Called to the Bar in 1970
Practice Area: Crime
After completing his law degree at Oxford University in 1969, Robin prepared himself for criminal practice by undertaking the Diploma in Criminology at Cambridge University, very much enjoying the multi-disciplinary and international aspects of the course whose successful participants are nowadays awarded an M. Phil. He was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1970. Thereafter, having completed pupillage at 5 Paper Buildings (supervised by Brian Leary QC, Treasury Counsel) and at 5 Essex Court (supervised by Alastair Hill QC, master of many areas of the law), he combined the early years of practise with a part-time lectureship in Criminology in the Sociology Department at Reading University, which in turn led to a couple of years as a full-time member of the faculty (as Assistant Professor) at New York Law School, where he taught Criminal Law, Evidence and Corrections Law with something of an English accent! He found the experience of the Socratic Method of teaching both challenging and exhilarating. Upon his return to the UK in 1979 he co-authored one of the earliest articles to appear in a British legal journal upon the emerging American phenomenon of mediation.
He soon built up a formidable criminal practice in a set of Chambers that began at 12 South Square Grays Inn and relocated to 14 Grays Inn Square, and then he accepted an invitation to join what was then a very young set of Chambers at 2 Paper Buildings. There he was Head of Chambers from 1990 until 1998 when he was succeeded by Mark Love, who has remained in that role ever since and has presided over a further expansion of numbers and the move of address to our present location opposite the Temple Church.
Robin undertakes a wide range of criminal work, but fraud, drugs and serious sexual offences have figured particularly prominently in recent years. He both prosecutes and defends and has accumulated a wealth of experience upon which he builds with meticulous attention to detail in the preparation of every case. It is his aim to know more about a case than his opponent does before it is listed for any significant hearing.
His most memorable trial (not merely because it lasted for eight months) took place at the Central Criminal Court in the year 2000. He was defending in a multi-handed timeshare fraud in which he was one of only two junior leaders amid a sea of silks, one of whom was shortly afterwards appointed a High Court judge. The principal defendant was John Palmer (previously dubbed Goldfinger). The trial was notable for the fact that it was one of the first in which the core documentary evidence was stored on CD-Rom and was presented to the jury on computer screens. It helped to establish the fact that many days of court time could be saved by not having to invite jurors to keep wading through numerous different files in order to keep up with the case being presented to them. Unfortunately, because in the end the dates clashed, Robin had to return another case in which he had also been instructed to defend as leading junior, a VAT fraud which ran for three months at Wood Green Crown Court.
Some five years ago he co-defended as leading junior with Orlando Pownall QC in a trial at Kingston Crown Court in which it was alleged that his client had committed a series of regulatory and trademark offences in relation to a large quantity of counterfeit Viagra tablets seized at premises controlled by the co-defendant who was a registered pharmacist who held a wholesale dealer’s licence. It was a VHCC case because originally those two defendants had been joined with numerous other defendants whose trial had lasted many months. After nearly a week of legal argument that included evidence being called before the judge alone a jury was about to be sworn when all of a sudden the prosecution offered to accept pleas to a very minor part of the overall picture that they had been presenting. Even those convictions were eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Soon afterwards Robin led his colleague Mark Stern in a trial at Reading Crown Court in which they defended the proprietor of a power tool shop who was alleged to have conspired (over a period of several years) with a senior director of a major power tool manufacturer to steal products valued by the prosecution at well over £1 million. Unfortunately the co-defendant had kept in a log that he carried to work daily in his briefcase detailed records of what Robin’s client owed him on a weekly basis. In the end (some two months after the trial had begun) the jury rejected the defendants’ joint (pretty fanciful) explanation, but in the course of the proceedings by cross-examination Robin had succeeded in persuading the judge that the total loss to the co-defendant’s employers was a great deal less than had originally been asserted. In their interviews with the probation officers who prepared their pre-sentence reports both defendants at last admitted their guilt. The outcome was that both received prison sentences that would otherwise have been a great deal longer.
In 2008, led by David Etherington QC, Robin represented a successful businessman in his own sphere whose fondness for a drink at the end of the day brought him into company with his principal co-defendant at his local public house. The friendship that developed between them led him into involvement in what leading counsel for the Crown (Anthony Shaw QC) described as a boiler-room type fraud in which numerous American professionals (including doctors and attorneys) were persuaded to invest in a scheme involving the purchase of fine wines in the barrel in French vineyards with the promise that they would subsequently be bottled and sold by the case on the American market. The enterprise had little chance of success and eventually it failed but by then the principal co-defendants had rewarded themselves handsomely. Robin’s client had naively allowed himself to become involved in some important aspects of the new business and had failed to exercise the degree of oversight that he should have done. His defence amounted to an assertion that he had been duped himself. He spent three days in the witness box explaining himself and was the only defendant to be acquitted. The following week he celebrated his 70th birthday with his good character in tact.
Robin has extensive experience in the prosecution of fraud, not only benefit fraud in respect of which he has regularly advised DWP, CPS and local authorities upon the gathering of evidence and upon charges, but also a wider range of fraudulent activity a recent example of which was a two-month trial at St Albans Crown Court in which he led an experienced District Crown Prosecutor in the prosecution of six defendants charged with conspiracy to defraud. Financial institutions had been tricked into parting with large sums of money to the holders of bank accounts opened in bogus names and then the money was siphoned away via ATMs before the transactions were discovered to have been dishonest. It was a complex and clever scheme whose intricacies Robin very much enjoyed explaining to the jury.
Robin is a Grade 4 on the CPS list of approved advocates. That means that he can be instructed in very serious cases.
His name is also included on the CPS rape list. He has many years of experience in both prosecuting and defending in cases of alleged serious sexual assault including rape. In 2011 at Oxford Crown Court he prosecuted a case involving allegations of repeated sexual assault of both his teenage daughters by a man who utterly denied that anything untoward had occurred. He was duly convicted of most of the many counts upon the indictment. Likewise at Snaresbrook Crown Court a few years before that he had prosecuted a man accused of indecent assaults upon a 16-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother. He has defended in many more such cases, especially those involving allegations of serious sexual offences committed against children. He has defended numerous clients who have been facing historic allegations of sexual abuse, sometimes a father or uncle and on other occasions a trusted friend of the family. His most recent client within that particular category was approaching his 80th birthday and was in declining health.
By way of contrast one of his more striking recent successes was the defence of a Turkish man who within a matter of minutes of first meeting in the street a young woman who had become temporarily detached from her female companions on their way home after a night out in the pubs and night clubs of Salisbury was engaging in sexual intercourse with her in the flat he shared nearby with friends from work. Her sister was unable to find her and enlisted the help of their father in looking for her. He found her in the client’s bed and interrupted their activity by accusing him of rape. The father was a serving police officer. His daughter adopted her father’s accusation. After many months in custody the client was acquitted. Police had traced his estranged wife and she had claimed that both before and during their marriage he had regularly raped her. He was acquitted of those charges also, a result that vindicated the bold decision not to apply for the two sets of charges to be severed.
Robin has on a number of different occasions defended parents accused of child cruelty, consisting of physical violence and of sheer neglect. In one recent such case a baby had sustained serious injuries at home. Both his parents were young and immature. Robin represented the father. The mother blamed him (and he blamed her) and the prosecution decided to call her as a witness against him. He strenuously denied being responsible for any save the most minor injuries. There were concurrent Family Court proceedings. Robin and the prosecution advocate kept closely informed of developments in that forum (particularly the medical reports). In the end the prosecution accepted a guilty plea on a written basis that reflected what the client had admitted to the police in the first place. In another recent case at the same court Robin represented a mother with a long history of clinical depression who was accused of neglect of her 14-year-old son. That was a particularly distressing case for all concerned in it, including her neighbours.
Robin is a member of the South Eastern Circuit and of the Western Circuit.