Richard Whittam QC

Year of Call: 1983  Silk: 2008  Recorder: 2009  Deputy High Court Judge: 2016


Richard Whittam QC is a specialist criminal practitioner with experience in the most complex and high profile criminal cases. Until November 2015 he was First Senior Treasury Counsel [Crime]. Throughout his time as Treasury Counsel he maintained his defence practice.

Crime Silk of the Year 2016 and again ranked as a Leading QC in the 2017 edition of the Chambers Guide to the Bar, which states Richard is “renowned and respected by commentators for his tenacity, work ethic and superior jury advocacy”. He has been ranked by Chambers as a leading barrister for over 16 years: “He is really top-drawer and has very impressive court craft”; “He takes everything in his stride. Nothing seems to bother him and he just won’t be deflected from achieving a good result.”; “astute, hardworking and meticulous in his paperwork”; “a strong Treasury Counsel who realises that to be effective, you don’t need to be an enemy of your opponent”; “a fearless advocate who glides through proceedings with effortless style” and “a stunning addition to any team with pep and industry to spare.”

In addition to appearing in court he advises on law and strategy pre-charge in important and sensitive cases. Along with Peter Wanless he advised the Home Office in regard to apparently ‘missing files’. He is seen by the media as an expert on criminal law, not least after his appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions about the Wanless Whittam report: [in particular after 3.44]. He was interviewed by Joshua Rozenberg on Law in Action about the Pistorius trial.

He has been instructed in cases where others had failed to find a way to conduct the case: he prosecuted a man for making millions of pounds by selling fake bomb detectors in Iraq: which was the subject of a Vanity Fair article. It was a case that until Richard was instructed no-one had been able to prosecute.

Short Biography

  • 2016 – Crime Silk of the year
  • 2016 – date: Deputy High Court Judge
  • 2014 – date: Member of the RFU Judicial Panel
  • 2014 – date: Legal Adviser to and Independent Examiner for Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
  • 2013 – 2015: First Senior Treasury Counsel to the Crown at the Central Criminal Court
  • 2012 – date: Legal Assessor to the NMC
  • 2010 – date: Nominated by Chairman of the Bar to sit on the Joint Tribunal for Fee Disputes with Solicitors
  • 2009 – 2013: Legal Adviser to the General Social Care Council
  • 2009 – date: Recorder of the Crown Court (approved to sit at the Central Criminal Court)
  • 2008 – date: Queen’s Counsel
  • 2006 – 2015: Senior Treasury Counsel to the Crown at the Central Criminal Court
  • 2002 – 2006: First Junior Treasury Counsel to the Crown at the Central Criminal Court
  • 1998 – 2006: Junior Treasury Counsel to the Crown at the Central Criminal Court
  • 1983: Called to the Bar, Gray’s Inn


Richard Whittam has considerable experience in the appellate courts. He is regularly instructed to conduct appears in cases in which he did not appear at first instance. Recently he was instructed in two cases where there were appeals against a whole life tariff.


  • Joof & Others [2012] EWCA Crim 1475 [Hooper LJ, Simon J, Stadlen J]: Historic murder appeal where Richard Whittam personally advised the DPP that the convictions of 5 men for a brutal gangland killing could not be upheld. The Court of Appeal adopted Richard Whittam’s reasoning and used much of his written submissions in their judgement.
  • Orette Williams [2013] 1 Cr. App. R. 11 [Davis LJ, Foskett, J, Sweeney J]: Prohibited firearms, persuasive burden, presumption of innocence and strict liability.
  • Moore & Another [2013] EWCA Crim 85 [Rix LJ, Mackay J, Underhill J]: Entrapment, drugs.
  • Asad Mahmood & Another, [2013] EWCA Crim 2356 [Fulford LJ, Popplewell, J, HHJ Gilbert]: Interception of communications in relation to the use of the PIN telephone system used in prisons.
  • Attorney General’s Reference (No.38 of 2013), Also known as: R. v Hall (James Stuart), [2013] EWCA Crim 1450 [Lord Judge CJ, Rafferty LJ, Macur J]: Former BBC Broadcaster, historic sex offences, application for permission to refer the sentence to the court as an unduly lenient sentence. Permission granted and the sentence found to be unduly lenient. Richard Whittam personally advised the Attorney General and appeared with him.

Coroners Inquests

Richard Whittam advised the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to the Inquest into the death of Ninety-six men, women and children who died as a result of the Hillsborough Disaster on 15 April 1989. It remains the most serious tragedy in UK sporting history.


In addition to prosecuting the murderers of Lee Rigby, the man accused of murdering PC Blakelock Richard Whittam he prosecuted Erol Incedal in the ‘secret’ terrorist trial and regularly appears in large and complex cases such as Ali & Others, the ‘Airlines Plot’ to blow up simultaneously several transatlantic aircraft – in what was at the time the largest police investigation in the world.


Richard Whittam is the Leading Counsel in the SFO investigation into Rolls-Royce.


  • McCormick: James McCormick was a businessman indicted with making and selling articles for use in fraud, namely bomb detectors that did not work. Some were sold to Iraq and used on checkpoints on the edge of the Green Zone. The CPS had decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. Richard Whittam was asked to advise whether a prosecution could be brought, and if so, for what. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to the maximum sentence available. The Court of Appeal upheld the sentence. This was the first in a series of prosecutions of several defendants for like devices.


Richard Whittam has led prosectuion delegations to Washington, New York and Boston. He is familiar with obtaining evidence from different jurisdictions.


Richard Whittam Prosecuted the case of Erol Incedal and another [formerly referred to as AB and CD].

He advises on production orders, warrants and the protection afforded to journalists under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Military Law

Richard Whittam is instructed to advise the Director of the Service Prosecution Authority in relation to alleged War Crimes and he advised the Attorney General as to whether the sentence passed on the former SAS Sergeant, Danny Nightingale was unduly lenient.

Murder & Manslaughter

As First Senior Treasury Counsel Richard Whittam has prosecuted in some of the most notorious murder trials.


  • Jacobs: He did not advise on the prospects of success but was instructed to prosecute the case. He resisted an application to stay the proceedings as an abuse of process and a submission of no case to answer at the close of the prosecution case.
  • Kunene & Kunene: The defendants were married and adherents to their own particular interpretation of Seventh Day Adventism. As a vegan the mother did not provide sufficient nourishment for her infant child by breast-feeding and the health of the infant deteriorated. Despite warnings over a period of months from her family, no medical help was sought and the infant died. Both defendants pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
  • Adebolajo & Adebowale: The defendants were two radical Islamists who ran down and then murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby in a street in Woolwich. They deliberately targeted a British soldier and attempted to decapitate him in public. Novel issues of law arose, including the legal meaning of “Queen’s Peace”. The issue of fitness to be tried was raised and the court heard evidence over a number of days from three consultant psychiatrists. The family liaison with his relatives and friends was somewhat complicated by the fact that the deceased was estranged, but not divorced, from his wife [with whom he had a young child] and was engaged to be married to another woman. Despite those complications all relatives and friends agreed to be seen as a collective group at the end of each court day.
  • Igbinedion: The defendant stamped on his 3 year-old nephew whilst he was looking after him, causing his death. It was necessary to call as a witness the defendant’s own daughter, who was aged 9 at the time [10 when she gave evidence]. She gave evidence via the video link, and had to be treated as hostile.
  • Williams & Others: A multi-handed murder trial [eight defendants, all with two counsel] most notable because one of the defendants was profoundly deaf. The entire proceedings were simultaneously translated into British Sign Language, and the defendant had the benefit of an Intermediary throughout the trial, including when he gave evidence in his own defence. The prosecution also relied on anonymous witnesses. The Court of Appeal recently upheld the convictions.
  • Attila Ban: An hotel receptionist murdered two work colleagues in his own flat and then hid under the bed for two days whilst the police conducted their investigation in and around the premises. Expert psychiatric evidence called by both sides. The family liaison was difficult because the mother of one of the deceased was from Hungary and had little understanding of the English Legal System. The proceedings were explained to both families both before the trial commenced and at the end of each court day.
  • Kavuala & Others: The deceased was the subject of mistaken identity. He was shot dead as he left a fast food outlet in what was intended to be a further attack by one gang on another. Considerable reliance was placed on telephone records, CCTV recordings, and scientific evidence.
  • Naik: The defendant was a solicitor who took over the representation of a 14-year-old boy in an attempt to persuade him to plead guilty so that the interview he had given to the police would not feature in the trial of the gang leader. The boy did not change his plea and was murdered on the eve of the trial. The gang leader coordinated the murder from inside prison by the illegal use of mobile phones. Richard Whittam had successfully prosecuted that gang leader in an earlier trial. Issues of legal professional privilege were raised in the trial.

Professional Discipline

Richard Whittam is a Legal Adviser and has been an interim Independent Examiner for, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. He is also a legal assessor for the Nursing and Midwifery Council and he advises the IPCC in relation to deaths caused by police officers.


  • RFU Judicial Panel


  • LLB (Hons), University College London