James Bennett

Year of call: 2002

"He is easy to deal with and gets on well with clients."
Chambers UK 2019

James James

James is an experienced criminal, health & safety, and regulatory barrister. His practice is linked by work related breaches of criminal regulations, discipline and employer's rules. This includes representing professionals before their disciplinary bodies. He is a recognised expert in his field by both Legal 500 and Chambers UK.

Health & Safety

James is an experienced health & safety and regulatory barrister. With a background in general crime James is familiar with all aspects of criminal proceedings. For the past 10 years James has specialised in health & safety cases. Every year since 2009 James has been recognised by the two independent law guides - Legal 500 and Chambers UK - as a leading junior in the field of health & safety law.

James' expertise covers both fatal and non-fatal accidents including corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act and the full range of work place Regulation and includes experience in appeals against enforcement notices and inquests.

James predominantly represents prosecution agencies including the HSE, Local Authorities and CPS but also represents companies, directors, partnerships, and the self-employed. James has been on the HSE’s approved list of counsel since 2009.

Recent Cases

  • HSE v DJ Mackay (Cardiff) - Working on fragile roof surfaces. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v Cooper B Line (Taunton) - Fatal fall from height. Prosecuting.
  • CPS v Matthews Plant Limited & Directors (Truro) - Gross negligence manslaughter following electrocution during a large barn construction. Prosecuting. Led by Rupert Lowe.
  • CPS v Princess Sporting Club & Director (Southwark) - Corporate manslaughter following a speed boat running down a school girl in a boating lake. Defending. Led by Richard Smith QC.
  • HSE v Norlands Ltd (Ipswich) - Fatality following an electrocution whilst installing power distribution units. Defending. Led by Andrew Langdon QC.
  • Re 'Ten Tors School Drowning Case' (Exeter) - having represented the HSE at the inquest advised the HSE on the merits of a potential prosecution in conjunction with Ian Dixey.
  • Re 'Buncefield Oil Depot Explosion' (St Albans) - prosecuting. Led by Andrew Langdon QC and Richard Matthews QC.
  • HSE v Pascon Ltd (Exeter) - Life changing injuries following electrocution. Defending. Led by Andrew Langdon QC.
  • HSE v Mike Wye Partnership (Exeter) - Burns form handling quarry products. Defending.
  • HSE v Motherwell Bridge Ltd (Swansea) - Life changing injuries following a fall from defective scaffolding. Defending.
  • LA v Directors of a Care Home (Cardiff) - Fatality and life changing injuries caused by a fall down an empty lift shaft. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v Western Power Distribution (Newport) - Life changing injuries following electrocution whilst working on a high voltage power line. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v W Hughes & Son (Preston) - Fatality following a suicidal hospital patient jumping from an unguarded scaffold structure. Defending.
  • HSE v Tubular Access Ltd (Bristol) - Life changing injuries following a fall from defective scaffolding. Prosecuting.
  • LA v Fisher Restaurant Ltd (Bristol) - Life changing injuries following a fall through a fire exit. Defending.
  • HSE v Tithegrove Ltd (Taunton) - Fatality caused by reversing plant equipment. Defending.
  • HSE v Wedgewood Ltd & Directors (Exeter) - Fatality following a dumper truck tipping over. Defending.
  • LA v Gloden Ltd (Bristol) - Risk from sunbeds. Defending.
  • HSE v Leese’s Ltd (Exeter) - Life changing injuries caused by reversing plant equipment. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v Stephen Nurse (Exeter) - Breach of Gas Safe. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v Medland & Partners (Truro) - Life changing injuries following a felled tree rolling. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v Carillion & Director (Swansea) - Fatal fall from height. Defending.
  • HSE v Your Health Ltd (Plymouth) - Fatality following wheelchair bound resident wheeling himself down stairs. Prosecuting.
  • HSE v Wayne Marshall (Swansea) - Breach of Gas Safe. Defending.
  • HSE v Gregory Distribution Ltd (Exeter) - Fatality following a wine pallet falling during delivery. Defending.
  • HSE v Agricola Flower Growers Ltd (Exeter) - Life changing injuries following a flower picker being crushed by an automated lorry tail gate. Defending.
  • HSE v Mole Valley Feed Solutions (Bristol) - Serious injuries following a fall from height. Defending.
  • HSE v Anthony Wilson Homes Ltd (Birmingham) - Life changing injuries following a dumper truck tipping over. Defending.
  • LA v National Tyres Ltd (Northampton) - Serious crush injuries caused by unguarded machinery. Defending.
  • HSE v BAE Systems & Airbus (Bristol) - Fatal fall from height during visit to a retired Concorde. Prosecuting.

RECENT APPEALS AGAINST ENFORCEMENT NOTICES

  • HSE v Peterson Golf Course (Cardiff) - representing the golf course.
  • HSE v Matthews Plant Limited (Plymouth) - representing the HSE.
  • HSE v Cuddy Demolition (Bristol) - representing the HSE.

RECENT HEALTH & SAFETY INQUESTS

  • MV Ulysses (Truro) – worker crushed by a moving lift. Acting for employer.
  • Interfish Ltd (Plymouth) - worker crushed by frozen pallets. Acting for the employer.
  • Capita (Paddington) - worker felled by a falling scaffold pole. Acting for the employer.
  • Wedgewood Ltd (Exeter) - worker crushed by an overturning dumper truck. Acting for the employer.
  • Norland Ltd (Chelsea) - worker electrocuted. Acting for the employer.
  • Bay Media (Milton Keynes) - workers died following a lorry crash against a background of breaches of working time Regulations. Acting for the employer.

Professional Discipline

James is an experienced barrister representing employees and professionals before their disciplinary body. His practice is linked by allegations of criminal offences, breaches of work place rules and sporting rules, with particular emphasis on health care clinicians, police officers and professional rugby players.

Crime

James is an experienced criminal law barrister. He is instructed in the full range of serious criminal offences with particular emphasis on criminal breaches of work place health and safety regulations. He is recognised for his thorough preparation and work rate.

James is recognised as an expert by Chambers UK and Legal 500 in this field.

Significant Cases

  • R v P - Misconduct in a Public Office. Male prison officer getting a female inmate pregnant.
  • R v B - Cruelty to a child. Allowing children to ingest class A drugs.
  • R v C - Exposure. Prolific exposure towards children in parks.
  • R v D - Abduction. Father taking child out of the country.
  • R v W & 7 Others - Conspiracy to commit arson, GBH and perverting the course of justice. One family taking revenge on another family.
  • R v M & 14 Others - Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Prosection of police officers in relation to wrongful conviction of the "Cardiff 3".  
  • R v D - Bomb Hoax. Device left in the Cabot Circus shopping area.
  • R v M - S.18 GBH. Husband hitting his wife with an axe.
  • R v S - Murder.

Inquests

James is experienced in all aspects of Coronial law, in particular inquests that concern work place fatalities, with particular emphasis on deaths investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, and those involving health care clinicians.

Significant Cases

  • Re A&E Nurse [Lincoln] - Representing nurse. Penicillin administered in breach of hospital procedures (see Mirror).
  • Re Groundworks/Timber Building Company [Exeter] - Representing company. Dumper tipping whilst digging a large pond. Investigated by the HSE (see Mirror).
  • Re Prison Nurse [Portsmouth] - Representing nurse. Life prisoner refused treatment for heart pain because of zero tolerance policy.
  • Re Devon Country NHS Trust [Exeter] - Representing NHS Trust. Mental health patient leaving secure unit and committing suicide.
  • Re HMP Bristol [Bristol] - Representing family of deceased inmate. Home-made ligature.
  • Re Heathrow Data Centre [London] - Representing a company. Electrician electrocuted. Investigated by the HSE.
  • Re M1 Lorry Crash [Milton Keynes] - Representing a company. Evidence of breaches of working time regulations. Investigated by the HSE.
  • Re Scaffold Structure - Representing company. Scaffold pole falling from Europe's largest scaffold structure. Investigated by the HSE (see News).
  • Re 'Ten Tors School girl drowning' [Exeter] - Representing the HSE. High profile school girl drowning on Dartmoor during the Ten Tors survival event organised by the Army (see BBC News).
  • Re Recycling Plant [Swindon] - Representing a company. Employee 'strangled' when clothing caught within the wheel of a lorry. Investigated by the HSE.
  • Re Bristol Concorde [Bristol] - Representing the HSE. High profile fall from height of a visitor to the retired Concorde at the Filton Aerodrome (see BBC News).

Sports Law

James is an experienced sports law barrister. He represents professional, semi-professional and amateur clubs and sportsmen in all aspects of sporting discipline and criminal law.

For example, James has represented rugby players from clubs including Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Ospreys at RFU and ERC disciplinary hearings following Premiership and Heineken Cup matches. James also defends high-profile sportsmen charged with criminal offences and is instructed in criminal cases that involve violence during a match.

James is a keen sportsman, cyclist and a football and rugby fan. 

Environment

James specialises in regulatory law. He advises and provides advocacy services in relation to environmental enforcement and prosecutions. Experienced in the statutory framework in which the EA and other regulators operate.

Particular experience in cases involving risk management, pollution, permitting and the extent of EA powers. Recent work involves farms breaching EU landfill waste exemptions with issues around the interpretation of permitting regulation and EU coding of waste. James acted in the Buncefield Oil Depot explosion where bunds leaked significant quantities of firewater and oil into the ground. Involved scrutiny over the EA’s pollution testing procedures and their permitting regime within the COMAH regulations.

James acts for directors and companies and has been on the EA’s approved list of counsel since 2009.

Recommendations


CHAMBERS UK 2018

Health and Safety

Leading Junior - Band 2

Experienced junior who represents regulatory bodies and companies in the full spectrum of health and safety proceedings involving fatal and non-fatal incidents. He frequently handles defence and prosecution of cases involving electrocutions. He is also knowledgeable about corporate manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter.

Recent work: Defended the landlady of a pub in proceedings brought by Truro Council in connection with a customer's death by bacterial poisoning.


LEGAL 500 2016

Crime

Leading junior

‘His caseload includes criminal breaches of workplace health and safety regulations.’

Regulatory, Health & Safety and Licensing

Leading Junior

‘His expertise covers the spectrum of workplace regulation.’


CHAMBERS UK 2017

Health and Safety

Leading Junior - Band 2

Represents regulatory bodies and companies in the full spectrum of health and safety matters concerning fatal and non-fatal incidents. He frequently handles cases involving electrocutions.


LEGAL 500 2016

Crime

Leading junior

'He has recent experience handling matters concerning gross negligence manslaughter.'  

Regulatory, Health & Safety and Licensing

Leading Juniors

'Experienced in cases involving electrocutions of workers.'


CHAMBERS UK 2016

Crime

Junior - Band 3

An experienced criminal specialist who has expert knowledge on all aspects of traditional crime. He is also instructed in regulatory and health and safety issues. 

Recent work: Instructed to prosecute the case of prison officer David Pearse, who was charged with misconduct in public office.

Health & Safety

Leading Junior - Band 2

Acts for both prosecution and defence in investigations, inquests and tribunals relating to workplace accidents.

Strengths: "He's smart, able, personable and hardworking."

Recent work: Defended two directors in a HSE prosecution concerning the fatal crushing of construction worker.


LEGAL 500 2015

Crime

Leading junior

'He is hardworking, prepares his cases meticulously, and leaves no stone unturned'.

Regulatory, Health & Safety and Licensing

Leading Juniors

'He has a real warmth and skill when dealing with sensitive material, so juries trust him'.


CHAMBERS UK 2015

Crime

Leading Junior - Band 3

Covers the whole range of serious criminal offences. His practice is predominantly focused on criminal breaches of health and safety regulations.

Health & Safety

Leading Junior - Band 2

His expertise covers the gamut of health and safety work. He is instructed on cases of fatality, including those leading to charges of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter.

Expertise: "He is very good on disclosure issues, and also at working in a team - be that with solicitors, clients or leading counsel."

Recent work: Defended the director of a sports club in a corporate manslaughter case following a speedboat fatality at a boating lake near Heathrow.


LEGAL 500 2014

Crime

Leading junior

'Experienced in all types of serious cases'.

Regulatory, Health & Safety & Licensing

Leading Junior

'His expertise includes fatal and non-fatal accidents, and breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act'.


CHAMBERS UK 2014

Health & Safety

A criminal specialist who has built a strong practice in health and safety law. He is regularly instructed to both prosecute and defend in health and safety cases, and is a member of the Attorney General's B-list counsel.

Expertise: "He addresses each point and delivers the maximum value in terms of his knack of swiftly identifying the key points, and filtering out those which are limited in relevance."

Recent work: He was instructed on behalf of the HSE in prosecuting a care home provider after a disabled care home resident suffered a fatal fall.

Crime

Is noted for his versatile skills and expertise. He acts in a wide range of serious criminal matters.

Expertise: "He has the whole range of styles and can flip from drafting complex legal submissions to translating that into plain language for clients in the blink of an eye."


LEGAL 500 2013

Health & Safety

James Bennett provides 'very sound and pragmatic advice'.

Crime

Mark Worsley and James Bennett also stand out.


CHAMBERS UK 2013

Health & Safety

Band 3

One solicitor said that James Bennett, also of Guildhall Chambers, is "fabulous because whatever you give him to do, even if it is at the last minute, he will do it on time and do very well." He prosecutes and defends in health and safety cases drawing on his significant experience as a criminal advocate.


LEGAL 500 2012

Regulatory

James Bennett is also recommended.


CHAMBERS UK 2012

Health & Safety

Band 3

James Bennett is "very pragmatic and extremely hard-working". Market sources say "he's excellent with clients; his approach puts them at ease. He is a very good advocate and quite passionate about what he does too." Bennett enjoys a strong prosecution practice."

Crime

Band 3

James Bennett acted as first junior in the prosecution of police officers involved in the Lynette White case. His substantial health & safety and regulatory knowledge saw him advise on Buncefield as well.


LEGAL 500 2011

Regulatory

Guildhall Chambers is 'well ahead' of other local sets in this field'...James Bennett, who is 'pragmatic and extremely user friendly', handles high-profile HSE matters for both sides.


CHAMBERS UK 2011

Crime

Band 3

James Bennett is "good with the law, sensible and gets to the core of a matter very quickly." He has full market approval.


LEGAL 500 2010

Health & Safety

James Bennett "is comfortable dealing with high-profile, complex health and safety prosecutions, and has the ability to put clients at ease".


CHAMBERS UK 2010

Crime

James Bennett is "developing a good practice and is particularly strong on disclosure issues."


CHAMBERS UK 2009

Crime

James Bennett is the first of Guildhall Chambers' new additions. Prosecuting and defending in complex criminal cases, his experience of living and working in Texas and assisting US attorneys with the defence of death row inmates has given him the "ability to manage huge amounts of information and put them into succinct form."

CLERK CONTACT INFORMATION

For further information and enquiries please contact:

Crime: Lucy Northeast & Grant Bidwell

Regulatory & Discipline: Lucy Northeast & Grant Bidwell

Sport: Lucy Northeast

Appointments

  • Assistant Coroner for Birmingham
  • Attorney General's List of Approved Counsel - B list
  • CPS Panel
  • CPS Special Crime Panel

Memberships

  • Criminal Bar Association
  • Health & Safety Lawyers Association

education

  • 1st Class, LLB Hons, Birmingham City University