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James Mehigan

  • Call: 2008
James Mehigan
Legal 500 UK Awards 2015: Winner
"His work includes murder appeals."

Legal 500, 2019


James Mehigan specialises in criminal defence and has broad experience of all aspects of criminal justice-related work. He has particular experience in cases involving human rights issues in the UK and abroad. He has been instructed in high-profile appeals and inquests, and he represents prisoners in all aspects of prison law.

As part of the team of lawyers representing families at the Hillsborough Inquests he received Outstanding Achievement Awards from the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2016 and the Modern Law Awards 2016. In 2009 he was nominated for the Bar Pro Bono Award for his contribution to the case of Balaj et al. before the UNMIK Human Rights Advisory Panel for Kosovo.

James was called to the Bar of Ireland in 2013 and the Bar of Northern Ireland in 2014.

Significant Cases

Criminal Appeals

Jogee & Ruddock, Supreme Court & Judicial Committee of the Privy Council 2016 [2016] UKSC 8, [2016] UKPC 7, [2016] 2 WLR 681.
Mr Ruddock was convicted of joint enterprise murder in Jamaica. In one of the most significant developments in criminal law in recent years and an historic joint sitting, the Supreme Court and Privy Council unanimously allowed the conjoined challenges of Jogee and Ruddock, correcting a 30-year-old ‘error’ in the interpretation of the law. Led by Julian Knowles QC.

The case received significant national media attention including in the Guardian.

Lane, Court of Appeal 2015
Appeal against conviction for 1995 contract killing. Led by Joel Bennathan QC. This case was reported in the Guardian.

Bronson, Criminal Cases Review Commission 2015
Appeal against conviction for false imprisonment and criminal damage. Led by Hugh Southey QC. This case was reported in the Guardian.

Taylor, European Court of Human Rights 2013
Application to ECHR relating to breach of Article 6 right to a fair trial.

Livingston, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council [2012] UKPC 36
Ms Livingstone was accused of killing her employer, a high-profile lawyer in Jamaica. The Board found cumulative deficiencies in the directions given to the jury. Led by John Perry QC. This case received significant media coverage, including in the Jamaica Observer.

Nero et al, Administrative Court [2012] EWHC 1238 (Admin); (2012) 176 J.P. 450
Appeal by way of case stated against conviction in Palestinian protest case.

Benalbaida, Court of Appeal 2010
Appeal against sentence for violent disorder at protests outside the Israeli Embassy against the invasion of Gaza.


Hillsborough Inquests, 2014-2016
James was part of a team instructed on the Hillsborough Inquests. He was led by Stephen Simblet and Sean Horstead.

Inquest into the death of Gladys Richards, Portsmouth Coroner’s Court 2013
Inquest into the death of an elderly lady in a care home. This case was reported by the BBC.

Inquest into the death of Daniel Smith, Swindon & Wiltshire Coroner’s Court 2013
Death of a prisoner at Erlestoke Prison. This case was reported by the Gazette and Herald.


Prosecutor v Thomas Lubanga, International Criminal Court 2016
James Mehigan presented an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Child Soldiers International to the International Criminal Court. The London-based NGO had been asked to submit such a brief to the Trial Chamber. This was the first time that a reparations hearing had taken place at the Court and received significant media coverage.

Application for an Arrest Warrant for Ehud Barak, 2009
Application for a UK arrest warrant to be issued for Israeli Defence Minister alleged to have committed war crimes arising out of the invasion of Gaza known as ‘Operation Cast Lead’. Led by Michel Massih QC. This case was reported by the Guardian.

Prosecutor v Sesay, Special Court for Sierra Leone, 2008
James was a legal assistant to the team defending Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Issa Sesay who was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Financial Crime

P, Manchester Crown Court 2013
Led junior in two indictments investigated by four police forces in two jurisdictions. £2.5 million credit card fraud, ‘the likes of which had never been seen before’. Led by Nick Wrack.

Sofronea, Wood Green Crown Court 2011
Money laundering arising out of internet fraud.

Sexual Offences

T, Snaresbrook Crown Court 2013
Sexual assault.

M, Blackfriars Crown Court 2012
Inciting a 13-year-old to sexual activity and possession of extreme pornographic images.

S, Guildford Crown Court 2010
Led junior in case involving rape allegations dating back over 20 years. Case stayed as an abuse of process after extensive submissions relating to doli incapax and the presumption of impotence. Led by Katy Thorne.

Other serious crime

Rafiq et al, Birmingham County Court 2013
One of the first applications for a new gang-related violence injunction, a so-called ‘gangbo’.

Groake, Kingston Crown Court 2013
Conspiracy to rob over £1 million of watches from Selfridges. This case was reported by the BBC.

AD, Southwark Crown Court 2013
Failure to declare terrorist convictions.

Mohamed, Isleworth Crown Court 2012
Human Trafficking Unit prosecution for a ‘passport swap’ in Dubai.

Slusnys, Snaresbrook Crown Court 2012
Theft of £500,000 yacht. This case was reported by the Daily Mail.

Rahman and another, Inner London Crown Court 2011
Section 18 grievous bodily harm (GBH).

M, Isleworth Crown Court 2010
Palestinian torture victim accused of entering UK without a passport.

Prison Law

James acts for prisoners in all aspects of prison law from adjudications and parole board hearings to judicial reviews and civil actions in prison cases.

Mordecai, Administrative Court 2016
Judicial review of Parole Board decision not to recommend transfer to open conditions. The original order was quashed. Case received regional media coverage.

Bewley, Court of Appeal 2015
Judicial review of decision not to transfer a prisoner to open conditions because he had absconded in the past. Led by Hugh Southey QC

Sujen Balachandran, Administrative Court 2013
Judicial review of decision not to allow prisoner compassionate release when he is the only bone marrow match for his terminally ill sister in Sri Lanka.

Reynolds, Administrative Court 2013
Judicial review of refusal to allow release on temporary license.

Bronson, Parole Board, Wakefield Prison 2013
Represented Mr Bronson, often dubbed ‘Britain’s most dangerous prisoner’ at his oral hearing.


  • ‘Criminal Law, Evidence and Procedure’ in D Clarry and C Sargeant (eds) (2017), UK Supreme Court Yearbook, London: Appellate Press, pp.324-335. (with Henry Blaxland QC and Joanne Cecil)
  • ‘Universal Jurisdiction for International Crimes in Irish Law’, Irish Jurist, 2010. (with Alan DP Brady)
  • ‘Crime, Globalisation and Human Rights’ in Criminal Justice: Local and Global, Cullompton: Willan, 2010. [Approximately 40,000 copies of this book have been sold.] (with Reece Walters and Louise Westmarland)
  • ‘Problematizing Prison Privatization’, in Handbook of the Prison, Cullompton: Willan, 2007. (with Abigail Rowe)
  • ‘Bringing Cases Against War Criminals: Universal Jurisdiction in Ireland’, Law Society Gazette, July 2006.

Seminars and Training

  • Challenging Violations of Children’s Rights through strategic litigation in Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine, Child Rights International Network, Belgrade, November 2016.
  • Challenging Police Brutality in Court: A Practical Approach, European Roma Rights Centre, Belgrade, October 2015
  • Parole Reform and the ECHR, Irish Penal Reform Trust Prison Law Seminar, Dublin, October 2012
  • Security and Protection in Human Rights Defenders’ Cases, Avocats Sans Frontières and East Africa Law Society, Training for East African and Congolese Human Rights Lawyers, Kampala, June 2012
  • Bringing Cases Against War Criminals: Universal Jurisdiction in Ireland, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Universal Jurisdiction Conference, Malaga, March 2006


James joined Garden Court Chambers in 2013, after practising at Tooks Chambers.

Prior to coming to the Bar, James worked as a researcher for three human rights organizations; Front Line Defenders – The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Dublin (where he remains a trustee and company director of the UK branch), the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva and the Ethical Investment Research Service in London. He has provided advice to numerous other NGOs. He is a member of the Policy Council at Liberty and the legal advisory panel at the Child Rights International Network.

James’ international practice also includes consultancy for a number of NGOs. Most notably he was invited by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights to be part of an international group of experts to provide an independent review of their operations.

In 2013 James received a Pegasus Scholarship to work at Onyango & Co in Kampala. The firm is one of the leading human rights and international criminal law firms in East Africa.

James is a former member of the Independent Monitoring Board at Pentonville Prison. He has a PhD on policing and has lectured in law at the University of East London. He is a lecturer in criminology at the Open University.