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Criminal Litigation

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Duncan has appeared as Leading, Sole and Junior Counsel in cases of rape, public nuisance, blackmail, prison escape, corruption, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act. Notable cases have included appearing as Junior Prosecution Counsel in relation to an allegation of blackmail in which the victim was a member of the extended Royal Family, and appearing in the prosecution of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, the allegation being that two men arrested for drugs offences, with the assistance of their Customs handler, received an unwarranted reduction in sentence having deceived the authorities and the court into believing that seizures of firearms which had taken place on the basis of their information related to the criminal activities of others rather than their own deliberate misconduct. Duncan has acted in an advisory capacity for News UK, in relation to the ongoing ‘hacking’ prosecutions.

Duncan appears regularly in the Court of Appeal and in the Administrative Court, and appeared on a number of occasions before the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords. He has appeared in the Supreme Court to address the meaning of “terrorism” in the Terrorism Act 2000 and to address the DPP’s guidance in cases of assisted suicide. Duncan appears regularly in application on behalf of the Attorney General to refer sentences as unduly lenient, and he is due to appear for the respondent in eleven conjoined appeals concerning the interrelation of indeterminate sentences of imprisonment and the Mental Health Act 1983, and in an appeal concerning the proper interpretation of the Firearms Act 1968.


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Duncan regularly appears as Leading, Sole and Junior Counsel in cases of murder and manslaughter (including gross negligence and corporate manslaughter). High-profile cases have included the prosecution of Levi Bellfield for the murder of Milly Dowler and the murder for gain of Carole Waugh. Recent cases have included allegations of joint enterprise murder involving young defendants, diminished responsibility manslaughter, infanticide and multiple homicide allegations against the same defendant. Duncan has also appeared as Leading and Sole Counsel in cases of attempted murder and as leading counsel in the prosecution of corporate manslaughter.


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Duncan has appeared both as Junior and Leading Counsel in cases of serious and complex fraud and corruption, including cases brought by the Serious Fraud Office, HMRC 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 fraudulent trading by a medical locum agency (a trial concerning a very substantial fraud against the NHS) and a substantial fraud relating to the Millennium Dome. More recently, Duncan appeared as Leading Counsel in the prosecution of a solicitor charged with long-term fraud against the Legal Services Commission, and acting in an advisory role for a potential suspect in the ongoing Libor investigation by the SFO.


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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.

Public and Administrative Law

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Duncan is regularly instructed in relation to proceedings by way of judicial review, acting both in pre-action litigation and in the Administrative Court. Recent cases have included the judicial review of the refusal of bail in a case of murder; the acceptance by the Home Secretary and Serious Fraud Office of a letter of request from Italy in the context of fraud proceedings; and the proper application of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 in relation to gang-violence injunctions.

Inquests and Public Inquiries

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Duncan has been instructed to act for interested parties in a number of 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.


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Duncan has appeared as Leading, Junior and Sole Counsel in a number of terrorism-related cases. These have included Operation Crevice, a conspiracy to cause explosions (known as the “fertiliser bomber” case), which was then the largest joint operation of UK police forces, the security services and foreign law enforcement agencies. Other recent cases in which Duncan has been involved include Operation Gamble (a large terrorist operation by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit), and the prosecution of four defendants for engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism (Operation Argonaut). Duncan has also acted as an adviser to the Government in relation to issues of disclosure in terrorism cases. 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).

Health and Safety and Regulatory

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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, and has appeared as leading counsel in a health and safety related case of Corporate Manslaughter.


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  • Queen’s Counsel (2015)
  • Recorder (2012)
  • Treasury Counsel (2009)


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  • 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)


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  • University of Bristol (LLB Hons) (First Class)
  • Lord Justice Holker Scholarship, Gray’s Inn

Notable cases

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R v Z

The use of previous acquittals as similar fact evidence.

R v Benjafield

The compatibility of confiscation proceedings with the Human Rights Act.

R v A

The permissible scope of in-camera proceedings in the context of terrorism, and the case management powers of the court in terrorism proceedings.

R (G) v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire

The validity and scope of the Crown Prosecution Service charging guidelines.


The admissibility of identification evidence.

R v Saunders (James Joe)

The admissibility of a dying declaration and the reported eyewitness statement of a reluctant witness as hearsay, pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

R v Jordan Dixon

The application of section 35(1)(b) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (whether it is “undesirable” for a defendant to give evidence).

Related news

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17 February

Top 10 set for Supreme Court appearances in 2016

We are delighted to have been recognised by The Lawyer Magazine as one of the top 10 sets in the country in terms of frequency of appearances before the Supreme Court in 2016. Seven of our members...

21 August

Duncan Atkinson in Sabrina Moss murder trial

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26 May

Duncan Atkinson in Christmas Party Murder Trial

Duncan Atkinson is instructed in the murder trial of Martin Barnwell and Brent Wright who are accused of killing 36 year old David Ivin. Mr Barnwell and Mr Wright allegedly used unnecessary and...

8 May

Potters Bar Inquest

Potters Bar Inquest Nicholas Hilliard QC and Duncan Atkinson are representing the Office of the Rail Regulator in the Inquest into the Potters Bar rail crash. Seven people died in 2002 when a...

8 May

Two members appointed Treasury Counsel

Two members appointed Treasury Counsel Chambers is delighted to announce that Duncan Atkinson (1995) and Louis Mably (1997) have both been appointed junior Treasury Counsel at the Old Bailey by...