“Tactically astute, impressive with clients and head and shoulders above the rest, he is the guy to go to.”
Chambers & Partners
Experience & Expertise
An acclaimed advocate and trial tactician, John’s expertise spans a wide range of legal fields encompassing civil and criminal litigation, inquests, public inquiries, investigations, judicial reviews, employment and disciplinary proceedings. He combines thorough preparation and unswerving commitment to clients. Solicitors cited by Chambers & Partners note that he is “the leader in any tough courtroom” and “the best QC in conference and simply the best cross-examiner in the business”.
He is particularly well regarded in the field of police law where he has appeared in many important cases over recent decade. This includes the Marchioness, Leveson and Sturgess public inquiries and high profile inquests such as the 7/7 London Bombings, Deepcut, Hillsborough, Perepilichnyy, and Nicola Bulley, and many inquests into police shootings. He has appeared in high profile civil trials (Rathband, Parker (“Barrymore”), Davis, Goodenough) and judicial review such as Salter, Woollard, Duggan, Mackail (“Plebgate”),Williams , W80, Aftab, Watson , Re JR249 and in Barnes.
John is one of the go-to counsel for advice on police operational matters in particular armed policing operations and public order operations. He is co-author of Public Order: Law and Practice (OUP). He represented the MPS in the May Day case (the first containment case, which reached the European Court of Human Rights) and was also instructed in the Laporte litigation which culminated in the House of Lords ruling considering pre-emptive arrest to prevent a breach of the peace. He is regularly instructed in cases involving political protest.
John has twice been awarded Chambers & Partners Professional Discipline Silk of the Year and is shortlisted again this year. He is the co-author of the leading book on the subject in the police field: Police Misconduct, Complaints and Regulation (OUP). He designs and delivers training programmes for the College of Policing in this field.
John has been instructed as prosecuting counsel in numerous disciplinary cases involving chief police officers (including the prosecution of four chief constables and as defence counsel for numerous chief officers over the years). He is also regularly retained by Police and Crime Commissioners in their disputes with chief constables. He has appeared in three judicial reviews concerning PCC – Chief Constable disputes (Port, Rhodes and Gilmour). He has advised PCCs in several s.38 PRSRA “removal of Chief Constable” processes. He has a particular experience in vetting and probation cases, including Victor v Chief Constable of West Mercia Police.
John acts for police services outside of the UK in the wider Commonwealth.
He also has a practice defending solicitors and barristers in regulatory proceedings.
John led the representation of a doctor before the Durham coroner in relation to three deaths for which the doctor had been acquitted of murder.
cases & work of note
- Inquest into the death of William Smith
Leading Matthew Holdcroft, John acted for the Chief Constable of Kent in this inquest concerning the fatal shooting of the deceased, a traveller wanted on suspicion of murder and aggravated burglary. Determining that it has been a lawful killing, the jury concluded that, “armed police officers honestly believed that William Smith pointed a firearm at them. They believed that they needed to use force against him to defend themselves. It was reasonable and proportionate, due to the fact that he pointed a firearm at them, to use lethal force to shoot him.”
- W80 v. IOPC, others intervening  EWCA Civ 1301
John led James Berry for the National Police Chiefs’ Council as an Intervenor in the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court proceedings brought by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) against the Divisional Court’s decision in R (W80) v IOPC  EWHC 2215 (Admin).
The case arose out of the fatal police shooting of Jermaine Baker in 2015 and an IOPC investigation into the conduct of W80, who fired the fatal shot. The case concerns the appropriate test for self-defence in police misconduct proceedings.
See sample BBC press coverage here.
- R (Chief Constable of BTP) v. Police Misconduct Panel  EWHC 589 (Admin)
John led Peter Laverack in challenge to approach of misconduct panel.
- Watson v. Police Misconduct Panel 22/099678/01 (High Court of Northern Ireland)
First decision in UK on a panel’s jurisdiction to consider pre-attestation misconduct.
- R (Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire) v. Police Appeals Tribunal and Flint  EWHC 1248 (Admin)
John led James Berry on this challenge to the PAT’s approach, inter alia, to sanction.
- Inquest into the death of Leon Briggs, 2021
John led Aaron Rathmell for the Chief Constable in this lengthy inquest.
- R (Short) v (1) Police Misconduct Tribunal (2) CC of Bedfordshire Police  EWHC 385 (Admin)
John led Elizabeth Fox for the Chief Constable in this case concerning legally qualified chairs and bias. He also dealt with the associated misconduct case and inquest.
- Gooodenough v. Thames Valley Police  EWHC 695 (QB)
John defended the Chief Constable, leading Aaron Rathmell, in this High Court claim brought by the family of a man who died following his arrest after a short car chase. The officers were initially prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter.
The High Court judge rejected the battery claim but upheld an Article 2 claim because the officers were not adequately prevented from conferring after the incident. This was an important judgment on battery (and the application of Ashley) but also on the Article 2 point in a separate judgment,  EWHC 1428 (QB).
Analysis of the case is available here on our UK Police Law Blog.
- Chief Constable of Bedfordshire v Supt L, 2020
John prosecuted Supt L for professional dishonesty. This was a complicated case with numerous legal points arising over a 3 week hearing.
- Agnew & Others v. Chief Constable of PSNI & NI Policing Board  NICA 32
John led Aaron Rathmell in this class action involving c.3750 officers and civilians in respect of unpaid overtime for holiday pay, invoking the Working Time Directive.
- Inquest into the death of Edir Da Costa, 2019
John led Cecily White for the Metropolitan Police Service in this inquest into the death of Edir Da Costa, who died after being restrained by police officers and choking on a package containing drugs. The jury returned a conclusion of Misadventure.
Sample press coverage from the BBC here.
- Chief Constable of Northumbria v (1) PAT (2) Barratt  EWHC 3352 (Admin)
John led James Berry for the interested party in this case concerning sufficiency of reasons and the use of racist language by the officer.
Sample press coverage from the BBC here.
- Chief Constable of Northumbria v IOPC, November 2019
John acted for the Chief Constable challenging the IOPC’s determination that there was a case to answer.
- Inquest into the death of Rashan Charles, 2018
John led Cecily White for the Metropolitan Police Service in the inquest into the death of Rashan Charles. The deceased was restrained by police and a plastic package was later retrieved from his mouth. The jury found the death to have been accidental and that the deceased’s life had not been salvageable prior to the point at which a medical emergency was identifiable.
See BBC News coverage here.
- City of London Police v IOPC  EWHC 2997 (Admin)
John led Pravin Fernandes in this challenge to the IOPC’s case to answer decision.
- Inquest into the death of James Wilson, 2018
John acted for Northumbria Police in the three week inquest into the death of James Wilson. Mr Wilson died three days after being shot by armed officers following a stand-off in South Shields in March 2016. The jury ruled by a majority that his death was a lawful killing with the IOPC concluding that: Sample press coverage from the BBC here.
- Parker v Chief Constable of Essex Police  EWCA 2788 (Civ)
John and Cecily White acted for Essex Police in the Court of Appeal and below in the claim brought by Michael Parker (aka Michael Barrymore) in respect of his arrest in June 2007 on suspicion of rape and murder following the death of Stuart Lubbock, who was found dead in his swimming pool, in March 2001.
Essex Police won their appeal against the High Court decision that the claimant should be awarded more than nominal damages, which was unlawful because the arresting officer did not have the grounds for arrest in mind (the intended arresting officer having been delayed in traffic). The Court of Appeal held that, since the claimant could and would have been arrested lawfully if the correct procedures had been followed, he had suffered no loss and was only entitled to nominal damages.
This decision is of significance in relation to the level of damages payable in cases of false arrest.
Analysis of the case is available on our UK Police Law Blog here with sample BBC coverage here.
- Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire v. Police Appeals Tribunal  EWCA Civ 34
John led Cecily White for the Chief Constable in this successful appeal of the Admin Court ruling on questions concerning res judicata in a police discipline case.
- Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire v. Chief Constable of Cheshire, 2018
John led Oliver Williamson in the prosecution of the Chief Constable of Cheshire on allegations of misconduct.
- R (Gilmore) v Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire  EWHC 2867 (Admin)
John led Aaron Rathmell for the Defendant Police and Crime Commissioner in this judicial review brought by the former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police on discrete points of law, including whether the “appropriate authority” is required to make a “case to answer” decision regarding an officer who has retired or resigned from the police service.
Click here for sample press coverage of the case.
- Perepilichnyy inquest, 2016-2018
John is leading Cecily White for Mrs Perepilichnyy in this inquest where Hermitage Capital Management alleged that the Mr Perepilichnyy was poisoned by agents of the Russian state in league with Russian gangsters.. The inquest involved complex medical and circumstantial evidence and was the subject of a public interest immunity application by the government and a judicial review to consider the same.
Click here for sample BBC press coverage
- Deepcut inquests, 2013- 2018
John led Cecily White and Oliver Williamson on behalf of Surrey Police in the fresh inquests concerning the deaths at the Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, Surrey, of Private James and Private Benton in 1995 and Private Gray in 2001. In each case a conclusion of suicide was handed down.
- Rathband v Chief Constable of Northumbria  EWHC 181,  All ER (D) 88 (Feb):
John led Aaron Rathmell in this High Court claim arising from the shooting of PC Rathband by Raoul Moat. Males J (as he then was) found for the Chief Constable on the law, the facts and causation.
A case analysis is available on our UK Police Law Blog here.
- Davis v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 38 (QB)
John led Aaron Rathmell for the Metropolitan Police Service in defending a claim for assault, negligence and Article 2 (right to life) where the claimant was shot during a firearms operation. Click here to read the judgment.
- Hillsborough Inquests, 2014-16
John led James Berry, Oliver Williamson and Aaron Rathmell for the three match commanders in these inquests before Goldring LJ (sitting as Her Majesty’s Assistant Coroner) and a jury. The inquests ran between March 2014 and April 2016.
- Hegazy and others v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 235
John led Cecily White for the Metropolitan Police Service where the Defendant brought in individual officers as Additional Parties to racially aggravated assault and false imprisonment claims. The officers had previously been acquitted at criminal trial (see report here) but the Part 20 claims against them succeeded. See commentary here.
- Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner v. Chief Constable X, 2015
John led Aaron Rathmell in the prosecution of the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary on allegations of misconduct. John subsequently acted for the PCC when she embarked upon the s.38 “removal of Chief Constable” process.
- Bowen-Jones and others v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 1249 (QB)
John represented the Metropolitan Police Service in a strike out against officers claiming that the Commissioner owed them a duty as employer to protect their interests in litigation. Jay J held that it was not fair, just and reasonable to impose such a duty on the Commissioner, nor was it reasonably foreseeable that any such breaches of duty might cause psychiatric injury. Jay J was overturned in the court of appeal but reinstated by the Supreme court.
- X v (1) Chief Constable of Y (2) PCC for Y  EWHC 484 (Admin)
John led Aaron Rathmell for the defendants in this application for public interest immunity in respect of police records where the public interest in protecting the identity of police informants, and in the confidentiality of a vetting process which involved such information, outweighed the claimant’s rights of disclosure in relation to judicial review proceedings.
- Sidwell v Police Medical Appeal Board and Chief Constable of Derbyshire  EWHC 122 (Admin)
John represented the Chief Constable (leading Sarah Simcock) in a challenge to the PMAB’s finding that the officer was not permanently disabled within the meaning of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 reg. A12.
- Duggan v. ACPO; Delezuch v. CC of Leicestershire  EWCA Civ 1635
John led James Berry representing ACPO / the College of Policing in this judicial review appeal concerning national policy on post-incident conferring by police officers involved in fatal incidents.
- McKail v IPCC, Interested Parties including CC of West Mercia Police (“Plebgate”)  EWHC 3170 (Admin)
John led James Berry in this judicial review concerning aspects of the police misconduct regime arising from three officers meeting Andrew Mitchell MP in his constituency office.
- Leeds United Football Club v West Yorkshire Police  EWHC 2738 (QB)
John led James Berry for West Yorkshire Police on the dispute with Leeds United, in this case concerning quantification issues.
- AB v A Chief Constable  EWHC 1965 (QB)
John led Susanna Rickard for the Chief Constable in this case concerning the duties upon an employer to give an accurate reference to a regulatory employer for a senior officer facing misconduct proceedings.
- Wiltshire Police v Supt F, January 2014
John defended a Superintendent charged with gross misconduct arising from his failure during interviews of a suspected murderer to give PACE Code C caution.
- Temporary Chief Constable Neil Rhodes v Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire,  EWHC 1009 (Admin)
John acted for the Temporary Chief Constable of Lincolnshire in his challenge to the PCC’s decision to suspend him in relation to a potential conduct matter. Stuart-Smith J quashed the suspension as irrational and gave guidance on suspensions under Reg 10 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012.
- Chief Constable of Cleveland Police v DCC Derek Bonnard, March 2013
John presented this gross misconduct case under the 2008 regulations on behalf of the Chief Constable against the Deputy Chief.
- Chief Constable of British Transport Police v Police Appeals Tribunal (Whalley Interested Party)  EWHC 539 (Admin)
John acted for the Chief Constable in this judicial review which challenged the decision of the PAT on the proper interpretation of rule 4(4) of the PAT Rules 2008. Collins J quashed the PAT’s decision.
- Leeds United Football Club v West Yorkshire Police  EWCA Civ 115;  EWHC 2113 (QB)
John acted for the Chief Constable in this case concerning whether the police could charge for special police services under s.25 Police Act 1996 in relation to policing the land immediately surrounding Elland Road Stadium.
- Colin Port (Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset) v Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, January 2013
John acted for the Defendant Police and Crime Commissioner in this application for judicial review by the Chief Constable who sought to injunct the recruitment of his successor by reference to 2 points (concerning notice periods on FTAs and whether s.38(3) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 applied to expiring FTAs). Edwards-Stuart J refused permission to bring the judicial review and refused the interim relief sought.
- Chief Constable of Wiltshire v Police Appeals Tribunal (Paul Woollard Interested Party)  EWHC 3288 (Admin)
John was for the Chief Constable applicant in this judicial review to quash the decision of the PAT. Wyn Williams J quashed the decision and gave further guidance on the appropriate approach by the PAT to its reviewing role.
- Derek Bonnard (Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland Police) v (1) Drusilla Sharpling CBE (2) Cleveland Police Authority (Interested Party), 16 November 2012
John acted for the Interested Party in this application for judicial review to quash decisions of the Chair of the misconduct panel appointed under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008. Leggatt J quashed certain decisions and remitted them to the Chair.
- Sean Price (Chief Constable of Cleveland) v (1) Cleveland Police Authority (2) IPCC (Interested Party), 21 September 2012
John acted for the Police Authority in this urgent application for judicial review to quash the ongoing misconduct proceedings against the Chief Constable on grounds of regulatory departure and bias. Irwin J dismissed the application and awarded costs against the Chief Constable.
- Salter v Chief Constable of Dorset  EWCA Civ 1047
John acted for the Respondent Chief Constable in this appeal from Burnett J. The Court of Appeal confirmed the applicability of the “Law Society” authorities concerning honesty and integrity in policing and confirmed the appropriate approach to sanctioning officers found guilty of operational dishonesty.
John is one of Chambers & Partners’ Top 100 Silks and has been included in the Lawyer’s Hot 100 as one of “the best lawyers in the business”. After winning Professional Discipline Silk of the Year at the UK Bar Awards twice, he was shortlisted again in 2022, and is ranked as Star Individual of the Police Law (mainly defendant) section of Chambers and Partners. He is a band one silk for inquests and public inquiries and professional discipline and regulatory law. He is also ranked by the Legal 500 as a leading silk for these fields. Clients cited by the directories note that he is “absolutely fearsome, but thoroughly nice and totally straight” and “extremely quick in his thinking, to the point and knows his stuff. If you want someone to win your case, he’s the man”.
Other recent directory editorial has included the following:
- absolutely superb: very intelligent and utterly charming;
- he is always the barrister a senior police officer wants whenever they are in difficulty;
- an astute leader;
- John is absolutely the first choice for police-related matters;
- a super tactician;
- head and shoulders above the rest;
- his ability to digest cases and present all the key points succinctly is hugely impressive;
- generally recognised as knowing everything there is to know about police law;
- he is highly respected and his commitment to his clients is unwavering. John is an excellent tactician who provides pragmatic and careful advice;
- a world-class cross-examiner who has a beautiful way of handling witnesses, and a great turn of phrase;
- he is robust and will fight tooth and nail, employing every tactic at his disposal;
- a tenacious advocate, whose meticulous preparation enables them to be the leading orator in court;
- a brutal advocate whom you don’t want as your opponent;
- perhaps the leading professional discipline silk in the jurisdiction;
- considered the authority in policing law;
- absolutely phenomenal;
- in-depth knowledge of relevant case law;
- his intellect is matched only by his formidable advocacy skill;
- he advises to the highest standards on paper and in conference;
- often appeared in the judgments of the authorities. This depth of understanding combined with years of contextual understanding of policing, makes (his) opinion the opinion of note;
- his knowledge, approach and accessibility are all second to none;
- absolutely at the top of his game: he’s such a details man and his strategic vision is superb. He just knows the area inside out and he knows how to win a case;
- his knowledge on discipline is second to none, he is extremely intelligent and his advocacy is of the highest standard. Strategically he is incomparable;
- his attention to detail, ability to recall and tactical approach are second to none;
- he is a leader in the field;
- widely considered to be at the top of his game and an authority on police misconduct. He is a pleasure to work with;
- provides erudite opinions in an easily understood format;
- a very persuasive and articulate advocate;
- he is the leader of all silks in police law;
- fearless when representing clients;
- is the best cross-examiner in the field, sought out by many police officers;
- tactically beyond reproach;
- his work ethic is exceptional;
- John is an extremely skilled cross-examiner; when he stands up to speak you can see that people listen;
- you have to have untold levels of resilience to fight him off;
- he always meets deadlines and responds to clients without delay;
- he is Mr Police Law;
- an excellent tactician who gives his clients pragmatic and cogent advice;
- impressive with clients;
- just his presence alone is enough to make an impact;
- he’s a brilliant jury advocate who presents very clearly;
- top of the tree;
- John is the consummate expert in the field of police law;
- his commitment to his clients is unwavering;
- a leading counsel in his field;
- he is highly respected for his inquests work;
- offers excellent advocacy, careful preparation and phenomenal attention to detail;
- very practical and extremely thorough;
As I enter my 28th year at the Bar, I never forget that to each client their case is the most important and requires the same level of energy, commitment and enthusiasm as the first case I took on during my pupillage.
My approach is carefully to map an overall strategy for the client to achieve their desired objective, and then to identify the tactical staging posts along that route. This involves ensuring that the client fully understands both the legal context and the factual realities. This may require challenging clients’ analyses, in their own best interests.
“I never forget that to each client their case is the most important”
Sheer hard work constitutes 90% of the road to success in most cases. I have often defended professional men and women in apparently hopeless cases where favourable results have been secured via painstaking analysis, evidential capture and effective challenge of the opposing case, whether in writing or cross-examination.
For further details of John’s practice please click on the links to the left or contact a member of the clerking or client service team.
Bar Council Membership No: 24565
Registered Name: John Peter Beggs
VAT Registration No: 524295447
John adopts and adheres to the provisions of his privacy notice which can be accessed here.