David Richards

Year of Call: 1989
Email Address: david.richards@3pb.co.uk
Secure Email: david.richards@3paper.cjsm.net
Telephone: 01962 868 884

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An expert in court and when advising, David Richards has experience in private practice over more than two decades during which time he has become a specialist for both prosecution and defence in the Crown and appellate courts.

He has spent two years as the Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Service Prosecutions dealing with central government departments and shaping the future of both the Court Martial system and the Service Prosecuting Authority at a time of fundamental change to both.

He is retained as a legal adviser to the investigation of alleged war crimes by UK forces in Iraq 2003-9.

Over the last 12 months he has also appeared in courts across the UK and in the Falkland Islands in fisheries matters.

He is committed to the practice and study of law having qualified in New York State (2000) and taken his Masters degree in Maritime Law at Southampton University (whilst still practising full time).


  • Crime
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    David’s recent (2015 to 2017) experience includes war crimes investigations, murder, gross negligence manslaughter, maritime fraud and collisions at sea.

    David prosecutes and defends cases of the utmost gravity, including murder, attempted murder, and serial rape. Recent cases include the attempted murder of one soldier by another using a machete, the non recent rape of one cousin by another when both were children.

    He has a specialist interest in maritime fraud having defended several cases of fraud against the European Fisheries Fund.

    Noted for his sympathetic manner with clients and complainants he is often instructed to prosecute or defend in cases requiring a particularly sensitive approach e.g. with vulnerable victims or witnesses, and cases where deaths have been caused through driving. One recent case concerned a 15 year old accused charged with the rape of younger children.

    He has worked as the Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Service prosecutions in which role he was at the heart of the service justice system as it faces profound challenges, addressing (in particular) an increase in the number of non recent allegations of sexual offences and child abuse. He has guided the introduction of Better Case Management and early police / prosecutor engagement in the service justice system.

    He has advised on the prosecution of war crimes and as a specialist war crimes prosecutor for the Service Prosecuting Authority is regularly instructed for pre charge advice in matters arising from the UK’s presence in Iraq 2003-2009. More details of this work are available on request.

    Recent cases include 

    • R v W (Winchester Crown Court April 2016) Prosecution of 15 year old charged with multiple rapes of 11 and 13 year old children.
    • R v Brown (Winchester Crown Court December 2016) - led by Nigel Lickley QC in the prosecution of mother who murdered her 19 day old baby.
    • R v T (Winchester Crown Court April 2017) - prosecution of attempted murder
    • R v TB - Newcastle Crown Court July 2015 - Accused charged with substantial fraud on the European Fisheries Fund. Negotiated pleas with the prosecution to regulatory offences; fined £2,800 total.
    • Re: HP June 2015 -  Inquest into the death of marine scarp yard worker.
    • R v A [2015] 2 Cr App R (S) 12 -  The Court of Appeal gave guidance on the drafting of multiple incident counts and indictments.
    • R v F (Bournemouth Crown Court August 2014) - Successfully argued the accused, suffering acute psychotic disorder, was not guilty by reason of insanity
    • R v Conlin (Winchester Crown Court July 2014) - Led by Nigel Lickley Q.C. in the successful prosecution of a. father for the murder by shaking / trauma of his 4 and a half month old daughter. Case involved complex expert evidence relevant to causation and timing of injury.
    • R v S 2013 - Defence of soldier charged with causing death of two civilians in road traffic collision Afghanistan.
    • R v G 2013 - Defence of high value watch trader charged with substantial VAT fraud.
    • R v F 2011 - Defence of man charged with serial rape and sexual assault of five victims from 1980 to 2010.
    • R v AL (2011) - Child cruelty - parent causing severe injuries (multiple fractures) to 5 month old child.
    • R v P (2011) - Haulier carrying catering trailer charged with causing death by dangerous driving when hatch opened and collided with traffic lights, resulting in death of pedestrian.
    • R v W and S (2011) - Defence of accused charged with wide ranging conspiracy to steal from fruit machines at service stations across the midlands and south of England.
    • R v B and B (2010) - Two men charged with the rape and buggery of a school friend when in Cyprus in 1988; neither had further connection with military but due to location and date of offence court martial the only available venue; successfully challenged terminating ruling by Judge Advocate.
    • R v S (2010) - Defence of the first ever prosecution by trading standards for selling legal highs.
    • R v F (2010) - Prosecuting international conspiracy to clone and distribute false credit cards.
    • R v MoD (ex p Al Sweady) (2009) - Judicial review of conduct by British Army at the ‘Battle of Danny Boy’ in Iraq.

    Appeal against Court Martial sentences: has anything changed? [1999] Crim L R 480
    The Armed Forces Act 2006 - Civilianising Military Justice? [2008] Crim L R 191

    As the PLA at the Service Prosecuting Authority, David has been responsible for overseeing the entire case work of the prosecution at courts martial. He has introduced new arrangements for coordination between the service police and the SPA. Working on behalf of the DSP and JAG he has helped guide the introduction of Better Case Management to the UK military courts.

    Having appeared in military courts for defence and prosecution throughout his career and having written and lectured on the Armed Forces Act 2006, he is a pre-eminent expert on the service justice system.

  • Public and Regulatory
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    Maritime Law and Fisheries

    David is committed to developing his maritime practice. In 2015 he passed his LLM in Maritime Law at Southampton University, with merit. He has lectured on the Maritime Labour Convention.

    In 2017 he has advised on the requirement for licences for shellfish farms and on challenges to the points system for deep sea fishing licences administers by the MMO.

    Also in 2017 he has defended matters concerning collisions and pilotage in Hull Crown Court.

    He has advised as to applications for disclosure from the MAIB (Winchester and Hull Crown Courts).

    In the last two years he has represented defendants charged with substantial fraud on the European Fisheries Fund, prosecuted by the Marine Management Organisation; he has experience of inquest proceedings arising from  dockyard incidents and death at sea.

    In December 2015 he travelled to the Falklands to represent the Spanish master of a trawler charged under local legislation with deliberately fishing for a species not permitted under his licence. This litigation concluded in June 2016 in London.

    David has previously qualified in New York. He is engaged as specialist prosecutor by the Iraq Historic Allegations Prosecution Team and in that role advises on the application of international humanitarian law to British Service personnel.

    He has a commitment to international law and is available to consult on an international basis.

    Notable Cases 

    • R v B July 2015 (Newcastle Crown Court) - Defence of owner of crab processing factory in charges of fraud relating to the European fisheries fund.
    • Inquest into death of PH June 2015 (Portsmouth)
    • Representing owner of marine scrap yard following death of sub contractor on site.
    • R v B September 2014 (Portsmouth Crown Court)
    • Defence in alleged fraud on the European Fisheries Fund.
    • R v Conlin July 2014 (Winchester Crown Court) - Led by Nigel Lickley Q.C. in the successful prosecution of a father for the murder by shaking / trauma of his 4 and a half month old daughter. Case involved complex expert evidence relevant to causation and timing of injury.
    • R v F August 2014 (Bournemouth Crown Court) - Successfully argued the accused, suffering acute psychotic disorder, was not guilty by reason of insanity.

    David hosted a seminar exploring the implications of Brexit for the UK fisheries industry. Together with Andrew Oliver of Andrew Jackson and Co. they discussed future regulation following Brexit with representatives of the industry from across England and Wales and from both fishers, POs and regulators. Following presentations and a round table discussion the meeting concluded that areas of most concern looking forward are:

    • Whether the Great Repeal Bill will be an exercise in buying time by the government
    • The need to reclaim territorial waters for exclusive use of the UK inshore fleet and to serve notice under the London Convention 1964
    • The need to strengthen the economic link requirements for flag ships
    • The assertion of UK regulation of technical requirements, as is done by Norway and Iceland
    • To ensure proper, full and as far as possible unified input from the whole industry to the Government’s Brexit Group Monthly Meeting

    Other Public and Regulatory

    David has appeared for national supermarkets charged with selling out of date food; he has represented dockyard scrap merchants at inquest proceedings. He appeared for the defendant in the first ever trading standards prosecution for the sale of legal highs.

    He has appeared for care home owners charged with breaches of noise abatement notices.

    In a recent case at Bournemouth Crown Court involving the alleged wide scale breach of trade mark and copyright he was determined and uncompromising in resisting the claims against his clients who had inadvertently fallen foul of the local trading standards department. He has represented car dealers charged under the unfair trading regulations.

    He has represented local authorities prosecuting the deposit of waste without a waste management licence.

    He has lectured local authorities on the EU Toy Safety Directive and the Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 and the implications for market surveillance and enforcement thereunder.

    He has represented local authorities and applicants before council committees in matters of alcohol and entertainment licence applications.

    He has successfully defended a car dealer charged under the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations.

    Road Haulage

    David has appeared before the Traffic Commissioner and public enquiries on behalf of hauliers seeking goods vehicle operators licences.

    He has developed particular expertise in cases of death through driving and has been involved in more than a dozen such cases in the last five years. These have ranged from two accused racing on country lanes, to a blacksmith with a defective trailer and a haulier with an allegedly insecure load (R v P). He has become adept at dealing with complex issues of causation and analysis of road traffic collisions.

    This latter case of R v P required a detailed forensic examination of the reliability of locking mechanisms on a catering trailer; the prosecution evidence that failure of the locks was impossible was challenged, resulting in a volte face by the prosecution expert accepting the possibility of the locks appearing secure yet failing during the course of the journey. David was praised for the clarity of his advice in this matter, without which the client (54 years old, never been in court before) would have found the case overwhelming.

    In 2013 he represented a driver charged with causing the death of two Afghan civilians through careless driving of a 15 ton vehicle. Through challenging the prosecution expert evidence the case was dropped by the SPA.

    Police Law

    David has appeared on behalf of and advised claimants against the police for the excessive use of force and libel / slander / breach of duty. He has advised on the options open to a claimant aggrieved by police action amounting to potential false imprisonment and malicious prosecution of a judicial office holder.

    He has appeared for the police at disciplinary tribunals. He has advised and assisted the police in obtaining various orders including Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and Premises Closure Orders

    Service Law

    From 2015 to 2016 he held the  post of Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Service Prosecutions. This role placed him at the heart of the Service Justice System. He introduced new measures for cooperation and engagement between the service prosecuting authority and the service police. Working with the Judge Advocate General he guided the introduction of Better Case Management in the Court Martial.

    This builds on his background as an army legal service officer (1992-6) and his regular and frequent appearances before the Court Martial. He has defended cases of attempted murder, rape, corruption, service fraud, gbh with intent and child abuse. He has been instructed to prosecute cases of rape on behalf of the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA).

    He has previously represented the SPA in the Administrative Court (R v MoD (ex p Al Sweady) [2009]) and has taken a case (R v Bulford Court Martial ex p Bowyer (1999)EWHC 239) to the House of Lords.

    He secured the first successful challenge to a terminating ruling by a judge advocate (R v B and B [2010].

    His articles on the service justice system have appeared in the Criminal Law Review and he has lectured the Service Prosecuting Authority and defence solicitors.

    He has Developed Vetting Security Clearance.


    • 2nd Sep 2016

      David Richards reviews Fleet Maritime Services v the Pensions Regulator, on the applicability of automatic pensions enrolment for peripatetic employees

      View Publication


“I owe him and my solicitor everything”: BB - client charged with fraud on the European Fisheries Fund

“A credit to the profession”: HHJ FS - following trial of two police officers

“Outstanding”: HHJ JB - following rape trial of officer cadet

Academic qualifications

  • MA (Cantab) 1988
  • Bar Finals 1989
  • New York State Bar 2000
  • LLM Maritime Law Southampton University 2015

Professional qualifications & appointments

  • Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Service Prosecutions 2015-16
  • IHAT specialist war crimes prosecutor
  • Grade 4 prosecutor
  • CPS Rape Specialist
  • Legal Assessor Nursing and Midwifery Council

Professional bodies

Western Circuit

Direct Access

David Richards is qualified to accept instructions directly from members of the public and professional clients under the Direct Public Access scheme.

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