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Brian Altman QC

Year of call: 1981

Year of silk: 2008

Recorder: 2003

Email :


LLB (King's College, London)

Dip. Eur. Int. (University of Amsterdam)




Brian Altman Q.C.’s principal areas of practice include 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 commercial 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. Also, Brian has vast experience as leading counsel and has successfully 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 were 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 who was guilty of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, who had erroneously received a comfort letter indicating he was not wanted in the UK, the notorious murder of Milly Dowler, and the Birmingham suicide bomb plot.


Over the years Brian has consistently been acknowledged to be a leader in the field both in Chambers Bar guide and in The Legal 500. Also, Brian was nominated by Chambers Bar guide as crime junior of the year in 2007, as crime silk of the year in 2011, and by The Legal 500 as crime silk of the year in 2013.


The 2014 edition of Chambers Bar guide says of him:


"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".


 The 2013 edition of Chambers Bar Guide says of him:


"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 including murder and war crimes, and also engages in advisory work for the Attorney General and CPS. He has recently led for the prosecution in a number of high-profile cases including R v Bikubi & Bamu, the murder of a 15-year-old boy during an attempted exorcism, and R v Kanagasingham, the killing of immigration and human rights solicitor David (also Sonia) Burgess."


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 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 Evening Standard as one of London’s top three "Golden Legal Eagles" in crime. In 2013 The Legal 500 "highly commended" Brian in the crime silk category.






Brian has been recently mentioned in a Channel 4 News online article "Why is there no courtroom drama like the real thing" by Patrick Worrall. Go to:


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.


He has been quoted in a BBC online article about televising court proceedings:


Brian has also been quoted in another BBC online article about forensics:





While Brian's general specialisms are in serious crime, he regularly advises both private and corporate clients, and Governmental departments, across a wide and esoteric range of subjects. In addition to significant high net worth individuals, the Government and well-known corporations, Brian has been retained by the Serious Fraud Office and the Competition and Markets Authority (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) in relation to high-profile banking and cartel investigations, and he continues to advise and prosecute on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service in homicide and terrorism cases. 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.





Some examples of his private and corporate advisory work include:


  • Advising a Swedish multinational company on suspected fraud during a Euro 1.7bn reverse takeover involving a British PLC
  • Involved in advising one of the Tchenguiz brothers following the judicial review of the SFO’s unlawfully obtained search warrants
  • Advising a nationally known company on compliance with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
  • Advising a nationally known data company on the Data Protection Act 1998 processes of a target company during due diligence in the course of the target company’s acquisition
  • Advising the Bar Council on the application of the Bribery Act 2010 to Bar referral fees
  • Advising a firm of solicitors on judicial review proceedings arising out of the unlawful execution of a search warrant
  • Reviewing and reporting on a commercial organisation’s corporate governance 
  • Advising LOCOG before the London 2012 Olympics on internet-based ticket-touting offences
  • Advising a significant individual on phone hacking


Before his appointment as Treasury Counsel, Brian defended, and has great experience of advising, in large scale fraud and other serious criminal cases such as:


  • 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 (Police corruption exposed by BBC's Panorama)


As Treasury Counsel Brian prosecuted and advised the CPS and the Attorney General in many serious cases involving:


  • Murder, manslaughter
  • Corporate manslaughter
  • Breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • Medical manslaughter
  • Police misconduct
  • War crimes
  • Official secrets and terrorism


Purely by way of example, his past advisory work has included:


  • 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 of Zahid Mubarek in Feltham Young Offender Institution
  • Instructed by the DPP to conduct a review of convictions arising out of the activities of undercover officer Mark Kennedy


Selective past high-profile trials in which Brian led for the prosecution during his time as Treasury Counsel and since include:


  • 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)  
  • R v Desuze and Desuze (plea of guilty to the unlawful killing of 68 year old Richard Mannington Bowes during the 2011 summer riots in Ealing by 16 year old Darrell Desuze who punched him hard to the jaw, causing an unprotected fall on to his head, from which he died, in addition to pleas of guilty to violent disorder and to four burglaries during the same night's disturbances, and the later conviction of his mother, Lavinia Desuze, for 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 and Bamu (murder of 15 year old Kristy Bamu, and attacks 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 the children were practising on another child of the family a form of witchcraft or sorcery, 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 (murder of Sally Anne Bowman)


Some of Brian’s past high-profile 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 1980's gave evidence for the prosecution against Mulcahy)
  • R v Suleyman and others (first Damilola Taylor prosecution)
  • R v Campbell (missing body murder of Danielle Jones)
  • R v Rivas and others (alleged plot and News of the World scoop to kidnap Victoria Beckham)
  • R v Morton (missing body homicide from 1997)