Philippa McAtasney KC

Philippa McAtasney KC

Call: 1985 | Silk: 2006


Pippa McAtasney is a leading criminal KC with over 30 years’ experience both prosecuting and defending in a broad range of criminal cases.

Pippa is regularly instructed as leading counsel in cases concerning murder, manslaughter, serious sexual offences and violent crime. She also has expertise in defending those charged with offences involving historic sexual abuse and serious fraud.

As junior counsel Pippa had an extensive practice representing police officers of all ranks at police discipline tribunals and in the Crown Court.

Pippa is a Bencher of Lincoln’s inn and a designated lead advocacy tutor. She is also the Chair of the Surrey and South London Bar Mess.

In addition to her practice, she has acted as legal advisor to television companies. The most well-known being all three series of the BBC legal drama Silk, as well as the series Apple Tree Yard.

"A stand out silk of her generation; she is a class act who demolishes witnesses, charms juries and changes the judge’s mind."-Band 1, Chambers UK Bar
"Pippa is a top-quality silk at the top of her game. She is a great jury advocate, robust and able to stand her ground when necessary. She is also an excellent speech-maker and juries absolutely love her. One of the best silks at the Bar." -Legal 500, 2024
Qualifications and memberships

LL.B. (London)

Called 1985

Appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2006

Member of Lincoln’s Inn – Called to the Bench of the Inn 19/12/2012

Advocacy tutor for Lincoln’s Inn

Member of South Eastern and Western circuits

Recent cases

R v Surpreet Dhillon (2023): Joint enterprise murder and robbery involving 4 defendants. Tried at Luton CC before HHJ Simon.  SD befriended victim over social media met him and drugged him with GHB.  Plan to rob him once asleep. He woke up and was fatally stabbed. The defendants fled and returned to London. The trial involved cut-throat defences.  There was extensive CCTV evidence; forensic issues; a complex bad character argument involving previous ‘honey trap’ robbery allegations and an argument on the question of force where a drug is administered.  The trial lasted 7 weeks. SD was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter and robbery.

R v Johnson (2023): Three-week trial alleging murder and s.18 wounding with intent. Victims stabbed [one fatally] outside Greenwich station following an argument between customers from Belushi’s Bar.  Defences of self-defence and lack of intent GBH.  There was extensive legal argument concerning PTSD and whether admissible on the question of intent/relevant to self -defence. Experts were instructed on both sides.  Other evidence included extensive CCTV outside the station and tracking DJ’s movements in the locality.  There was considerable cross-examination of eyewitnesses using earlier CCTV, to contradict accounts. DJ was acquitted of murder and s.18.  Convicted of manslaughter and s.20.

R v David Smith (2023): Retrial of 1991 murder where DS acquitted.  Subsequently convicted of similar murder in 1999. CA granted leave finding there was new and compelling evidence.  Victim was a sex worker.  DS was last client before discovery of her mutilated body. DS had previous convictions for violent and sexual offending including knife point rape and false imprisonment.  There was extensive legal argument concerning admissibility of bad character and hearsay.  A previous rape acquittal was admitted despite satellite litigation.  Issues involved pathology, fingerprint, DNA and blood spatter.  Experts were instructed on both sides considering technological advances; proper seizure/retention of exhibits and good practice.

R v Hasham Razaaq (2023): Joint enterprise murder and attempted murder of two uncles by their nephews at a funeral outside the mosque.  There had been a previous encounter involving an attack upon the Razaaqs at their home and a feud had seemingly ensued.  There was extensive CCTV inside and outside, although none at the car where the stabbing occurred. There was also footage of the previous fight. Telephone evidence and cell-site analysis further incriminated the Ds.  Issues of identification and participation were primarily explored.  The main witness was the living uncle whose identifications were unreliable.  Potential cut-throat attacks with Co-Ds were averted.

R v Daniel Reed (2023): Indecent assault on boys back to 1987.  Four complainants plus fifth called as bad character.  DR, a gay man of good character, belonged then, to a strict church with homophobic attitudes.  Struggling with his sexual identity, he was subject to conversion therapy/exorcism by church elders. Ultimately, he had a breakdown and left the church.  Issues over credibility, hostile motivation and collusion. Crucial issue as to age of complainants explored fully, led to amendment of indictment.  Successful submission at half-time in respect of one complainant’s age. DR gave evidence and defence witnesses called.  3 convictions [2 complainants none underage] Suspended sentence.

Less recent cases

R v Rio Williams (2021) – Inner London Crown Court – Allegation of joint enterprise murder by stabbing. There were 7 defendants.  Rio Williams the eldest at 18. Youngest defendant was 14. Attack in broad daylight. Defendants armed with knives. Extensive CCTV and telephone evidence pinpointing all defendants. Experts were instructed in relation to CCTV interpretation and cell site evidence. Trial lasted 11 weeks at Woolwich CC before HHJ Kinch QC. Legal submissions included disclosure of telephone downloads.

R v D and another (2021) – Isleworth Crown Court – Defended a 15-year-old boy facing an allegation of murder of a 19 year old.  Cause of death was a single stab wound to the chest with samurai-style sword.  Defences of accident and self-defence were advanced.  Submissions were based upon loss of control.  Defendant had a registered intermediary to facilitate communication.  Screens were granted during his evidence.  Admissibility arguments concerning another confrontation and breach of PACE were made in relation to comments before the arrest.  Also, bad character arguments.

R v G (2021) – Hove Crown Court – Acquittal of 19-year old Defendant accused of rape.  He was 16 at the time of the offence.  A man of good character.  The allegation concerned his 16-year-old girlfriend.  The evidence against him comprised the complainant’s ABE interview, a recent complaint from three witnesses and text messages said to be confessions. The defendant gave evidence and called many character witnesses, his father and sister who were also witnesses of fact.  Legal issues included a s 41 application in respect of previous complaints of rape made by the complainant.  There was a bad character application concerning searches made by the defendant on his laptop.  The searches were said to relate to violent sex and rape.  Counsel were instructed privately.

R v T and Others (2021) – Defence of a 17-year-old girl charged with the murder of Sohail Ali.  The case was alleged to be a joint enterprise.  Her role was to lure the victim to a park in Birmingham where the two male co-defendants fired a blank firing pistol and then stabbed him to death.  There was CCTV, telephone evidence and eyewitness accounts.  The defendant had the services of a registered intermediary to assist throughout the trial due to her low IQ, communication difficulties and vulnerabilities. This was argued. Legal issues included admissibility of a prison officer’s evidence alleging confession.  This was successfully resisted.  An application was made to adduce bad character in relation to the deceased’s abuse and threats to women on social media.  Experts were called to counter telephone evidence.  Defence of the case involved cut-throat cross-examination of co-defendants. Sentenced to a minimum term of 9 years detention.

R v B and Others (2021) – B was indicted along with two co-defendants with the murder of Jemal Ebrahim.  The Crown’s case was that five men armed with knives rode out in a stolen car to the Edgecot Grove estate in London N15.  Once there, the passengers decamped and chased rival gang members.  The chase was caught in part on CCTV and seen by eyewitnesses.  Mr Ebrahim was fatally stabbed in his left thigh, severing his femoral artery.  The case was alleged to be a joint enterprise.  MB and his co-defendant Annan were in a chasing group of three men.  The third defendant, Gaffer, was the driver of the car.  The two other suspects have never been apprehended.  The defence was non-participation as principal, or secondary party. Legal issues included bad character for the co-accused.  The prosecution accepted a plea of guilty to manslaughter from the defendant Gaffer.  The jury acquitted MB and Annan of murder but convicted them both of manslaughter. The category of offence was argued at a half day sentencing hearing.  Sentence -12 years imprisonment.

R v Williams (2019) Luton Crown Court – Defending an 18 year old charged with joint enterprise murder. The defendant was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

R v Blake (2018) Blackfriars Crown Court – Defending a man accused of murder in which his brother was stabbed to death. The defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given a hospital order as it was accepted that he was of diminished responsibility.

R v L (2018) Central Criminal Court – Defending a 16 year old with a low IQ, autism and ADHD accused of manslaughter. The case involved an argument between the deceased and three youths over sale of some rizla papers.

R v H (2018) Exeter Crown Court – Defendant was acquitted of 10 counts of historic indecent assaults of a child under 13. Issues involving admissibility of complainant evidence and cross admissibility.

R v Berhane (2018) Central Criminal Court – Defending 18 year old in joint enterprise murder involving five defendants accused of chasing the deceased and then stabbing him to death with a large knife.

R v Hammond (2018) Birmingham Crown Court – Defendant acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter of his mother. The case involved issues concerning bad character, hearsay and causation.

R v M (2017) Central Criminal Court – Successful defence of one of four defendants accused of joint enterprise robbery and murder. The case involved issues with admissibility of a deceased witness’ ABE interview. All four defendants were acquitted.

R v Kostov (2017) Exeter Crown Court – Defending a man accused of murdering his wife and then dragging a suitcase containing her body through Exeter to dispose of it.

R v Dickson & Pollard (2017) Maidstone Crown Court – Prosecution in joint enterprise murder of a vulnerable man with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. Dickson was convicted and received an 18 year sentence while Pollard was acquitted.

R v H (2017) Winchester Crown Court – The defendant was accused of 12 counts of historic sexual assault. He was found not guilty on 10 counts, with the jury unable to reach a verdict on the remaining two. Abuse of process and delay arguments persuaded the Judge to rule limiting the ambit of the evidence and the Crown offered no evidence.

R v Mills & Ors (2016) Southwark Crown Court – Defending one of seven in widely reported case of complex fraud and conspiracy involving extensive legal argument.

R v D (2016) Kingston Crown Court – Defendant was acquitted in a case involving multiple complainants alleging sexual assault.

R v L (2016) Durham Crown Court – University student charged with rape and sexual assault of two fellow students. The defendant was unanimously acquitted.  Cross-examination of the main complainant revealed a number of inconsistencies in her account.

  • The successful defence of a University student cleared of Rape & Sexual Assault Allegations in January 2016
  • High profile prosecution at Maidstone Crown Court of three defendants for murder and s 18 assault upon two Italian boys. R v Zuravliovas, Zidonis and Tamoliunas (and another who was acquitted) Issues of joint enterprise, self defence/defence of another. Determinate sentences of 21/20 years for all defendants (2014)
  • The successful defence of a medical student indicted for serious assault at Guildford Crown Court (2014)
  • The successful defence of a minicab driver accused of sexual assault upon a passenger at Ealing Magistrates Court (2014)
  • The successful defence of a young man facing historic allegations of rape and indecent assault for offences when he, the defendant, was a school boy.   The case, tried at Plymouth Crown Court resulted in a successful submission on one complainant and a retrial with acquittal concerning two further complainants (2013)
  • R v Shuttleworth (2013). The successful defence of a man jointly charged with murder/causing or allowing the death of a child (a two year old boy, the son of his then girlfriend, Rebecca Shuttleworth) at Birmingham Crown Court. The co defendant who argued a cut-throat defence was convicted.
  • The successful defence of a man charged with sexual assault at Woolwich Crown Court (2013)
  • The successful defence of a police officer in misconduct proceedings who remained in the police force after a plea in mitigation at Nottingham Police Headquarters (2013)
  • The successful defence of a retired police officer for historic sexual assault upon his daughter (2012)
  • The successful defence (leading Daniel Jameson) of a man charged with attempted murder at Luton Crown Court (but a conviction upon a lesser charge) (2012)
  • Inquest representation of a social worker who had involvement with a mentally ill mother who murdered both children   (2012)
  • The successful defence of a physiotherapist at Sheffield Crown Court. He was charged with sexual assault upon two patients. A successful submission of no case to answer was made at the close of the prosecution case. This related to one complainant. The defendant was acquitted by the jury upon the remaining counts (2012)
  • The Successful defence at Wakefield Police Headquarters of a police officer for misconduct by misusing the Police National Computer. He, likewise, remained in the force after plea and mitigation. (2013)
  • The successful argument (leading Caroline Haughey) of abuse of process at Birmingham Crown Court where the defendant was accused of attempted murder of his wife. The Crown accepted a plea to lesser charge and then sought to go back on the promise. Crown application resisted and refused : mitigation and suspended sentence achieved. [2013]
  • St Albans Crown Court (leading Ben Gordon) – the successful negotiation to persuade the Prosecution to offer no evidence against a defendant facing a trial for breach of harassment order in a neighbor dispute.
  • A successful defence at Southwark Crown Court of a 21 year old man charged with causing death by careless driving in Knightsbridge. Abuse of process application succeeded thus avoiding a trial. Inquest also attended.
  • The successful defence at re trial of Tommy Willett (Pippa did not appear originally). He was charged with murder of a man who tried to stop the defendant and his brother from fleeing the scene after an attempted theft. The victim was killed by being dragged under the getaway car. The second jury acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter. On appeal [reported case R v Tommy Willett [2011] EWCA Crim 2710, Times March 9th 2012] the sentence was reduced from 16 years imprisonment to 14 years. [It had originally been life with a 25 year term for the murder.] The case involved issues of joint enterprise, witness anonymity and admission of bad character. The case was featured in a Crimewatch TV appeal.
  • The successful outcome at Kingston Crown Court defending a man charged with conspiracy to defraud customers into buying artwork and punk rock vintage clothing. The artwork being passed off as genuine work by the street artist known as “Banksy.” Initially, it was alleged to be a £1.2 million fraud. After a lengthy legal argument, the value of the loss was brought down to below £20 000 and the defendant and another pleaded guilty on a basis that would result in a non custodial sentence. Confiscation was also dealt with advantageously.
  • The successful defence of a teacher charged with sexual assault at Oxford Crown Court. The complainant was a former pupil.
  • The successful defence of a senior police officer charged with historic sexual abuse allegations upon two complainants. A re trial was ordered after a successful submission and the removal of the case in respect of one complainant. At the re trial in relation to the remaining complainant the Prosecution was persuaded to offer no evidence.
  • The successful outcome negotiated for a teenager charged with rape and indecent assault of fellow students one of whom was under 13. The defendant and the complainants were all hearing impaired. Lip speakers and sign language experts were used [Leading Edith Norman].
  • The prosecution of two defendants [R v Anhar and Sohag] at Lewes Crown Court. Both were charged with murder. Issues involved joint enterprise and a cell confession. Both received sentences of 25 years imprisonment.
  • The successful outcome negotiated for a police officer charged with fraud at Warwick Crown Court. The allegations centred on defrauding West Midlands police. A non custodial sentence and limited confiscation resulted.
  • The successful defence at Blackfriars Crown Court of a man charged with sexual assault on a commuter travelling on an underground train.
  • The successful defence at Maidstone Crown Court of a stepfather charged with rape and sexual assault on a girl of 14. An application that there was no case to answer in relation to the rapes was upheld by the trial judge and the jury acquitted on the alternative sexual activity counts.
  • The murder [R-v-Bamu] of the defendant’s 15 year old brother in circumstances where the prosecution alleged he was tortured and drowned in a failed exorcism carried out because the defendant and her boyfriend believed the boy had been possessed by witchcraft. 25 year sentence. Appeal advised. The trial involved issues of joint enterprise, secondary liability and duress.
  • The execution style murder by sawn off shotgun to the head of a drug dealing associate. The indictment also contained counts of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and perverting the course of justice. Issues included cell site evidence, anonymity orders and joint enterprise.
  • The double manslaughter committed by a mentally unwell defendant who set fire to her 16th floor flat killing her neighbours.
  • The successful negotiated defence of a man charged with harassment of his ex girlfriend. The negotiation resulted in no conviction and, in fact, no trial taking place.
  • The successfully negotiated outcome substituting affray on an indictment for possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause unlawful violence to be feared. No custodial sentence indicated

Other successful cases

  • The successful defence at Birmingham Crown Court in a murder (first tried during September 2009 and on retrial April 2010) of a 19 year old man charged with a brutal murder, involving trussing up the deceased and burning him alive. This was a “cut throat” defence where the co accused Paul Nelson was found guilty and sentenced to serve 30 years imprisonment. The first jury could not agree; at retrial he was unanimously acquitted of murder and manslaughter.
  • Succesful defence at Northampton of a man charged with money laundering and converting criminal property,
  • Successful defence at Inner London of a thirteen year old charged with rape of a 3 year old
  • Successful defence at Winchester (January 2010) of a Royal Marine jointly charged with murder and affray after the death of a sailor in a bar in Portsmouth.
  • The successful defence of a young mother at Harrow. The allegation was cruelty on the basis of omitting to get medical aid for her baby son who had been seriously assaulted by her husband,
  • Successfully defending a teacher in Preston in a high profile case of abuse of trust: sexual activity with a child and an offer to supply class A drugs and
  • Successfully defending in Bradford in a high profile murder where the defendant was 14 years old and had allegedly murdered her 16 year old sister.
  • An appeal (where Pippa had not appeared at trial), followed by a retrial in Liverpool, in defence of a police officer accused with perverting the course of public justice, actual bodily harm and perjury.
  • Defending in Birmingham a police officer accused of rape at a retrial having not acted at the original trial. (Birmingham CC),
  • Acting for the defence in Guildford in a high profile allegation of rape and indecent assault and the defence in Leicester of a police officer accused, with others, in a high profile case involving a death in custody all ended successfully.
  • In the Police discipline sphere, the successful appeal before the Chief Constable of Thames Valley who finally determined the appeal of DCI Philip Wheeler who had been convicted of police misconduct arising out of the death in 2000 of Victoria Climbié. Originally, his conviction was upheld by a Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner but that decision was successfully quashed after judicial review and a rehearing of the appeal was directed.
  • R v Hasanovic – prosecution at Lewes Crown Court of a man for murdering his estranged wife as she was on her way to a women’s refuge.
  • Prosecution of a defendant accused of serious sexual assault on his 5 year old daughter (Lewes again).
  • Successfully leading for the defence in a “one punch” manslaughter (Lewes.)
  • Leading the defence of a Police Officer accused, in a 3 month trial, of perverting the course of public justice (Croydon Crown Court)
  • Successful prosecution of death by dangerous driving, involving the death of a 5 years old child (Southwark )
  • Successful defence of a woman in a complex and high value fraud (Kingston Crown Court);
  • Successful representation of a senior police officer at an inquest into a death at work (Essex Coroner’s court).
  • In general terms Pippa’s earlier work has included all crime from murder and attempted murder; through false imprisonment and living off immoral earnings (both at the Central Criminal Court); a successful abuse of process argument in a Customs & Excise diversion fraud (Southwark Crown Court); high profile alleged racist manslaughter (successful result at committal and at trial on lesser other allegations Lewes); GBH on a police officer (Swindon ) ; blackmail (Reading ); a Chartered Accountancy fraud (successful half time submission at Southwark ); successfully defending rape by a police officer on a fellow officer (Central Criminal Court) causing an explosion (Bristol Crown Court). Forgery of currency valued at millions of pounds, defendant acquitted (Winchester).
  • Representation outside the Crown Court has included Wimbledon Magistrates’, defending an international famous footballer; successfully defending a premier league football club in a Health and Safety prosecution concerning the death of a steward; the representation at the Victoria Climbié inquiry of the senior police officer mentioned above Advice to an individual questioned under the “Cash for Honours” inquiry; advice to a senior police officer questioned in the de Menzez shooting inquiry and advice to a large limited company concerning the death of an employee.

Road traffic

Pippa has defended and prosecuted Road Traffic cases in the Magistrates’ Court and in the Crown Court. For her, this used to be a specialisation at the junior bar and is still part of her practice. Examples, albeit now a little dated, are Davies v DPP 1998 RTR defended alone in the Divisional Court and led by Queen’s Counsel in the House of Lords.

More recently she has successfully defended a death by careless driving at Southwark Crown Court (2010.) She also appeared at the Inquest.

Pippa also defended a case of dangerous driving at Canterbury Crown Court where a child had suffered major injury. The jury failed to agree but a successful outcome was negotiated and her legal argument in relation to special reasons for not disqualifying the driver was accepted.

Police discipline work

Philippa is a specialist in defending Police Officers in Discipline hearings and criminal cases. These includes representing officers in matters arising from the Climbié inquiry (already mentioned), Operation Ore, rape, misconduct in a public office and several corruption cases.

Court of Appeal cases

  • R v Tipu Sultan – this was an allegation of rape prosecuted successfully at Blackfriars CC. No mental health issues were raised. The Defendant appealed in person out of time and the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial. The case was prosecuted for a second time and the defendant was found unfit to plead. He was convicted of committing the act.
  • Successful appeal on behalf of Appellant – following convictions for sexual abuse at Birmingham CC papers were sent for advice. Philippa did not appear at the original trial. The entire transcript of the trial was obtained and leave to appeal was granted. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and no retrial was ordered. The defendant was immediately released from prison.
  • R v Bartrom – this was a successful prosecution of historical rapes and sexual abuse at Lewes CC. The defendant raised arguments on appeal 6 years into his sentence. The application for leave was referred to the full court and refused.

Reported cases

  • R v Gurpinar; R v Kojo-Smith and Caton [2015] EWCA Crim178; [2015] 1 Cr App R 31 – The defendants argued that there was sufficient evidence to suggest loss of control and that it should have thus been left to the jury.
  • R v. Tommy Willett [2011] EWCA Crim 2710, Times March 9th 2012
  • R v. Central Criminal Court ex parte Bennett in the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court (The Times 25/1/1999) (custody time limits)
  • R v. Bromley Justices ex parte Smith and Wilkins [1995] 2 Cr App R 285 (disclosure duties in the magistrate’s court)
  • R v. Nottingham Crown Court ex parte DPP [1996] 1 Cr App R (S) 283 (sentencing on appeal in the Crown Court)
  • Davis v. DPP [1998] RTR 156 (excess alcohol technicality).


Pippa is married and has two daughters.

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