impact of proceedings/investigations on property held in off shore structures and/or international jurisdictions.

This practice includes, where appropriate, intervening as on behalf of third parties in confiscation proceedings and advising on the management of and reaction to Restraint Orders and the appointment of Receivers.

James provides guidance on the nature scope and conduct of internal investigations concerning employee conduct.

Against the background of his fraud, corruption and financial services experience, James is regularly instructed in relation to allegations of Contempt of Court in relation to disobeying court orders in relation to assets and disclosure thereof. He is instructed both to defend allegations of Contempt of Court and in relation to the bringing of committal proceedings.

His Regulatory experience of representing health care and legal professionals extends to Inquests, the GMC, the GDC, the GPhC, the Tribunal Chamber for Education Health and Social Care and SRA disciplinary tribunals.

He regularly appears in the High Court and Court of Appeal concerning the challenge of regulatory orders. In the medical tribunals, James represents clients up to Consultant level in relation to health and misconduct issues with a particular emphasis on serious clinical incompetence, dishonesty, fraud and suspected sexual impropriety.

He has a background in serious crime (and is a veteran of innumerable murders, manslaughters, sexual offences and investment/ tax frauds). When dealing with conduct allegations against professionals which involves criminal behaviour, James appears in the Crown Court. During the summer of 2010 James was Junior to Adrian Hopkins QC in the GMC, representing Forensic Pathologist Dr Freddie Patel in relation to innumerable allegations relating to Dr Patel’s appearance at Inquests.

In 2011 he went on to represent Dr Patel at the G20 Protest Inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson, one of the most high profile inquests of recent years. As part of his GMC experience, James represented a Shropshire GP charged with deliberately administering a fatal dose of diamorphine to one of his patients in a so called “mercy killing”. The case amounted to an allegation of murder, attracted national publicity but was resolved by the Doctor receiving a formal warning.

In 2014 he conducted FtPP hearings for Consultants and Senior Clinicians in relation to misconduct and performance issues including a consultant Breast Cancer Surgeon in relation to apparent missed cancer diagnoses. He represented a Senior Pathology Consultant at the 2014 Northern Ireland Inquiry into Hyponatraemia Related Deaths. His case load for 2016 is similar and includes allegations of sexual impropriety by a GP with a patient and allegations against a consultant Psychiatrist concerning the discharge of a patient who went on to commit a violent criminal offence on a member of the public.

In recent years, his experience has extended to representing the partner of a firm of solicitors for allegations of wrongdoing relating to client funds, a junior solicitor in a high profile media firm apparently forging the signature of a client on a mortgage deed, a senior Obstetric consultant for fraud in the Crown Court, GMC and in relation to High Court Judicial Review, a consultant anaesthetist for manslaughter in the Crown Court, at Inquest and in GMC proceedings and in 2018/9 a dentist charged with over 2000 offences of misconduct in relation to record keeping and dishonesty.
James manages the Professional Discipline Lawyers Group on LinkedIn.

Related updates

James Leonard is regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and holds a current practising certificate. If you are not satisfied with the service provided, please click here.

“James is first-class.”

Health & Safety, Chambers and Partners 2023

“He is a brilliant trial advocate.”

Health & Safety, Chambers and Partners 2023

“James is a pre-eminent advocate.”

Health & Safety, Chambers and Partners 2023

“He is extremely calm and well prepared.”

Professional Negligence, Chambers and Partners 2023

“James is one of the best practitioners around.”

Professional Discipline, Chambers and Partners 2023

"One of the best in the country by a long way."

Health and Safety. Legal 500 2023

"James is a wonder. He makes exceptionally challenging cases look straightforward and is able to manage difficult people in difficult situations with disarming charm."

Professional Discipline and Regulatory Law, legal 500 2023

"His strengths are brilliant client care, attention to detail and strategy, making him a go-to health and safety barrister."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2022

"A go-to barrister with brilliant client care skills and excellent attention to detail. He goes the extra mile."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2021

"An excellent barrister who not only brings a wealth of experience, but also an indispensable commercial awareness which allows him to deal effectively with even the most complex and challenging of circumstances."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2021

"A very pleasing advocate who is very client-friendly."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2021

"He is useful in front of tribunals, always well prepared and thorough, and is well liked by tribunals and juries. He is extremely realistic and good at guiding people to sensible conclusions, and he promotes confidence in his clients."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2021

"James is always very well prepared with an excellent eye for detail, a strong advocate who is also very good at putting clients at ease."

Professional Discipline & Regulatory, Legal 500 2021

"James is a fantastic all-rounder. His advice is practical, analytical and commercial. In court James wins over judges and coroners. He is expert in his application of health and safety law. He is our go-to barrister for health and safety and inquest work."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2021

"A fine strategic thinker who has an air of authority about him."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2020

"He has a brilliant eye for detail and he is very good at putting anxious individuals at ease."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2020

"An outstanding practitioner."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2019

"He has a fantastic way of presenting in court and fights in the most effective way."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2019

"Very focused and strategically minded."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2018

"He has a phenomenal encyclopaedic knowledge."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2018

"He has an ability to assimilate vast amounts of information at short notice and distil it in coherent form." "He is very good at reading the panel when he is doing his advocacy."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2016

"Unafraid of getting his hands dirty, and has a fantastic tone which persuades judges."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2015

"Regularly defends against silks at the General Medical Council."

Professional Discipline & Regulatory Law, Legal 500 2015

"He is very impressive, stays on top of the case, and has a good feel for tactics and strategy. He thinks ahead and is particularly gifted at anticipating problematic issues before they arise."

Chambers & Partners 2014

"He is a fantastic advocate. He is able to negotiate with the prosecutor and his client-handling skills are unrivalled."

Chambers & Partners 2014

"He is able to engage with the prosecution and achieves great results."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2014

"The first choice for a sensitive case."

Legal 500 2014

James Leonard is "exceptionally good" and is noted for his handling of difficult cases involving issues of dishonesty. He is "excellent with clients" and "extremely good in front of regulatory panels." A former criminal advocate, he is "a fierce cross-examiner."

Chambers & Partners 2013

"He is very methodical, exceptionally quick, and he will diligently do anything you send to him as readily as he possibly can. Clients absolutely love him."

Chambers & Partners 2013

"Goes the extra mile" and "prepares his cases exceptionally well."

Legal 500 2013

"Exceptionally able, very hardworking, and an absolute treat to instruct."

Legal 500 2013

James Leonard, has a background in criminal cases and so "took to professional discipline like a duck to water." He has a thriving practice which is strong on GMC and inquest work.

Chambers & Partners 2012

James Leonard is "thorough", "enthusiastic", "good with clients" and "an excellent advocate."

Legal 500 2012

"One of the best in his field. Strong in giving advice and really empathetic."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2018

First-class judgement.

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2018

"His charming approach is a winner, whether with clients or before the tribunal."

Professional Discipline, Legal 500 2017

"He delivers impartial and commercial advice, while striking the right chord with judges."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2017

"His easy-going nature puts clients at ease and he has a wonderfully analytical mind. Hes able to get on the right side of tribunals and carry them with him. A wonderfully persuasive advocate."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2017

"He is always clear, concise and totally on the ball."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2017

"He's a fantastic tactician and incredibly charming."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2017

"He is extremely approachable and a pleasure to work alongside."

Professional Discipline, Legal 500 2016

"Dynamic and persuasive in court; he wins over judges, magistrates and coroners."

Health & Safety, Legal 500 2016

"Clients like him. He is good-humoured, friendly and works very hard for them and their instructing solicitors and advises depending on the merits of each case, adjusting his style as needed."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2016

"He's absolutely superb as hes very quick on the uptake of issues and has no mannerisms or posturing."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2016

"He addresses things in exactly the right way for each individual client."

Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2016

"A very good negotiator who is extremely well prepared on the documents front." "He's very visible to those that instruct him and shares his knowledge about important cases."

Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2015

To find out more, contact Nick Levett +44 (0)20 7427 4908 or Adam Macdonald +44 (0)20 7427 4906  for a confidential discussion.

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