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Stella Harris

  • Call: 2002
Garden Court Chambers
Legal 500 UK Awards 2015: Winner

Practice

Stella Harris is an experienced and highly-regarded criminal defence practitioner. Her trial work is concerned with major criminal investigations, where she has developed a reputation for sound judgment and tactical decision-making, especially in ‘cut-throat’ cases.

In her own capacity and as a led junior, Stella’s cases involve consideration of expert testimony particularly forensic, medical and complex telephone evidence.

She routinely represents those accused of serious violence and murder, possession of firearms with intent, violent disorder, kidnap and false imprisonment, robbery, importation and supply of drugs and arson with intent to endanger life. Stella’s practice also extends to serious sexual offences, including historical allegations, and therefore, she is familiar with the procedure and intricacies of third party disclosure.

Stella’s extensive experience and inclusive approach ensure she is able to gain the confidence of those she represents and secure their full participation in the proceedings against them. She works closely with solicitors to achieve the best outcome and is sought after to represent the most vulnerable and otherwise challenging clients.

Stella is committed to representing young people, in particular young women, and has throughout her career represented those with alleged connections to violent gang activity. She has been involved in a number of cases where the admission of bad character, association evidence and lazy stereotypes have been successfully challenged.

Stella assisted The Howard League for Penal Reform and ITN Solicitors in making submissions both orally and in writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding reform of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Guidelines on charging in joint enterprise cases, which, in particular, adversely and unfairly impacted upon young people. Some of their suggestions were incorporated in the final guidance, Submissions on Charging in Cases of Joint Enterprise.

Stella also has particular experience of defending those with mental illness or where fitness to plead or capacity is an issue, having undertaken specialist training in this field. Her cases in this area often include expert psychiatric and psychological evidence.

In addition to her trial work, Stella has also developed a successful advisory and appeal practice. She is instructed by solicitors, voluntary organisations and the Registrar and is also increasingly approached by individuals and their families directly.

Stella is registered to take on public access work and is committed to taking on pro bono cases.

Significant Cases

R v EJ (2013) Woolwich Crown Court
EJ was charged with administering a poison with intent to endanger life. She had a history of seemingly random aggression towards young children. In this instance she gave a baby a bottle containing bleach while he was sitting in his pushchair in a branch of McDonalds. Due to the serious and unusual nature of the allegations, they attracted worldwide media coverage.

EJ was found unfit to plead and be tried because of a combination of learning difficulties which she had had since birth, and psychotic illness which had developed over time. Following a trial of issue she received a hospital order without limit of time. This case was reported in the national press.

R v SC & Others (2013) Central Criminal Court
Leading junior: SC was a young woman of good character charged with possession with intent to endanger life of two firearms (a sawn-off shotgun and semi-automatic handgun) and ammunition compatible with both. The prosecution case was that she was minding guns for others to hand them over for use in a murder and that before and after the killing she was in full knowledge of their use. Her case was tried with seven others, charged variously with murder, perverting the course of justice and firearms offences.

The evidence against SC involved consideration of telephone data and cell-site analysis, CCTV, DNA, gunshot residue (GSR), evidence of association and consequent admissibility applications. This case was reported in the press.

R v WC (2013) Harrow Crown Court
Extensive historical allegations of sexual abuse, described as a ‘campaign of rape’ by a father against his children, which involved expert evidence and extensive third party material.

R v AD (2012), Woolwich Crown Court
AD was accused of offences relating to the home manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and possession of a firearm. This case involved the successful challenge of the Crown’s contention that all the devices recovered were indeed explosives. AD had a complex mental health and forensic history of violence.

R v KA (2012), Woolwich Crown Court
KA and two others faced charges of possession of firearms with intent to endanger life. The car in which they were travelling was subject of a ‘hard-stop’ by Operation Trident police officers. A semi-automatic handgun was found in the foot-well in front of KA with the safety-catch off and a bullet in the breach. Also in the car were gloves and a crash helmet. The prosecution argued that all three were on their way to a shooting and that the items in the car, some of which had gunshot residue on them, were a ‘shooter’s kit’.

This case involved examination of the prosecution’s assertion that all three were involved in gangs and gang-rivalry and that this intended shooting was part of an on-going dispute. It also involved challenging evidence from police officers who purported to be experts on gangs.

This trial also dealt with expert firearms evidence associated with the workings and safety features of the firearm. It also involved other forensics, such as GSR and DNA evidence. This case was reported in the national press.

R v JWM & Others (2012) Central Criminal Court
Led junior: JWM was seventeen and accused with two others of the murder of another young man who attended the same school. The prosecution argued that the killing, which was likely caused by upwards of ten young males, was a seemingly random attack in the context of ongoing gang rivalry. The case involved covert surveillance evidence and extensive bad character applications.

R v MJ (2012) Leeds Crown Court
Led junior: MJ was accused of the murder of his best friend following a night of drinking and drugs misuse. This case involved an extensive abuse of process application on the basis that the police had sought to put improper pressure upon another male (the sole eyewitness) to implicate MJ in the killing, and had gone on to lie and otherwise seek to disguise their conduct.

R v SB & Another (2012) Leeds Crown Court
The complainant in this case was found by police outside a block of flats, wearing only her bra, with wounds to her abdomen and in a distressed state. SB and his younger co-defendant were charged with attempted rape, false imprisonment, wounding and causing actual bodily harm.

The complainant described returning to SB’s flat in the early hours of the previous day, under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. There she had suffered a sustained and gratuitously violent attack by both men. Consequently it was the prosecution’s case that she had gone on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This case involved consideration of toxicology and forensic evidence, in particular expert DNA evidence in respect of SB.

R v KB & Others (2012) St Albans Crown Court
Led junior: KB was charged with a conspiracy to rob involving multiple allegations of cash-in-transit offences across the South East with firearms and allegations of gratuitous violence. There was extensive telephone and cell-site evidence in the region of 10,000 pages.

R v FT & Others (2012) Blackfriars Crown Court
FT and his co-defendants were accused of the false imprisonment of a vulnerable young man with whom they were associated. It was the prosecution’s case that they kept him prisoner in his own flat for many hours while they continued to physically assault him before stealing his possessions.

The complainant suffered from poor mental health exacerbated by non-compliance with his medication regime and misuse of illicit drugs. This case involved the instruction of an independent psychiatrist to assess the complainant and consider extensive medical, and other, third party material in order to assist with cross-examination.

R v AR (2012) Central Criminal Court
This case involved historical allegations of rape against AR’s stepdaughter with disclosure issues relating to third party medical and social services material.

R v MU & Others (2012) Wood Green Crown Court
This case involved a young accused charged with violent disorder arising out of the disturbances in London in August 2011.

R v RN (2012) Basildon Crown Court
Elderly accused, ‘campaign of rape’ and allegations of sexual activity with his step grandchildren, who were adopted by his son.

R v FK & Others (2012) Woolwich Crown Court
Young accused, violent disorder and wounding, allegedly gang-related violence.

R v YA (2012) Nottingham Crown Court
Multiple counts of sexual assault of young children, accused in a position of trust as an Imam. This case was reported in the local press.

R v JS (2011) Snaresbrook Crown Court
Mentally disordered young female accused of arson with intent to endanger life. Included expert psychiatric evidence.

R v DB (2011) Guildford Crown Court
Grievous bodily harm with intent, allegation of ‘shaken-baby syndrome’, challenge to complex expert medical testimony, vulnerable accused, extensive third-party material and parallel care proceedings.

R v TF (2011) Woolwich Crown Court
Attempted rape, capacity of complainant in issue given excessive consumption of alcohol, consideration of third-party material.

R v LB & Another (2011) Southwark Crown Court
Grievous bodily harm with intent, sustained fight in a ‘crack-house’, expert testimony regarding blood-staining and other forensic findings at the scene.

R v KF & Others (2011) Kingston Crown Court
Led Junior: Sole female accused in context of a worldwide conspiracy to import several tonnes of cocaine into the UK via the Caribbean and Spain.

R v MY & Others (2011) Maidstone and Wood Green Crown Court
Young male accused of playing a role multiple robberies with firearms. The defendant was identified through Crimewatch by his Maths teacher.

R v DP & Others (2011) Blackfriars Crown Court
Led junior: Conspiracy to convey prohibited articles into prison, public interest immunity and legal professional privilege considered, DNA evidence and extensive financial material.

R v AS & Others (2011) Newcastle Crown Court
This case involved a multi-handed conspiracy to kidnap a student allegedly for financial gain and to exact revenge for his role in sabotaging a nightclub business.

R v RSS (2011) Wood Green Crown Court
Armed robbery in Tottenham arising out of the disturbances in London during August 2011.

R v RT & Others (2010) Inner London Crown Court
HM Custom and Excise prosecution of a multi-handed conspiracy to import 22 kilos of cocaine concealed within breadfruit from Columbia, cell-site, surveillance and financial evidence.

R v MD & Others (2010) Inner London Crown Court
Young accused, conspiracy to commit cash-in-transit robberies of banks in South London, allegedly gang-related, cell-site and DNA expert evidence.

R v SF & Another (2010) Winchester Crown Court
Led junior: Murder, concealed body, expert pathology and forensic evidence from a number of scenes of investigation.

R v CM (2009) Manchester Crown Court
Youngest female ever to be charged with possession of a firearm, reporting restrictions, extensive national media interest in wake of Operation Trident campaign to discourage young women from holding firearms on behalf of others. This case was reported in the national press.

R v AG & Others (2009) Kingston Crown Court
Led junior: Young and vulnerable accused, conspiracy to rob and commit grievous bodily harm with intent, gratuitous violence and associated national media interest as a consequence, allegedly gang-related.

Appeals

R v CTP (2013) EWCA Crim. 978
Referral from Registrar, conviction and sentence, procedure regarding second speeches where accused is unrepresented.

R v KA (2013) EWCA Crim. 171 and Crime Line
Sentence possession of firearms, general principles, young accused, gang-related offending.

R v WC (2012) EWCA Crim. 1478
Direct referral, historical allegations of rape and sexual assault of children, conviction appeal based upon erroneous admission of expert evidence.

R v TA (2012)
Young accused, possession of firearm, sentence, dangerous offender, psychological evidence.

R v HE (2012) EWCA Crim. 3104
Arson in a prison setting. consideration of psychiatric evidence and vulnerable accused.

R v MR (2012) EWCA Crim. 2089
Referral from Registrar, procedure for transfer of summary offences.

R v HW (2011)
Young accused, multiple counts of rape, jury bias, capacity to participate in proceedings in issue.

R v JD (2009) EWCA Crim. 1817
Young accused, ‘dangerous’ offender, grievous bodily harm, psychological evidence concerning propensity towards violence. Stella was instructed by The Howard League for Penal Reform.

R v S (2009) EWCA Crim. 2953
Young accused, gang-related offending, test-purchase investigation.

R v CB (2007) EWCA Crim. 1987
Young accused, armed robbery with firearms, exceptional progress during sentence, principles for sentencing young people considered (pre-guidelines).

R v CS (2005) EWCA Crim. 2059
Procedure for Newton Hearings, possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.

Background

Stella joined Garden Court Chambers in 2013 after practising at Tooks Chambers for nine years. Stella is a trained pupil supervisor and is also a Gray’s Inn mentor.

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