Mandisa Knights

Mandisa Knights

Call: 2013


Mandisa practices in all aspects of serious crime as a defence barrister. She is instructed as leading junior, junior alone and led junior.

Mandisa is briefed in large scale operations such as drug importations, sex trafficking, slavery, murder and multi-handed complex frauds. She is often instructed to defend youths and young people displaying expertise in criminal youth justice and youth sentences. Mandisa has also assisted in high profile landmark cases such as the first successful prosecution of a case involving Female Genital Mutilation where she acted on behalf of the acquitted defendant.

Mandisa is known for her fearlessness and passionate defence of her clients and has been described as an “extremely able and skilled advocate who is a formidable opponent”. Her open-minded and non-judgemental approach to cases means that clients immediately warm to her. She shows an ability to make people feel at ease during the most challenging of times whilst maintaining a courtroom manner that has earned her the respect of both judges and opponents alike.

She is known for fighting difficult cases and has proven herself to be an excellent tactician in the courtroom. Mandisa demonstrates an ability to look outside of the box to find angles which may have previously been overlooked. Her approach has been shown to resonate with juries.

“As an instructing solicitor I feel confident in Mandisa’s representation and to me that is extremely important. I select barristers who I trust will put up a fight for our clients, those who work hard, are knowledgeable, confident and approachable. Mandisa incorporates all of these qualities.”-Legal 500, 2024
Notable Cases

R v ED, Central Criminal Court [2023] – Secured a unanimous acquittal to both counts of attempted murder and s18 GBH. The Crown alleged that following a domestic dispute, the defendant drove onto a pavement crushing his brother against a railing, intending to kill or cause him seriously harm. An independent eye witness gave evidence of the incident and the defendant confessed to police at the scene which was captured on body worn footage. The defendant’s criminal record went before the jury, including domestic assault and malicious communication, whereby he had threatened to kill a family member. Defence raised was that the incident was an accident and the confession was misunderstood.

R v HD, Woolwich Crown Court [2023] – Secured a unanimous acquittal for a charge of drug importation. A grandmother from St Lucia had 2 kilos of cocaine hidden in the lining of her suitcase. She lied to Border Force Officers upon arrival at Gatwick Airport about who had bought her plane ticket, before admitting she had been given a free ticket from a lady she had met only 6 weeks earlier. She was tricked into bringing the suitcase of concealed drugs when the lady asked her to transport a large fruit which wouldn’t fit in her own bag.

R v GK and Others, Harrow Crown Court [2023] – Acted on behalf of a 49 year old mother with a history of trauma. The defendant prevented her son from being recruited into a county lines drugs enterprise by offering to take his place thereby subjecting herself to abuse from her handler. Advancing a Modern Slavery defence, the jury unanimously acquitted Mandisa’s client of supplying wholesale kilo amounts of cocaine.

R v LH and Others, Wood Green Crown Court [2022] – Acted as junior alone in a multi-handed conspiracy involving the importation and onward distribution of 24kg of cocaine. The jury unanimously acquitted Mandisa’s client before deliberating for a further two days to return verdicts on the remaining defendants.

R v AA and Others, Nottingham Crown Court [2021] – Acted as junior alone on a multi-handed case of child grooming. Mandisa secured an acquittal on all 6 counts of grooming and inciting a 13-year-old to engage in sexual activity.

R v MA and Another, Oxford Crown Court [2021] – Acted as junior alone in a two-handed attempted robbery. Two Black school boys were accused of attempting a street robbery of an Oxford University Lecturer. The boys denied the offences, explaining that they were racially abused by the lecturer before being falsely accused. Mandisa secured the acquittal of her client.

R v NW and Others, Derby Crown Court [2021] – Acted as a junior alone in a multi-handed large scale class A drugs conspiracy. NW pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy acting as a trusted courier and handling and packaging the drugs. Mandisa secured a suspended sentence for NW arguing that the court should take a ‘gender informed approach’ to sentence when advancing extensive mitigation of her history of domestic abuse.

R v ZQ and Others, Leicester Crown Court [2019] – Acted as leading counsel in a multi-handed conspiracy to import and supply class A and B drugs based in the Midlands and the North of England. The prosecution case suggested multiple hundreds of kilos of cocaine and class B drugs were imported into the UK from The Netherlands and distributed in the Midlands. The conspiracy ran into hundreds of millions of pounds and involved upwards of 20 defendants over 4 trials. ZQ was tried in the first trial with 5 others. Mandisa secured the only acquittal on the indictment when ZQ was found Not Guilty of the wholesale supply of cocaine.

R v KAGK and Others, Southwark Crown Court [2019] – Acted as junior alone on a multi-handed £1.8m fraud conspiracy involving NatWest bank staff. The defendants were alleged to be working with members of the public to amend customer addresses where new bankcards would be sent and fraudulent transactions would take place. Through cross-examination, Mandisa exposed information which led to the Senior NatWest Bank Investigator carrying out the investigation of the case, being interviewed under police caution for perverting the course of justice. The trial concluded when all defendants were acquitted following a successful application to stay the proceeding for an abuse of process.

R v KB and Others, Inner London Crown Court [2019] – Acted as junior alone on a multi-handed kidnap and false imprisonment trial. 3 defendants aged 18, 19 and 22 were involved in drug dealing and gang life which led to the offences being committed. The kidnap and false imprisonment involved assault and humiliation of the victim. Mandisa acted for the oldest defendant. When sentenced, extensive mitigation was advanced and principles of youth justice were applied resulting in KB being sentenced in line with his much younger co-defendants, receiving a sentence considerably lower than the authorities supported.

R v CC and Others, Nottingham Crown Court [2018] – Acted as junior alone for the first defendant on a multi-handed sex trafficking and slavery case lasting three months. This was one of the earliest cases charged under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and subsequently one of the first to be sentenced under the new provisions. CC was the head of a Hungarian family trafficking prostitutes from Hungary to the UK to work in brothels situated in the Midlands and the North of England. He pleaded guilty to the trafficking charges but contested charges of slavery involving a Hungarian man. The jury found mixed verdicts against him.

R v YK and Others, Blackfriars Crown Court [2017] – Acted as junior alone in a high profile multi-handed aggravated burglary conspiracy where the defendants used guns, knives and hammers when targeting 17 mobile phone stores across London. Mandisa secured the only acquittal on the indictment when YK was found Not Guilty of handling stolen goods obtained from the burglaries.

Other Experience

Prior to coming to the Bar, Mandisa co-founded SoA Leadership Charity, developing future leaders in Sierra Leone supporting personal development skills, public speaking and advocacy. The Honourable Society of Inner Temple awarded the Joseph Priestley Scholarship to aid the charity’s endeavours. Mandisa and her co-workers facilitated a trip to the United Nations supported Special Courts, Sierra Leone as part of their Peace and Conflict initiative. This allowed the young leaders to interact with Judges and barristers to better understand the role international law played in the aftermath of the civil war. SoA Leadership continues to strive from strength to strength.

Mandisa also spent some months in Uganda conducting a research project on the International Criminal Courts whilst working in Kampala Associated Advocates.

Closer to home, she is keenly involved within her community, mentoring aspiring young barristers and participating in events with a particular focus on issues affecting the BAME community.

Education and Awards

City Law School, BPTC (Very Competent)
LLB Hons. Law and Human Rights, University of Essex (Upper Second Class)
Joseph Priestly Scholarship (Inner Temple)
Southend and District Law Society Prize (University of Essex)