Brian Altman QC’s principal area of practice is serious crime, such as terrorism and homicide, but his main specialisms are fraud and bribery, as well as corporate governance, compliance and regulatory work.
A large part of his practice is advising prominent private and corporate clients, as well as the UK Government, on a wide range of high profile and esoteric issues. Brian’s clients have included several high net worth individuals, foreign multinational corporations and UK PLCs, and other organisations, as well as a Middle Eastern Royal Family. Typically, his instructions emanate from well-known and respected City solicitors, but also from in-house Counsel. Brian has long and successful experience as leading counsel in the most serious, high profile cases, and has headed and advised teams of lawyers and investigators countless times over several years.
In June 2013, Brian ended his highly successful tenure as Treasury Counsel at the Old Bailey, having been Treasury Counsel for some 16 years, the last two-and-a-half of which had been as First Senior Treasury Counsel. During that time he advised on, and prosecuted, some of the best-known cases of the day such as the case of John Downey, alleged to be an IRA man guilty of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, who had erroneously received a comfort letter indicating he was not wanted in the UK; the notorious abduction and murder of Milly Dowler; and the Birmingham suicide bomb plot.
Over the years Brian has consistently been acknowledged to be ‘a leader in his field’ by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500. In 2007, Brian was nominated by Chambers & Partners as ‘Crime Junior of the Year’ and in 2011 as ‘Crime Silk of the Year’. In 2013, Brian was also nominated by Legal 500 as ‘Crime Silk of the Year’. Brian has also been recently selected by Lawyer Monthly as outright winner of the 2015 “White Collar Crime Barrister of the Year – UK”.
The Times named Brian in its law 100 list as one of the country’s 100 most influential lawyers. He was also listed by The London Evening Standard in the law section of the list of London’s 1000 most influential people for 2011, and in 2012 he was named by The London Evening Standard as one of London’s top three “Golden Legal Eagles” in crime.
The case of R v Ash-Smith was one of two historic cases recently featured in Episode 3 of the BBC4 documentary series “The Prosecutors” in which cameras were allowed into court buildings for the first time. The program in which Brian was interviewed followed milestones in the preparation and prosecution of the case to its successful conclusion. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072wyvj/the-prosecutors-real-crime-and-punishment-3-the-trial.
Media agencies often ask Brian for his opinion and input on current legal affairs, and he has been quoted and mentioned in many media articles. By way of example: in a recent Channel 4 News online article by Patrick Worrall “Why is there no courtroom drama like the real thing” which deals with the issue of cameras in the courtroom. See: http://www.channel4.com/news/why-there-is-no-courtroom-drama-like-the-real-thing.
In the article Patrick said of Brian:
“Court reporters sit around and argue over top prosecutors the way that fight fans talk about boxers. Who’s the best, pound-for-pound? We all had our favourites. Mine was Brian Altman QC, vanquisher of Milly Dowler’s repulsive killer Levi Bellfield, among others. Mr Altman is an expert cross-examiner, breaking down the hardest of the hard men with patient, remorseless logic, trapping them with their own lies.”
Brian was also interviewed by Clive Coleman, the BBC legal affairs correspondent, for the Radio 4 Today programme broadcast on 4 April 2013 about the end of his tenure as First Senior Treasury Counsel and the workings of the Treasury Counsel system. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22024261.
He has been quoted in a BBC online article about televising court proceedings: See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17691667.
Brian has also been quoted in a BBC online article about forensics: See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11794286.
He was recently involved in two diplomatic missions to Oman to participate in workshops with Beyond Borders and the British Council to address with the Omani Attorney General and local prosecutors issues of public order, bribery, corruption and anti-money laundering.
In October 2014, Brian gave a talk to lawyers and insurers at the 2014 Meeting of the Swedish International Chamber of Commerce Financial Services and Insurance Group, which was held in London at the offices of DWF Fishburns, on “The UK Approach to FATCA Disclosure Liabilities and Client Confidentiality”.
Brian has appeared in courts up to and including the Supreme Court.
- R v Sarwar & Ahmed  EWCA Crim 1886 (sentences for offences under section 5 Terrorism Act 2006 of individuals returning from Syria)
- R v Ekaireb  EWCA Crim 1936 (safety of a conviction for an historic missing body murder where the QC acting for the appellant was said to have been incompetent. The Court of Appeal, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, refused to allow the appeal and refused also to interfere with the appellant’s sentence)
- R v D : 1 W.L.R. 525 (adverse inferences from silence at trial in the case of an ADHD sufferer. The case dealt with the tension between the adverse inference from si-lence at trial and ensuring vulnerable defendants have a fair trial).
- R v Gnango : 2 W.L.R. 17 [SC] (landmark Supreme Court judgment by 7 Supreme Court Justices which by a majority of 6-1 overturned the decision of the 5 judge Court of Appeal  2 Cr.App.R. 345 on a novel and unique issue of joint enterprise and transferred malice in murder).
- R v Beesley & Coyle : 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 15 (Court of Appeal decision whether or not psychological assessment is permissible at the appeal stage to overturn an inde-terminate sentence).
- R v Boggild & Others : 4 All E.R. 1285 (first prosecution appeal to Court of Ap-peal under the Football Spectators Act 1989).
- R v Stewart : 2 Cr.App.R. 500 (guidance by the Lord Chief Justice in diminished responsibility cases where the abnormality is said to be alcohol dependency syndrome).
- R v Gian & Mohd-Yusoff : EWCA Crim 2553 (causation in homicide; half-time submissions; and hearsay).
Brian has prosecuted and advised the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”) and the Attorney General in many serious cased both as Treasury Counsel and since involving:
- Murder, manslaughter
- Corporate manslaughter
- Breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
- Medical manslaughter
- Police misconduct
- War crimes
- Official secrets and terrorism
Brian’s defence work is highly regarded. He was instructed privately by David Sonn of Sonn Macmillan Walker to represent a businessman, RF, at Snaresbrook Crown Court in September and October 2015. RF was accused of a large-scale drugs conspiracy. RF was acquitted following successful arguments regarding the admissibility of evidence which led to RF’s discharge on one of two counts he faced on the indictment, and he was finally discharged on the remaining count following a successful submission of no case at the close of the prosecution case.
Brian was also recently instructed privately by Ian Kelcey of Kelcey & Hall of Bristol to represent LW, one of four serving police officers, accused of misconduct in public office arising from a high profile murder case in Bristol in July 2013. Brian’s client was acquitted by the jury unanimously after a seven week trial at Bristol Crown Court which ended just before Christmas 2015.
He is regularly instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division to prosecute terrorism offences including, most recently, those arising from the conflict in Syria, and by Complex Casework Units of the Crown Prosecution Service in a variety of high profile, difficult, and often historic, homicide cases.
- Advising the Attorney General whether he should issue a nolle prosequi in the case of a well-known MP accused in the expenses scandal.
- Instructed by the DPP to review the convictions of 29 activists who blocked a coal train entering the Drax Power Station following the non-disclosure of the activity of undercover officer Mark Kennedy.
- Advice on potential blackmail charges against RK regarding payments to him for the removal of listings on his ‘Solicitors from Hell’ website.
- Consideration of the prospects of a prosecution in the UK of Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz for hostage taking during the 1991 Gulf War.
- Advice whether the author Rupert Allason should be prosecuted for perjury arising from his legal action against Random House, who published ‘The Enigma Spy’, the autobiography of the former Soviet agent, John Cairncross, which Allason claimed to have ghost-written in return for the copyright and 50% of the proceeds.
- Consideration of manslaughter charges against the Prison Service arising from the murder by a cellmate of Zahid Mubarek in Feltham Young Offender Institution.
- Advising the Attorney General as to whether the evidence of a senior HMRC lawyer to a parliamentary public accounts committee amounted to perjury.
- Opinion for the Solicitor General on the admissibility of the use of experts to dispel myths in rape and other sex cases.
- Advising the DPP and MOD whether there was evidence of breaches of the Official Secrets Act by British Army Major Stankovic while acting as an army interpreter in Bosnia.
- Advice on the justiciability of potential prosecutions in the UK under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 of parties involved in “assisted suicides” taking place in Switzerland under the auspices of ‘Dignitas’.
- Advice to HM Customs & Excise regarding the proper interpretation of section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, whether the exemption under that section applied equally to Customs (i.e. whether Customs officers were permitted to exceed national speed limits in enforcement situations).
- Opinion to ACPO on the advisability of a proposed national police procedure regarding the taking and use of evidential fingerprints, and the possible adverse implications of the proposed procedure for the successful prosecution of cases involving identification by fingerprint evidence.
Brian has recently led for the defence in:
- R v LW (This was a high profile case in which the prosecution alleged that three police officers and one PCSO had misconducted themselves in public office in July 2013 in Bristol in relation to their dealings with a man called Bijan Ebrahimi. Brian represented one of the officers, LW, who it was alleged had failed to deal properly with Ebrahimi’s 999 call one evening in which he alleged that his neighbour, Lee James, had assaulted him in his home and had accused him (wrongly) of being a paedophile. It was said also that LW had failed to deal with Lee James’ behaviour at the scene, in particular James’s threats to kill Ebrahimi. Thus the prosecution alleged against LW that she had failed to arrest Lee James, or deal adequately with his behaviour, and that she had failed to investigate Ebrahimi’s complaint all due to her alleged antipathy towards him. LW faced a further allegation relating to a separate occasion when she had refused to speak to Ebrahimi when he had tried calling her when she was on other duties. Within an hour Ebrahimi was murdered by Lee James with an accomplice offering him assistance. LW was acquitted by the jury unanimously after a seven week trial at Bristol Crown Court).
Selective high-profile terrorism and organised crime trials in which Brian has led for the prosecution include:
- R v Hassane, Majeed, Hamlett and Cuffy This was the first prosecution of a major Islamic State-influenced plot to kill in the UK. The terror plot was successfully disrupted by the Security Services and police in late September and October 2014 with the arrests of several individuals. Hassane and Majeed plotted to kill servicemen or policemen in drive-by style shootings with a firearm with which they had been supplied by Hamlett and Cuffy. The plot was directed and funded from abroad, most likely from Syria, and while Hassane, who in July 2014 had pledged his allegiance to Islamic State, led the plot chiefly from Sudan where he was studying medicine, Majeed who had been studying physics in London acquired the gun from Hamlett and he was tasked to arrange for an untraceable moped and a lock-up, while engaging in secret communications with his controllers abroad on a laptop. The plot received further impetus in late September 2014 when the official spokesman for Islamic State issued a fatwa to extremists in the West to kill.
- R v Khawaja, Bhatti and Ali (in this case Khawaja went to Syria in 2014 to join with Rayat al Tawheed, and IS-related jihadist insurgent force in Syria, where he received weapons training with a view to fighting. He returned to the UK after Rayat al Tawheed put out a false story on social media that Khawaja had been killed in battle in order to provide cover for his secret return. His cousin Bhatti assisted him to get back into the UK, and Ali had helped fund his journey into Syria. All pleaded guilty to a variety of terrorism offences.
- R v Sarwar and Ahmed (two young men pleading guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorism, having been in and returned from Syria after five months with Al Nusra, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group, fighting Assad’s regime).
- R v Begg (former Guantanamo detainee charged with terrorism offences but dropped in light of material undermining the case).
- R v Downey (‘On the run’ IRA man accused of 1982 Hyde Park bombing but not prosecutable having erroneously received a letter of assurance from the government in 2007 that he was not wanted in the UK).
- R v Naseer, Khalid and Ali (convictions of Birmingham terror bomb plotters at Woolwich Crown Court in February 2013 following a 5 month trial).
- R v Lewington (conviction of white supremacist for offences under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 and the Explosive Substances Act 1883).
- R v Boukhezer (Terrorism Act offences arising from the raid on Finsbury Park mosque).
- Operation Odin (international plot to bomb the Christmas market in Strasbourg).
- R v Rivas and others (News of the World scoop about a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham).
Brian advises and prosecutes for the FCA and the CMA, and has defended, and advised, in large-scale fraud including mortgage and tax fraud, insider dealing and other serious fraud and corruption cases.
Brian is currently retained by the CMA to advise and lead on its investigation into products in the construction industry and by the FCA to advise and lead on a high profile insider dealing investigation.
- R v Clews (Butte Mining PLC fraud regarding the flotation of a PLC based upon alleged mining deposits in Butte, Montana, USA).
- R v Anderson (Brent Walker PLC – trial of the finance director).
- R v Donald and Cressey (large-scale police corruption exposed by the BBC’s Panorama).
Murder & Manslaughter
Brian has advised in and prosecuted some of the biggest homicide cases of the day, and continues to do so as well as defend.
Brian is presently instructed in several defence cases, including private instructions in a murder case. He is also instructed to represent the defendant in the historic murder of Melanie Road in 1984 in Bath, which is to be tried at Bristol Crown Court in May 2016.
- R v Collins (alleged participant in a three-handed knife murder).
- R v W (high profile case of 15 year old girl of previous good character accused of secondary participation in murder by the beating of a man on the street with an older youth. W’s erstwhile best friend who had been present at the scene gave evidence against her of direct participation in the attack and of filming the event on her phone, and another young witness alleged she had later confessed to it, despite which W was acquitted by the jury within an hour)
Selective past high-profile trials in which Brian has led include:
- R v Ash-Smith (Historic murder of 16 year old Claire Tiltman who was savagely stabbed to death in a dark alley in Greenhithe, Kent, in January 1993).
- R v Ekaireb (the defendant was convicted in 2013 of the historic missing body murder of his pregnant wife who went missing without trace in October 2006).
- R v Desuze & Desuze (16 year old Darrell Desuze pleaded guilty at his trial to the unlawful killing of 68 year old Richard Mannington Bowes during the 2011 summer riots in Ealing, having punched the deceased hard to the jaw, causing an unprotected fall on to his head, from which he died; he also pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to four burglaries during the same night’s disturbances. His mother, Lavinia Desuze, was later convicted of perverting the course of justice by destroying and disposing of the distinctive articles of clothing her son had been wearing that night).
- R v Bikubi & Bamu (this was the case of the murder of 15 year old Kristy Bamu, and assaults on two others of his siblings, on Christmas Day 2010 in the defendants’ east London flat during days of a process of deliverance or exorcism, which was grounded in the belief that Kristy and the other children were practising on another child of the family a form of witchcraft, known in the Congo as ‘kindoki’).
- R v Kanagasingham (killing of well-known immigration and human rights solicitor David (also Sonia) Burgess who was pushed under a tube train at King’s Cross in October 2010 by the defendant who was convicted of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility).
- R v Bellfield (2011 convictions of serial killer Levi Bellfield for the 2002 abduction and murder of Amanda Dowler in Walton-on-Thames and 2008 convictions for the 2003/2004 murders of Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy).
- R v Sweeney (first joint Anglo-Dutch murder investigation funded by ‘Eurojust’ and conviction of canal murderer John Sweeney who killed and dismembered former American model and photographer, Melissa Halstead, in Holland in 1990, and disposed of her remains in a Rotterdam canal, and Paula Fields in London in 2000, whose dismembered body parts were found in the Regent’s Canal in 2001).
- R v Thomas, Alexander and Burke (convictions for manslaughter of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square in September 2009 following homophobic abuse).
- R v Gnango (murder of a Polish care worker who was killed in the crossfire of a gunfight between the defendant and another youth, where the defendant had not fired the fatal bullet and the victim had been the unintended target. Having passed through a 5 judge Court of Appeal, in December 2011, the Supreme Court, consisting of 7 justices, overturned the Court of Appeal’s judgment by a majority of 6-1, and restored the offender’s murder conviction on novel and unique issues of joint enterprise and transferred malice).
- R v Dixie (Croydon murder of model Sally Anne Bowman).
Some of Brian’s past high-profile homicide cases include:
- R v Mulcahy (second offender prosecuted and convicted for the 1980’s railway murders; John Duffy who was convicted of the offences in the 1980s gave evidence for the prosecution against his former partner in crime, David Mulcahy).
- R v Suleyman and others (first Damilola Taylor prosecution).
- R v Campbell (missing body murder of Danielle Jones who was killed by her uncle).
- R v Morton (missing body homicide from 1997 where the defendant had killed and disposed of the body of his wife, Gracia Morton).
While Brian’s main area of practice is in serious crime, in the main his practice sees him regularly advising both private and corporate clients across a wide and esoteric range of commercial activities and issues.
In addition to significant high net worth individuals, and household name corporations, Brian has been retained by the Competition & Markets Authority (“CMA”, formerly the Office of Fair Trading) and the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) in relation to high-profile cartel and insider dealing investigations.
- Advising a nationwide firm of solicitors on issues arising under the Official Secrets Act.
- A US based global aerospace corporation on issues of Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 compliance during a $100m acquisition of a UK company.
- City administrators involved in tracing the £100 millions of assets of a PLC were there have been previous allegations of fraud.
- A Swedish multinational company on suspected fraud during a £1.7bn reverse takeover involving a British PLC.
- Significant high net worth individuals following the judicial review of unlawfully obtained search warrants by a prosecution authority.
- A well known British construction and civil engineering PLC on compliance with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
- A global information services group on the Data Protection 1998 processes of a target company during due diligence in the course of the largest company’s acquisition.
- The Bar Council on the application of the Bribery Act 2010 to Bar referral fees.
- A City firm of solicitors on judicial review proceedings arising out of the unlawful execution of a search warrant.
- Reviewing and reporting on corporate governance and the processes of a nationwide retail postal service organisation.
- LOCOG prior to the London 2012 Olympics on internet-based ticket-touting offences.
- A significant high net worth individual on issues arising from the phone hacking enquiry.
“For cold case murders, he is the go-to barrister because he is able to draw together all the small pieces to provide a coherent analysis, and he knows these cases so well that there is nothing the defence can come up with to outfox him. He is completely relentless, extremely personable and a great team player”; “He is a master of detail who never makes a mistake.” Chambers & Partners 2016 (Crime)
“I have found him to be incredibly client service-orientated. He is very timely, and never lets us down as instructing solicitors. I haven’t met another barrister who has been as good in terms of client service in my career.” Chambers & Partners 2016 (Financial Crime)
“He is very thorough, very detailed and very focused; he is a top lawyer.” “He has amazing style in proving his point.” Chambers & Partners 2015
“Extremely well prepared and thorough in all that he does” and “no small detail escapes his attention.” Legal 500 2015
“Formerly first senior Treasury counsel, he has handled the most high-profile case imaginable and is highly praised for his very fine cross examination skills. He is relentless. He gets results.” Chambers & Partners 2014
“Having been appointed first senior Treasury counsel at the end of 2010, Brian Altman QC’s rise continues unabated. Recognised by peers and media sources alike as one of the top QCs working today, he prosecutes and advises across a range of serious issues.” Chambers & Partners 2013