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Joe Middleton is a versatile practitioner with crossover expertise in immigration, extradition, comparative and international law and human rights.

In 2015 Joe won the Bar Pro Bono Award for his human rights work around the world. He was particularly recognised for his contribution to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in several African countries and his work on human rights in Belize Central Prison.

Joe’s main areas of work in Chambers are immigration and nationality law, extradition, Interpol red notices, death penalty litigation and other complex constitutional and human rights challenges. In civil work he is often instructed with a view to achieving his clients’ objectives by avoiding litigation rather than pursuing it.

Joe is a fluent Russian speaker. He studied in Russia and has acted for many Russian and Ukrainian clients in immigration, extradition and human rights challenges in different courts and tribunals. Former clients include a famous Russian singer (in a complex visit visa application), senior executives of the Yukos Oil Company and a leading Russian shipping company (in asylum and extradition proceedings), and the family of the former President of Chechnya (in an application to the European Court of Human Rights).

Joe has appeared in the UK’s domestic courts at all levels. He has also taken cases in the ECtHR, the Privy Council, the UN Human Rights Committee and, in collaboration with local counsel, in various jurisdictions in Africa and the Caribbean, including litigation in the Caribbean Court of Justice. He has acted as pro bono counsel for British citizens sentenced to death in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Kenya, and has appeared as an expert for the amicus curiae in constitutional litigation in the Supreme Court of Kenya.

In 2013 Joe was called to the Bar of Belize by the Hon. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. His work in Belize has been featured in a Channel 5 documentary, an episode of Assignment (BBC World Service: see the video trailer here) and in Intelligent Life (The Economist).

What the Directories say

Joe is ranked as a tier 1 leading junior for immigration by Legal 500, which notes the benefits for his clients of his crossover immigration and extradition practice and his “impressive solicitor recommendations”. 

According to Chambers and Partners, he is “very good at dealing with complex cases and cutting through very detailed instructions and papers”, and he is “really excellent at everything, being fully apprised of corporate immigration issues and particularly good on EU and nationality issues”. 

Immigration Asylum and Personal

Joe is an established practitioner in all areas of asylum, personal immigration, EU migration and nationality law. He often advises high net worth individuals on migration solutions (investor, entrepreneur etc.) and assists with the reversal of mandatory refusal decisions. He also advised on asylum and diplomatic law issues arising from the decision by Julian Assange to seek refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador. Previous clients include victims of political persecution in Russia (political activists, former Yukos executives and others) and a former prime minister deposed in a military coup.

Joe acted for several leading human rights organisations in A v SSHD [2005] UKHL 71 (admissibility of evidence obtained by torture in immigration proceedings) and for the appellant in J v SSHD [2005] EWCA 629 (suicide risk in expulsion cases). Other cases include: Young v Young [2012] 3 WLR 266(human rights implications of impounding a litigant’s passport in family proceedings); IT (Sierra Leone) v SSHD [2010] EWCA Civ 787 (scope of directions in successful immigration appeals); JN (Afghanistan) v SSHD [2010] EWCA Civ 723 (issues at large in reconsideration appeals); Hussein v SSHD [2010] Imm AR 320 (scope of automatic deportation).

Immigration Business and Commercial

Joe has been closely connected with the Points Based System since its launch in 2008. He co-authors the PBS chapters of Immigration Law and Practice and frequently advises individual and corporate clients on economic migration and settlement, PBS applications (including investors and entrepreneurs), compliance issues/illegal working and PBS sponsorship. Much of his work is directed at ensuring that his clients achieve their personal or commercial objectives without having to resort to litigation.

Joe has acted for numerous Tier 4 colleges in challenges to the suspension or revocation of their sponsor licences (e.g. R (360 GSP College Ltd) v SSHD [2015] EWHC 526 (Admin)). Other Tier 4 clients have included London School of Business & Finance (the UK’s largest private college) and Anglia Ruskin University. He was also instructed by the NUS, which intervened in a challenge to the revocation of London Metropolitan’s Tier 4 licence on behalf of affected students.


Joe acts for defendants in extradition proceedings at all levels. He has particular experience of dealing with individuals who are dealing simultaneously with asylum claims and extradition proceedings. He has acted in several successful cases resisting extradition to Russia on grounds of political motivation. He was instructed by Liberty in their interventions in USA v McKinnon [2008] 1 WLR 1739 (House of Lords) and Norris v USA [2010] 2 AC 487 (Supreme Court), on the scope of article 8 of the European Convention in extradition proceedings.

Other extradition cases include:

  • R (Dolinski) v Secretary of State for Justice [2016] (effect of Extradition Act on length of sentence to be served in UK);
  • Vasilev v Bulgaria [2016] (appeal based on prison conditions in Bulgaria);
  • Bialek v Poland [2016] EWHC 712 (Admin) (effect of delay on the proportionality assessment under article 8);
  • Gambrah v Ghana [2014] 1 WLR 4464 (intervening for the Death Penalty Project on the mandatory imposition of the death penalty for murder in Ghana);
  • Ilia v Greece [2014] EWHC 2372 (former Greek judge facing allegations and convictions for corruption);
  • R (Aldhouse) v SSHD [2012] ACD 53 (appellate jurisdiction in extradition cases);
  • Aldhouse v Thailand [2012] EWHC 3385 (Admin) (prison conditions in Thailand);
  • Suchanek v Czech Republic [2012] EWHC 2987 (Admin) (successful challenge under article 8);
  • Srama v Poland [2010] EWHC 3320 (Admin) (EAW vitiated by error);
  • Benko v Hungary [2009] EWHC 3530 (Admin) (entitlement to retrial);
  • Temerko v Russia; Izmaylov v Russia (successful challenges to the extradition of a former Yukos executive and a former Novoship executive on the basis of political motivation).

Joe acted for Simon Mann (with local counsel) in his attempts to resist extradition from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea. He has also advised on high profile extradition proceedings from the Bahamas to the United States.

Interpol red notices

Joe is one of the few practitioners with experience of challenging improperly issued Interpol red notices. His cases have included:

  • removal of a red notice issued against a Russian client, on the grounds that the client had refugee status and the criminal proceedings were politically motivated;
  • removal of the published red notice against a high profile Asian banker;
  • advising a Asian/American dual national on challenging a red notice issued in relation to alleged fraud, and on the UK immigration implications of the red notice.
Administrative and Public Law

Much of Joe’s work, both domestic and international, has a public law or constitutional dimension. This includes judicial review of immigration decisions with no right of appeal and challenges by educational institutions to the revocation of their Tier 4 sponsor licences.  In the criminal context he dealt with fundamental constitutional issues in R v Chaytor [2011] 1 AC 684, in which the Supreme Court considered whether Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of MPs’ expenses fraud.

Joe is part of an independent panel of lawyers reviewing the use of “suspicion-less” searches under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, on behalf of the Metropolitan Police.

Joe is frequently instructed to advise on public law issues in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean. This work covers a range of constitutional, civil and criminal proceedings, including constitutional challenges to the mandatory death penalty and work to protect the customary land rights of the indigenous Maya communities in Belize (see “International Law” below).

International Law

International, comparative and foreign jurisdiction cases have always featured prominently in Joe’s practice. He is often instructed by individual and corporate clients to provide advice on constitutional, criminal and regulatory matters and to assist with litigation in international and foreign courts.

For many years Joe has worked on death penalty cases in Africa and the Caribbean. He has acted on the instructions of the Death Penalty Project and, in the African cases, always in collaboration with local counsel. Most of this work has focused on the mandatory death penalty and its incompatibility with constitutional principles and international law. As a result of this litigation, the mandatory death penalty for murder has been ruled unconstitutional in both Malawi and Kenya (Kafantayeni v Attorney General [2007] MWHC 1; Mutiso v The Republic [2011] 1 EALR 242). Joe was closely involved in the subsequent resentencing process in Malawi, in which prisoners given unconstitutional death sentences have been given new (often fixed term) sentences.

The Supreme Court of Ghana rejected a challenge to the mandatory death penalty in Johnson v Republic [2011] 2 SCGLR 601, but this was followed by a successful application to the UN Human Rights Committee, which found that the imposition of such penalty is incompatible with Ghana’s international human rights obligations (Johnson v Ghana, Comm. No. 2177/2012). Joe prepared Mr Johnson’s written submissions for both proceedings.

In 2015 - 2016, Joe was one of the first foreign advocates to address the Supreme Court of Kenya, in what is expected to be a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty for murder. If this litigation is successful, there are several thousand prisoners on death row in Kenya who may eventually have their sentences quashed or commuted.

Joe has advised on international election standards and election legislation in most of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He was the legal adviser for the international election observation mission for the 2004 US presidential elections. He has also conducted many human rights missions on behalf of Amnesty International, the International Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists and the Interparliamentary Union. He also advised on asylum and diplomatic law issues arising from the decision by Julian Assange to seek refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London.

Joe has acted in numerous applications to the European Court of Human Rights, including:

  • a challenge to the disproportionate “preventive seizure” of assets in Italian criminal proceedings(2015);
  • an application arising from a violent attack against a journalist in Azerbaijan (Jafarov v Azerbaijan, App. No. 54202/08);
  • an application brought by the family of the former President of Chechnya, after he was killed by shooting (Maskhadova v Russia, App. No. 18071/05);
  • a successful complaint of unlawful killing of civilians in Chechnya (Betayev v Russia, App. No. 37315/03).

In 2014 Joe prepared a groundbreaking report on human rights concerns in Belize Central Prison, with a particular focus on prisoners with mental health issues, juveniles and women prisoners. Since then he has made a number of trips to Belize to help implement the report’s recommendations. This included support for a successful application to quash the mandatory death sentence of the only remaining prisoner on death row in Belize. He has also worked with an international team of lawyers to assist the Maya indigenous communities in Belize in litigation to protect their customary land rights.