Enormously experienced, driven, gutsy, calm and determined, James concentrates on criminal defence work in all forms of major crime, including homicides, corporate fraud, money laundering, serious drugs and terrorism, including pre-charge advice. Recent instructions include murders, grave terrorism, complex fraud and large-scale money laundering.
Other areas of practice include pre-charge advice, inquiries, extradition, international crime, actions against the police, inquests and Regulatory and Disciplinary work. He is on the list of approved counsel for the International Criminal Court and welcomes instruction abroad. He is authorised for direct access work.
Recent cases include:
- Appearing for Tommy Adams in extensive money laundering litigation.
- Representing a police informant in a major civil trial for damages against a constabulary (A v ACC)
- Appearing for Diana Lank in her eventual acquittal on grounds of justification for interfering with police computers to expose a miscarriage of justice relating to her son.
- He appeared in the celebrated forgery appeal for Chan Chun Chuen in the Court of Appeal in Hong Kong (the “Feng Shui” will forgery case).
- Tarik Hassane in a major terrorist trial
- Ketan Somaia, the Chief Executive of Delphis Bank Mauritius, in a $23m fraud trial
- The Sun’s defence editor in Operation Elveden
- Dwayne George in a historic gangland murder appeal involving “Innocence project” work.
Over the years James has contributed to numerous publications for Liberty and other civil liberties organisations. He was consulted on new terrorism provisions by Justice, has contributed to the response of the CBA and the Bar Council on the new Terrorism Act, and more recently on the consultation on Quality Assured Advocacy.
He is Ex-Head of Doughty Street Crime Team and a member of its management board, a past member of the Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee. He regularly contributes to committees submitting representations and evidence, and lectures for White Paper on aspects of the Regulation of Investigative Crimes Act. He is a member of Justice’s working party on the introduction of digital case systems in all forms of litigation.
James is listed in Band 1 amongst Criminal silks by Chambers and Partners. In the 2018 edition he is described as an “unstoppable appellate advocate”. “His intellect is intimidating, his advocacy is fearless and tactically he is incredibly astute. The most anxious and demanding clients feel safe in his hands and juries listen to what he has to say even when it is unpalatable.” In 2017 he was described as "One of the all-time greats. At his best, he is a force of nature." "Has intellect and gravitas. He's very good with clients and taken seriously by judges." Quotes from earlier editions (2016) describe him as “A very able lawyer with a bright legal mind." "When he is in court he is like an unstoppable force”, a “Heavyweight criminal barrister acclaimed for his courtroom presence, work ethic and experience.” (2015) “Not one for the soft approach," "among the greatest" and that "James Wood is a 'thorough brief and a clever man' who is 'more than solid'. 'Unstoppable on his day, he studies the details of a case and then 'produces fireworks in court'".
In Legal 500 2018 he is described as “Meticulous and incisive” in fraud cases; as handling “challenging criminal appeals” in general crime, and is noted for his Asia Pacific based fraud work, as being “Instructed against top silks in high-stakes fraud cases.”
James is extremely experienced in appellate work, having appeared in historic and celebrated miscarriage of justice cases. He handles the most complex and difficult appeals for the most demanding of professional and lay clients. He is currently engaged in a number of joint enterprise murder appeals arising from the Supreme Court decision in R v Jogee  UKSC 8, and recently appeared in the joint listing of major historic joint enterprise cases where the Court of Appeal gave guidance in R v Johnson and Others  EWCA Crim 1613. He secured the overturning of the historic murder conviction of Dwayne George  EWCA Crim 2507 on the grounds of the inadequacy of the gunshot residue evidence.
In terrorism he has appeared in many of the leading appeals, raising many issues. In the recent past cases include Iqbal  EWCA Crim 2158 (the Luton Bomber), Latif  EWCA Crim 468 (the stock exchange bombing case), Rajib Karim  EWCA Crim 2577, (the BA bomber) under section 5 of the Terrorism Act; R v Waheed Zaman (and others)  EWCA Crim 1260, the airline bomb plot appeal on autrefois acquit, conspiracies and second re-trials and R v Habib Ahmed  EWCA Crim 184 concerning issues of complicity in torture by the UK, the admissibility of expert evidence on terrorism, and the meaning of membership under the Terrorism Acts. He also previously appeared in R v Girma  EWCA Crim 912, the accomplices to the 21/7 bombers, reported on the wrongful admission of the conviction of co-accused, and on issues of sentence, and the appeal in the Fertilizer bomb plot case R v Khyam  EWCA Crim 1612, where issues of complicity in torture where again raised.
In protest work, he appeared in R v Avery  EWCA Crim 622 for all appellant's in the appeal against the sentences and ASBO's imposed on the leaders of SHAC for an alleged blackmail campaign against employees and contractors with the animal experimentation company, Huntingdon Life Science.
In grave general crime he appeared in R v T  EWCA Crim 2439. A successful murder appeal involving a seminal judgment on the use of statistical evidence in footwear cases. The court ruled against the current practice of applying Beysian techniques in the assessment of the strength of support for the prosecution case derived from underlying statistical material. The case has been the subject of widespread criticism and speculation within the science community (Read More). Other recent general criminal appellate work includes R v Manochehr Bahmanzadeh  EWCA Crim 2954, the owner of the Dance Academy nightclub in Plymouth on a conviction and sentence CCRC reference for permitting the supply of class A drugs. R v Andrew Reeves  EWCA Crim 2664, a successful murder appeal involving expert evidence on the reliability of voluntary confessions and the impact of childhood ADHD, and R v Evans  EWCA Crim 2243, a CCRC reference in murder concerning expert psychiatric evidence. A selection of more ancient cases includes R v Firkins  EWCA Crim 2981, the Pool Farm murder case concerning fresh evidence and legal professional privilege; R v Yilmaz  EWHC 2620 (Admin) on custody time limits, and  EWCA Crim 308 on the substantive PII appeal concerning non disclosure at the original trial in Turkish heroin, conspiracy; and R v Choudhery  EWCA Crim 1788. Representing the lead appellant in the "Controlled Importation" heroin cases involving corrupt Customs Officials, non-disclosure and abuse of process, and in which mammoth costs were awarded against HMCR  EWCA Crim 2598.
He secured the acquittal, in a direct access appeal out of time, in case defining trial procedure in connection with indecent photographs (R v Dodd  EWCA Crim 660). In International work, he appeared in the Privy Council in the Trinidad and Tobago death sentence case of Benjamin and Ganga UKPC 8, dealing with confession evidence, and the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence in cases of the mentally impaired.
James was first instructed in major terrorist trials in the days when they primarily involved IRA active service units. Since the rise of ISIS, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the passage of the Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 James has been instructed in many of the recent terrorist trials. He is familiar with the philosophy, politics, writings and texts which often form a part of these prosecutions. He lists below a selection of the terrorist cases in which he has appeared at trial in recent years:
In 2016 he appeared for Tarik Hassane, in an alleged major UK terrorist plot to murder soldiers, police or civilians. Other experience includes the international Jihadi kidnap case of British journalists in Syria, for Jubayer Chowdhury (Kingston CC, Nov 2013); for Mohammed Rizwan (Woolwich CC March 2013), and Zahid Iqbal (Woolwich CC May 2013) the Luton TA barracks bomber case. In late 2012 he appeared for Omar Latif in Chowdhery and others [Woolwich CC Feb 2012], known as the stock exchange bomb plot. In 2011 for R v Rajib Karim [Woolwich Crown Court Feb-Mar 2011]. British Airways employee charged with communication with Anwar Al Awlaki in Yemen, and with committing acts preparatory to terrorism in the UK and abroad. R v Zaman [Woolwich Crown Court 2008 original trial, 2009 re-trial and 2010 2nd retrial]. This major terrorist plot was described as the most serious attempt at an attack on transatlantic airliners in peacetime. R v Haji and others [2008 Manchester CC]- The Manchester Al Quaeda directing and membership case. Defendant acquitted of funding terrorism. Appeared for convicted co-accused in the court of appeal. R v Khyam and others [2007 CCC] - The fertiliser bomb plot trial. Accused convicted after year long trial having been taped by security services making statements derogatory of "slags in nightclubs". R v Barot and others [2007 Woolwich CC] - the dirty bomb terrorist case, involving grave allegations of terrorists plotting to create a dirty bomb (for Barot's alleged assistant, Feroze).
As part of his practice in terrorism James receives instructions in SIAC hearings for those the subject of state requests for restrictions of liberty.
James has appeared in many major criminal trials over many years. A number have attracted significant publicity. Mostly homicides and serious drug cases, and illustration of his recent cases are listed below in reverse chronological order:-
He secured the acquittal of Sedat Meric for the attempted murder of a National Crime Squad Officer, in a gangland shooting captured on CCTV. A similar outcome was secured in 2013 for Chris Nathaniel, a celebrated football agent and entrepreneur, for murder after a 5 month trial at the Old Bailey. He appeared also at the Old Bailey for Wendell Baker in a historic rape case, retried after a campaign by BBC’s Panorama programme on grounds of fresh DNA evidence. In 2012 he led for the defence in the renowned murder of Colonel Riley Workman at St Albans Crown Court (R v Docherty Puncheon). In autumn 2011 he represented Shabia Linton at the Old Bailey for complicity in a gangland shooting. Other cases include R v Nicolaou [Old Bailey: Mar-May 2011]; Acquittal of defendant alleged to be middleman in Turkish gangland assassination. R v Saint [Old Bailey: Nov 2010-Jan 2011] joint enterprise shooting by South London Gang. R v Griffiths [Birmingham CC: 2010]. Successful defence in gyrocopter killing case, when a hunt monitor was charged with murder of a hunt supporter with rotor blades of his own Gyrocopter. R v McCartney (Southwark CC 2009-2010). Successful defence in IRA blackmail plot, for longest ever serving UK IRA life sentence prisoner and acticve service unit member. R v Carty [2009 Central CC]. Murder allegation involving death from repeated stabbing on public highway by defendant acquitted after claiming self defence. R v Yilmaz [2008 CCC and 2004 Woolwich CC] - Major heroin importation for the leader of Turkish drug gang, allegedly involved in the importation of many tons of heroin. R v Lee Firkins [2006 Exeter CC] - The celebrated Bodmin Moors double murder, at the Perch Garage, near Wadebridge. R v Stevenson [2005 Winchester CC] - The Poole Masseuse murder. R v Moran (2005) - The Nottingham Jeweller's wife murder. Finally he has appeared in a number of drug related shootings R v Bennett (London 2004); R v Powell (Sheffield 2004); R v Edwards (London 2003), and the body on the DLR case (R v Islam 2003) and the body in the suitcase murder (R v Mcknight 2003-2004).
James appeared for Debbie Vincent, on a conspiracy to Blackmail allegation concerning animal rights activities by SHAC at Winchester Crown Court. Historically, James made his name appearing for protesters, and litigating the right to protest on the streets (See Pedro v Diss (1981) 72 Cr. App.R.193). In the 1980's he appeared in the Orgreave riot trials, and other important cases arising from the Miner's strike. At that time he also appeared in the Newham 7 anti racism case, and represented many anti apartheid demonstrators. He has a long standing involvement in issues concerning animal rights, and has represented many ALF members and leaders. He appeared in the Sheffield Crown Court trial involving Ronnie Lee. He appeared in many of the direct action animal laboratory occupation and animal rescue trials, and has appeared for leading animal rights activists in many prosecutions. He appeared for Greg Avery, the principal defendant, in the SHAC Huntingdon Life Science blackmail trial at Winchester in 2008.
In late 2013 in the Court of Appeal for Wayne Collins who had been convicted for involvement in the Birmingham Riots of 2011.
When available James appears in the High Court on extradition cases, leading junior members of Doughty Street's highly regarded extradition team. Example of his extradition cases can be found at Kadre v France  EWHC 1712 (Admin),  A.C.D. 26, and Deya v Kenya  EWHC 733 (Admin) (the miracle babies case).
He secured the acquittal of Diana Lank, at the Old Bailey, successfully defending allegations of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office on grounds that she was justified in illicitly accessing police computers to expose a grave miscarriage of justice relating to the murder conviction of her son. He deals with major drug and money laundering cases, including representing members of the Adams family. He appeared at the Old Bailey for Andrew Collins who was acquitted on allegations of supplying tons of cannabis. In 2013 he appeared for Virginia Wheeler, the Sun newspapers former defense editor, in the Operation Elveden corruption allegations. His pre trial advisory work, secured reconsideration of the charges by the Attorney General and the successful conclusion of this the first prosecution of a journalist by the DPP’s team, through the entry by the by the Attorney of a Nolle.
His interest in cases raising unusual or political issues, has seen James being instructed in cases concerning the religious use of drugs. In late 2012 he helped secure the acquittal of Adrian Freedmanwhen prosecuted for importing Ayuahusca for the Santo D'Aime church. The issues of religious freedom and legal uncertainty led to the dropping of the case. Always prepared to turn his hand to defending those who find their religious or political beliefs have put them in conflict with the criminal law, James invites instruction in all forms of serious crime.
He is always prepared to be instructed (if available) in cases involving lesser criminal offences which raise issues of complexity, sensitivity or issues of principal, human rights or state oppression.
James recently appeared in the celebrated forgery appeal for Chan Chun Chuen in the Court of Appeal in Hong Kong (The $HK 83 billion Feng Shui will forgery case). He assisted Kevin Horstwood during his long period in custody facing a death sentence for murder in St Kitts. James was appointed to the panel of counsel to the International Criminal Court in 2010. He appears in the Privy Council on death row cases from the Caribbean, and has been instrumental in the development of the participation of Doughty Street Chambers in all aspects of International Criminal Law.
James recently appeared for Ketan Somaia, the former Chief Executive and owner of Delphis Bank, Mauritius, in a multi-million dollar fraud trial. He has experience in corporate advice and and pre charge advisory work. In 2012 he appeared in R v Ghuree (ILCC) a passport, immigration and financial fraud case (stayed on disclosure issues). In 2007 he appeared in R v Peries (Southwark CC) - Serious corporate fraud, stayed on grounds of non disclosure. Over many years he has appeared in VAT and carousel frauds. In 2003 he appeared in R v Ayrey, the nursing home fraudster. His work in this area includes Professional Discipline and Regulation, he has been instructed in hearings before regulatory and disciplinary professional bodies, and has a particular interest in those raising issues of Sports Law.
James has conducted inquests involving workplace mismanagement, medical negligence, police shoot to kill allegations, deaths in police custody from misapplication of restraint techniques and deaths in prison arising from drug consumption and mistaken prescription. A longstanding member of Inquest and Inquest lawyers group, in silk whilst James's practice has primarily focused upon major crime, he retains a strong commitment to holding public authorities and the police to account for deaths in custody.
Recently instructed in a major trial against a constabulary for an informant under POCA in A v ACC EWHC 301. As a junior he had an extensive actions against the police practice involving significant trial work. In silk he primarily advises on merits and strategy in the context of past or present police conduct and possible pending proceedings against public authorities. Many years of involvement in civil actions and claims, including all forms of actions against the police and the CPS, saw James instructed on behalf of many celebrated clients in their claims for assault, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. Clients included Linford Christie, the sprinter, and Audley Harrison, the boxer amongst others. He appeared for Kurds arrested for performing the celebrated Harold Pinter play "Mountain Language" in North London. He also conducted the groundbreaking civil action on domestic slavery (Godwin v Uzoigwe  Fam. Law 65).
James does direct access work, particularly in Criminal Appeal work, and sentences short trials not involving evidential or litigation issues, or mitigations. Victories for direct access clients include Dodd  EWCA Crim 660, and Christopher Brown  EWCA Crim 1791. and James McLellan  EWCA Crim 1464. All cases were taken post trial on appeal out of time. James will consider direct access approaches in all areas of work. One happy client wrote “it was important to find a barrister who could understand and present issues in the way that mattered to me. Mr. Wood proved an ideal choice. Throughout the process, he was engaged and proactive, allowing him to channel my perspective into forceful legal argument. At the same time, he was never shy to take a stand when he felt a line of argument would be harmful to the defence. I feel confident in recommending Mr. Wood.”).