Duncan Atkinson KC

Barrister

Year of Call

1995

Profile

“Duncan is an absolutely first rate barrister. He has a complete mastery of sensitive material.”

Chambers & Partners

“He is extremely hard working, witty, forthright and responsive.”

Chambers & Partners

“Duncan is at the very top of the profession in terms of prosecuting. He is an excellent lawyer and a first class advocate. He is steely and very knowledgeable.”

Legal 500

“An absolute class act and an experienced prosecutor in some of the heaviest cases. He is fair but firm and very effective with juries.”

Chambers & Partners

“Quietly devastating in cross-examinations.”

Chambers & Partners

“Decent, kind and effective.”

Chambers & Partners

“A fantastic advocate, hugely respected by the courts.”

“Meticulously prepared and covers the case from every angle.”

Legal 500

“A tough cross-examiner who is a well regarded silk…praised for his subtlety and charm”
“A quick-witted performer who is really first class. He is a master of the detail in a case… there is a lightness to his advocacy that is highly effective”

Legal 500

An “Impressive performer and a good leader” (Chambers and Partners), Duncan is much in demand for his advocacy and opinion in a broad spectrum of criminal and regulatory work, and in particular cases of homicide, terrorism, health and safety, and financial and corporate crime, both at first instance and in appellate proceedings.

Legal 500

Expertise

As Treasury Counsel since 2009 and Senior Treasury Counsel since 2015, Duncan has appeared in numerous complex and high profile homicide cases, including a number of high profile “cold cases”, together with homicides involving issues of contested medical causation, diminished responsibility and child-death. Duncan has particular expertise in cases of gross negligence manslaughter, deaths in the context of health and safety regulation, and deaths of persons in residential care or state detention.

Duncan has also appeared in numerous cases concerning allegations of terrorism, and relating to organised crime. In recent times, the former have included those planning attacks on the British Museum and Gay Pride, and latter has included the successful prosecution of the largest attempted importation of automatic weapons into the United Kingdom. Other cases in which he has also appeared as an advocate have involved allegations of rape, serious disorder, public nuisance, blackmail, prison escape, corruption, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act.

Duncan also appears in cases of serious fraud and corruption, and has acted in both an advisory capacity and as an advocate for News UK, in the so called ‘hacking’ trials, for a UK FTSE company (GSK), and for senior executives in the international banking sector (the Staley FCA investigation and in relation to the Libor and Unaoil investigations).

Other cases in which he has also appeared as an advocate have involved allegations of rape, serious disorder, public nuisance, blackmail, prison escape, corruption, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act. He has also appeared in the Supreme Court in relation to the propriety of prosecutions based on activity by paedophile hunters (Sutherland v HM Advocate [2021] AC 427) and the definition of sexual touching (AG’s Reference No.1 of 2020 [[2021] QB 441).

Duncan has successfully acted in murder, manslaughter and attempted murder trials of all varieties, including cases of loss of control, self-defence, diminished responsibility, multi-handed ‘gang’ killings, juvenile defendants and cases with complex medical or other expert evidence. Recent cases have included:

  • Cases where the pathological evidence was limited or complicated due to the delayed recovery of the body or limited initial investigation, such as Gale and Trigg, or where no body was recovered, such as Griggs and Cole.
  • Cases involving extensive psychiatric evidence and the defence of diminished responsibility, such as Tadewicz, Arezo, Nandap and Beresford.
  • A prosecution for corporate manslaughter (CAV Aerospace)
  • Prosecution of gross negligence manslaughter through positional asphyxia during restraint (Wright), and relating to alleged failures of care by prison officers.
  • Case relating to a 6 week old infant taken onto a bus by her mother in an attempt to conceal her death (Baker and Wiltshire), and a 3 year old crushed by the movement of a car seat (Waterson and Hoare)

Duncan also appeared in the Supreme Court when it reconsidered the liability of secondary parties in cases of murder (Jogee [2016] UKSC 8), and in the Court of Appeal both when the revised test was applied to six homicide cases (Johnson [2016] EWCA Crim 1613) and when the approach there identified was applied to a variety of homicide convictions (including Laura Mitchell [2018] EWCA Crim 2687; Johnson-Haynes [2019] EWCA Crim 1217). He also appeared when the Court of Appeal addressed the loss of control defence (Gurpinar [2015] EWCA Crim 178).

Duncan has an extensive experience of involvement in the whole gamut of counter-terrorism prosecutions, having in the course of his career appeared as Leading, Junior and Sole Counsel in high profile terrorism- related cases, including the “fertiliser bomber” case – Khyam which was then the largest joint operation of UK police forces, the security services and foreign law enforcement agencies. Recent cases have included:

  • Allegation of preparation for acts of terrorism, involving persons accused of preparing to travel to Syria for the purposes of terrorism – Abdallah, two sisters planning attacks on Westminster and the British Museum (Boular) and a defendant acquitted in relation to an earlier attack who planned to attach Gay Pride – Chowdhury .
  • Allegations of membership of a terrorist organization, both relating to ISIS (Hamasallih) and neo-Nazi group National Action (Deakin; Lythgoe)(
  • A neo-Nazi plot to kill an MP (Renshaw).

Duncan has also acted as an adviser to the Government in relation to issues of disclosure in terrorism cases, and in relation to the drafting of guidance for the National Crime Agency. He appeared in the Supreme Court to address the meaning of “terrorism” in the Terrorism Act 2000 in the case of Mohammed Gul ([2013] UKSC 64), and in relation to the ‘port stop’ provisions of Schedule 7, Terrorism Act 2000 (Beghal [2015] UKSC 49).

Duncan has been instructed both in an advisory capacity and as an advocate in cases relating to breaches of Health and Safety and Environmental Protection legislation, both in criminal and inquest proceedings. In particular:

  • Duncan has been instructed by the Office of Rail Regulation in relation to a number of serious rail accidents and rail-related fatalities,
  • He has appeared as leading counsel in a health and safety related cases of Corporate Manslaughter
  • He appeared in the prosecution of a number of individuals and companies relating to a death from gas inhalation (6699 Ltd.) and as a result of the falling of an unsecured window frame (West Green).
  • He has and continues to advise in relation to deaths in care homes, prisons and recently in relation to the collapse of the Didcot power station.

Duncan has built up considerable experience in cases of serious and complex fraud and corruption, including cases involving the Serious Fraud Office, HMRC, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Department of Work and Pensions. He also has particular experience of Hi-Tech and computer-based fraud and other forms of “cybercrime” (see below), and in confiscation proceedings. Notable cases have included:

  • Allegations relating to a substantial fraud against the NHS.
  • A substantial fraud relating to the Millennium Dome.
  • A substantial fraud alleged to have been committed by a bank employee through unprotected market speculation.
  • International corruption allegations involving activity in Saudi Arabia and Norway.

Duncan has also in an advisory role for:

  • A potential suspect in the SFO Libor investigation.
  • A high-profile individual in respect of investigations into alleged corporate and private misconduct as part of Operations Weeting and Elvedon.
  • A senior individual in the international banking sector.
  • A UK FTSE company facing investigation for alleged involvement in corruption.

Duncan has been at the forefront of this developing area of criminal litigation. He acted from an early stage in an advisory capacity in Operation “Ore”, the international investigation of the incitement to supply indecent images of children. Other cases in this area have included Operation “Blossom”, a conspiracy to defraud the computer software industry with pirated software (the first large-scale prosecution by the National High-Tech Crime Unit) and the prosecution of fraud through the construction and distribution of malicious software.

Duncan is regularly instructed in relation to proceedings by way of judicial review, acting both in pre-action litigation and in the Administrative Court. Cases in which he has appeared have included:

  • The acceptance by the Home Secretary and Serious Fraud Office of a letter of request from Italy in the context of fraud proceedings.
  • The proper application of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 in relation to gang-violence injunctions.
  • Challenge to the decision making of the Attorney General (Slade [2018] EWHC 3573 (Admin)).
  • Challenge to decisions on abuse of process and prosecution activity in the magistrates court (DPP v Sunderland Magistrates Court [2018] EWHC 229 (Admin)).

Challenges by judicial review to prosecutorial decisions, and applications relating to SFO/Police search warrant applications.

Duncan has been instructed to act for interested parties in several inquests before the Coroner’s Court. These have included appearing both at the inquest and subsequent prosecution relating to the Potters Bar derailment, and the inquest relating to the death of a soldier at military barracks. Duncan appeared in an advisory capacity in the 7/7 inquest. He has represented a number of the bereaved families at the Manchester Arena Bombing Inquiry before Sir John Saunders since 2020.

  • Queen’s Counsel (2015)
  • Senior Treasury Counsel (2015)
  • Recorder (2012)
  • Treasury Counsel (2009)
  • Member of the Fraud Lawyers Association.
  • Member of the Criminal Bar Association and South Eastern Circuit.
  • Bencher of Gray’s Inn
  • Editor, EU Law in Criminal Practice (Oxford University Press)
  • Co-Author, Blackstone’s Guide to the Criminal Procedure Rules (Oxford University Press)
  • Contributor, Fraud: Criminal Law and Procedure (Oxford University Press)
  • Contributor, Blackstone’s Criminal Practice (Oxford University Press)
  • University of Bristol (LLB Hons) (First Class)
  • Lord Justice Holker Scholarship, Gray’s Inn

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Notable cases

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