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Robert Smith QC Public Lecture

Northumbria University


The newly founded Student Wing of Northumbria Centre for Evidence and Criminal Justice Studies invite you to their Inaugural Lecture

The lecture will be delivered by Robert Smith QC and is entitled The Development and Refinement of the Law of Joint Enterprise.

Robert Smith QC was called to the Bar in 1971 and took silk in 1986. He is a Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple, a former member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and until his retirement from office he served for many years as a Recorder and a Deputy Judge of the Queen's Bench Division and Chancery Division of the High Court

About the Speaker

1971 – Called to the Bar

1986 – appointed Queen’s Counsel

1989 – 1992 – Member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

1982 – 2008 – Recorder of the Crown Court

1994 – 2008  Deputy Judge of the High Court [Queen’s Bench Division and Chancery Division]

Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple

2011 – 2014 – Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria

2010 to date – Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Blackstone’s Criminal Practice

2000 to date – Head of New Park Court Chambers Leeds and Newcastle upon Tyne

Professional History

I was Called to the Bar in 1971 and commenced practice on the North Eastern Circuit at 5 King’s Bench Walk. These chambers had produced many ‘high powered’ appointments to the Bench including Lord Justice Cumming-Bruce, Mr Justice Veale and Mr Justice Payne and I was privileged to begin my career there. 5 King’s Bench Walk was later to become a Circuit based set of chambers located in Leeds where they have remained ever since. In 2011 they amalgamated with the outstanding set of chambers at Broad Chare in Newcastle upon Tyne to become New Park Court Chambers.

I have remained in the same set of chambers throughout my career. When I began my career Circuit work was multi-disciplinary and with my pupil master, Gerald Coles, who was in due course to be appointed Queen’s Counsel and ultimately Recorder of Bradford, I saw criminal and civil practice in the last year of the Assize and Nisi Prius system before it was swept away with the reform of the Courts. I had the opportunity to see and to listen to advocacy at the very highest level and to be taught the discipline of the common law, involving both criminal and civil litigation and some specialized work. I had the opportunity of being led in many cases as a junior by particularly able criminal trial advocates such as Harry Ognall Q.C. and Gilbert Gray Q.C.

Once appointed to Silk in 1986 I continued to conduct both criminal and civil litigation with a strong emphasis on serious personal injury cases and clinical and professional negligence. I have been engaged in a number of notable civil cases, including acting for the victims of the Bradford City Football Stadium disaster in the successfully conducted contested litigation before Cantley J at Leeds Crown Court and advising in relation to passenger claims in the context of the Warsaw Convention (prior to amendments created by the Montreal Convention in May 1999) in a number of notable aviation accidents. These included the East Midlands airport crash which involved a British Midland Boeing 737-400 which landed on the M1 motorway at Kegworth on the 8th January 1989 when the flight crew mistakenly shut down the one remaining good engine.

Eventually, more and more serious criminal cases were presented to me to advise upon and to act in and, coincidentally with the ‘Woolf’ reform of the civil courts, I became a specialist criminal practitioner. I still conduct some civil litigation but invariably do so when conducted jointly with the assistance of specialist civil practitioners (both juniors and leaders) and only where some issue arises which involves criminal expertise. I remain, primarily, a criminal trial advocate.

In recent years my professional work load has involved the prosecution and defence of complex and particularly serious criminal cases, with a particular emphasis on medico-legal and scientific issues, the defence and prosecution of professional defendants such as medical practitioners and  health care professionals and the defence of corporate bodies, their senior  managers and directors.

My cases have involved and continue to involve a wide range of situations in which the criminal law has been engaged including scientific issues, aviation, industry, coal mines, railways, food and consumer safety, educational establishments, the pharmaceutical industry, newspaper publishing and medico-legal issues. I have also advised on matters involving Parliamentary Privilege and allegations of contempt of the House of Commons. I have conducted cases involving Human Rights issues in both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.

I have advised upon and conducted litigation in the field of regulatory criminal law [in particular health and safety, bribery and corruption and the prosecution and defence of corporate bodies particularly in the context of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and the Bribery Act 2010] and related litigation, including civil actions involving the police, administrative court cases, extradition issues and cases involving misfeasance in public office.

I have a particular interest in gross negligence manslaughter, particularly in the context of medical failings and in cases involving the medical implications of non-accidental head injury in children (‘NAHI’ – formerly described as ‘shaken baby syndrome’) and have been involved in many cases, both for the prosecution and the defence, in which the ‘triad’ of signs and their interpretation has arisen.

I have conducted a significant number of cases of fraud and alleged corruption, representing both individual and corporate defendants under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. I am familiar with the practice of the US Department of Justice and the US Securities Exchange Commission in the context of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the United States Exchange Act.

I remain committed to conducting a number of publicly funded criminal cases and consider that the criminal Bar has an obligation to do so.


Event Details

Northumbria University
Lecture Theatre 402, Business and Law Building
City Campus East
Newcastle upon Tyne


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