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James Leonard

James Leonard

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James specialises predominantly in Disciplinary & Regulatory and Health, Safety & Environmental Law. He has a considerable background in complex industrial accident cases, fraud and corruption cases, Financial 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.

Health, Safety & Environment

James’ Health & Safety and Environmental work leads to appearances in Courts at every level but his caseload is at the higher end of the scale of seriousness. Those cases 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, Tulip Group PLC, Sita UK Ltd, BOC (UK) Ltd, BFK Joint Venture on the Crossrail project, Babcock DSG Ltd, Barratt Developments PLC and ConocoPhilips (U.K.) Ltd) as well as smaller limited companies and their directors. His most recent work includes representing BBC Studio Works Ltd in respect of a prosecution arising out of an on-set accident at Elstree Studios, London, UK.

James’ Health and Safety-related work is extensive and nationwide, recently 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 in December 2016 was instructed to represent Barratt Developments PLC at an Inquest arising out of a landslide at Looe in Cornwall.

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, 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 (charged with gross negligence manslaughter) arising out of a death in hospital alongside an NHS Trust charged with Corporate Manslaughter.

In 2016, James defended in R (MKBC) v. Travis Perkins Trading Company Limited – one of the first fatal accident prosecutions/sentences of a multi-billion pound turnover company under the new Sentencing Council’s Guideline on Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Hygiene Offences. 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.

In 2017, James’s prosecution experience included representing, as first Junior, the BFK JV in a prosecution arising out of a fatality on the Crossrail project and Western Power Distribution (South West) PLC arising out of the fatality of one of its overhead linesmen.

He is currently instructed for the site owners of the Didcot Power Station, which collapsed in February 2016 leading to four fatalities. James has experience of Public Inquiry work and is currently instructed for one of the Core Participants in the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.

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.

Appointments & Memberships

  • Association of Regulatory & Disciplinary Lawyers
  • Criminal Bar Association
  • Health & Safety Lawyers Association


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.

Areas of Law


“A fine strategic thinker who has an air of authority about him.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2019

“He has a brilliant eye for detail and he is very good at putting anxious individuals at ease.” Professional Discipline, Chambers & Partners 2019

“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

“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. He’s 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 he’s 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

“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 201

“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


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