Mary Cowe

Year of call: 2006

"She is meticulous in preparation, sensitive and thorough in cross-examination and particularly strong in dealing with vulnerable witnesses."
Chambers UK 2018

Mary Mary

Mary is a criminal barrister who appears in serious and complex cases. She does a mix of prosecution and defence work, believing that the challenges of each type of work refine one's abilities to perform either role. She exercises her forensic abilities and her well-honed advocacy in a variety of different types of case, regularly bringing her analytical skills to bear in complex fraud matters and multi-handed drug conspiracies, as well as having a well established practice prosecuting and defending sexual offences. Her approach to any case is rooted in systematic and detailed preparation.

Solicitors note that her down to earth and personable manner combined with her command of the case papers inspires confidence, even with clients who have more complex needs. As someone who works hard to build rapport with clients and who is well prepared for the challenges of dealing with expert evidence in the courtroom, she is often instructed to deal with cases which have a psychiatric element.


Mary undertakes serious cases across the spectrum of general criminal practice. Instructions in the last 12 months have included cases of section 18 assaults, bomb hoax, drugs conspiracies, fraud and money laundering, as well as rape and serious sexual offences. Mary has undertaken cases involving allegations of familial sexual abuse, non-recent sexual allegations and cases with witnesses and defendants who have diagnoses of learning disability or mental disorder.

Rape & Sexual Assault

Mary has an established practice in this area. Current defence instructions include defending a learning disabled woman charged with non-recent offences, and recent instructions include defending a learning disabled man charged with the rape of a child. In terms of prosecution work, current instructions include rape cases in the context of alleged domestic violence relationships and cases involving child sexual grooming. Recent instructions have included prosecuting a former soldier charged with sexually assaulting an army cadet in the 1970s and the prosecution of a man for the sexual abuse of his autistic and learning disabled nephew. Mary is regarded as having an ability to twin a robust approach to taking on challenging legal matters with an understanding manner towards vulnerable witnesses and defendants. She has been particularly commended by the judiciary for her ability to examine and cross examine vulnerable witnesses in a fair but effective manner.


Mary's ability to focus on the real issues in a case and to bring apparently abstruse matters to life for a jury have meant that she has a substantial practice relating to allegations of fraud and money laundering. Her skills in presenting, explaining or teasing out the detail of expert evidence mean that she has been instructed in cases which involve psychiatric evidence concerning the memory or mental state of witnesses. She has in particular dealt with a number of cases involving elderly witnesses, who allege they have been the victims of fraud but who now suffer from dementia or depression. Current instructions include a matter involving around 40 live witnesses concerning allegations of systematic fraud in a shipping/road haulage firm, and the prosecution of a former police officer for allegations surrounding her management of her elderly neighbour's affairs.

Mental Health

Psychological and psychiatric issues are pervasive in the criminal law, and Mary’s skill in these areas goes beyond the essential need for an ability to deal with the evidence of vulnerable witnesses and defendants appropriately in court. It was a longstanding interest in the interaction between mental illness and the law that led Mary to undertake research about how lawyers can protect (the often hard to discern) best interests of clients with mental disorder whilst on sabbatical at Cambridge University.

Mary has a through understanding of how decisions to divert, punish or rehabilitate defendants in the Crown Court may impact upon them when they become patients appearing before Mental Health Review Tribunals. Her academic interest in the moral philosophical questions surrounding how society treats those who are sometimes disenfranchised by mental illness is an interest that underwrites her practical abilities. Mary is well placed to seek to ensure that those with learning difficulties or psychiatric problems can participate effectively in the trial process.

Recent Cases

  • R v Cremin  (2017) - prosecuting a 6 week fraud case against a silk; the fraud included allegations that the defendant had pretended to be a solicitor and defrauded a range of companies and elderly individauls
  • R v JN (2017) - defending a young man with complex mental health history charged with a series sexual and physcial assaults
  • R v Bamford (2017) - prosecuting a nurse for stealing opiates and adulterating the hospital stock of drugs
  • R v SMN (2016) - defending a woman with severe learning difficulties charged with historic sexual offences



Crime - Band 3

An experienced junior who prosecutes and defends serious criminal cases, including sexual offences, child cruelty, drugs, serious violence and high-value frauds.

Strengths: "She is meticulous in preparation, sensitive and thorough in cross-examination and particularly strong in dealing with vulnerable witnesses." "She is contactable and will always provide advice - nothing is too much hassle."

Recent work: Prosecuted multiple allegations of fraud and one allegation of furnishing false information to the revenue over the course of six weeks. The defendant used different aliases, bank accounts and company names.

LEGAL 500 2017


Leading juniors

‘She shows judgement beyond her years of call.’

LEGAL 500 2016


Leading juniors

'She has a powerful intellect, and is a formidable and hardworking advocate.'   

LEGAL 500 2015


Leading juniors

'Her ability to identify the important issues of any case ensures thorough preparation'.


For further information and enquiries please contact:

Crime: Lucy Northeast or Grant Bidwell


  • CPS Advocate Panel Grade 4
  • Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Panel
  • Member of Editorial Board, Counsel Magazine


  • Bar Pro Bono Unit
  • Criminal Bar Association
  • Howard League for Penal Reform
  • Lawyers for Liberty


  • MPhil in Criminology at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge
  • Bar Vocational Course, University of the West of England
  • MA (Hons) in Jurisprudence at Keble College, Oxford