James Keeley

James Keeley

Prosecutes and defends serious crime.



South Eastern Circuit
Grade 4 Crime Prosecutor
Grade 4 Serious and Organised Crime Prosecutor
Bar Council Education and Training Committee (June 2023)
Bar Council Modernisation Group (February 2021 – December 2021)
Bar Harassment and Bullying Working Group (March 2022)
Elected on to the Bar Council (2015 to present)
Served on both the Bar Council and Middle Temple’s Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility Committees
Served on Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee (2015 – 2019 and 2022 on)


Bar Council
Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee

Overview of Practice

James Keeley was called to the Bar in October 1993. He was born and brought up in inner city Birmingham. Ever tenacious James Keeley will always go the extra mile and fight for anybody he represents. He is especially understanding of the weak and vulnerable and has been involved in some of the most significant cases in legal history.

He began his career in London as a judicial assistant on two of the biggest fraud trials in history. The first case was Brent Walker with HHJ Geoffrey Rivlin KC This involved allegations of dishonesty against the former boxer and one time owner of William Hill bookmakers, George Walker. The second case was Maxwell with Lord Phillips this case has set the standard for fraud trials with its use of technology and the so-called Maxwell hours. From early on he learnt of the hard work, discipline and incisiveness that any serious fraud demands.

Also whilst in London Mr. Keeley was involved in two more high profile cases: Serafinowicz, the first ever War Crimes Trial and the appeal of the Bridgwater Four. In Serafinowicz, Mr. Keeley was asked to stand in at short notice for John Kelsey-Fry KC and was junior during the trial to both Sir John Nutting KC and the then Solicitor General, Sir Derek Spencer KC. In Bridgwater, Mr. Keeley assisted Alun Jones KC in going through Vincent Hickey’s interviews in order to assess whether or not there had been any irregularities.

After a few years he decided to move to Leeds where he has developed a practice both prosecuting and defending the most serious of criminal matters, including murder, large fraud and rape. He has led junior counsel in significant cases, for example a multi-million pound fraud that was featured on a “Rogue Traders” special.

He has appeared on numerous occasions in the Court of Appeal on appeals against sentence and conviction, Attorney General References and in the High Court on a Case Stated from the Magistrates Court.

James Keeley always ensures that he both inspects and advises upon unused material when both prosecuting and defending. In terms of expert evidence He has many years of experience of the following people and areas: cell site analysis, accountants, psychiatrists, psychologists, surgeons and paediatricians.

Whilst practising at the Bar he undertook and successfully completed a Masters Degree in Employment Law and has subsequently acquired a speciality in Whisltleblowers.

After helping the late Sir Stephen Tumim inspect prisons James Keeley takes a real interest in prisoner’s rights and other aspects of Human Rights and Judicial Review.

He has a great deal of experience of representing and advising police officers in Criminal and Disciplinary Hearings, employment disputes (including whistleblowing) and in Inquests (Deaths in Custody)

James sits as an Legally Qualified Chair in a number of different areas including for the Metropolitan Police.

James is a legal advisor to ACCA.

Mr. Keeley is an expert in the most serious sexual and sensitive offences. He has appeared on Radio 4, Women’s Hour, where he discussed anonymity in Rape Cases. He is on the specialist panel of Rape Prosecutors.

His passion is Boxing and is very proud to be a member of the British Boxing Board of Control (Southern Area).

Mr Keeley represented one of the women being prosecuted under section 128 of the Serious and Organised Crime Act 2005 for allegedly trespassing at Menwith Hill. This was the first case of its kind.

James Keeley regularly gives lectures and has done so on Human Rights, the Death Penalty, Adverse Inferences from Silence, Applications to Dismiss, Whistleblowing, Closing Speeches, Apportionment in Proceeds of Crime Cases, Violent Offender Orders, Sex Abuse cases (How to cross examine vulnerable witnesses and pre-recorded cross examination and Slavery and People Trafficking which he has called “Breaking the Chains”

James is passionate about bringing on the next generation of advocates, is a trainer of Advocacy at Middle Temple, is a specialist trainer in respect of the cross examination of vulnerable witnesses, has done a lot of work with the citizenship foundation and has judged moots at Bar School. James is an elected member of both the Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association Executive Committee.

‘James is a very approachable barrister, he has the highest client care, is very good with clients of all ages and abilities. He is an impressive and competent, much sought after criminal advocate.’

Notable Cases

Successfully prosecuted a case of historical sexual abuse, mother on son.

Represented a police officer who was accused of sexually abusing twenty complainants over thirty years (one of the largest cases of sexual abuse in 2016)

Voyeurism: Defended a police officer who filmed his step daughter in her bedroom.

Secured the acquittal of a faith healer who had allegedly sexually abused someone who had gone to pray with him.

Represented a father who burnt his child.

Appeared in the Court of Appeal on an Attorney General’s Reference in respect of an abuse of trust case where a step father had consensual sexual relations with his step-daughter (section 25 Sexual Offences Act 2003).

Appeared for the Prosecution in the Court of Appeal in relation to an appeal against sentence in a Rape case.

Appeared in a Stated Case in the High Court. The Prosecution appealed the decision of a Youth Court where it had acquitted a teenager of a sexual assault

Defending an 18 year old, Chinese national who attempted to rape another Chinese national.

Defending another 18 year old who was accused of rape by his former girlfriend of two years.

Defending a sixteen year old who had previous convictions assault who targeted a teenage girl and sexually assaulted her.

Defending a man of borderline intelligence accused of raping and indecently assaulting his niece and nephew both of who were children.

Defending a man, once again of a borderline intelligence accused of committing incest with his sister.

Defending a man accused of indecently assaulting his sister.

Defending a teacher who indecently assaulted a pupil at his school over a number of years.

Defending a man accused of indecently assaulting his daughter.

Internet Porn: Defending a former trainee police officer of downloading child pornography. Part of Operation Orr.

Defending a man charged with falsely imprisoning and indecently assaulting his girlfriend.

Child Abduction. Defending a man who had run away with a 14-year-old child and also defending a man who tried to abduct a five year old child.

Defending an optician who had allegedly groped a customer whilst she came into his shop in order to have her eyes tested.

The Stalking Postman, defending a postman who subjected over 20 women to a campaign of sexual telephone call over a number of years.

Defended a man accused of serial rape, one of the victims being a 77 year old lady.

Defending an 18 year old youth convicted of indecently assaulting a teenage girl on a bus in the centre of Leeds. The seriousness of this matter is increased by virtue of the fact that the defendant was one member of a gang of youths who were said to be involved in this incident.

Child Cruelty, Mr. Keeley has experience of defending women accused of subjecting their children to neglect and of seriously ill-treating them.

Defending a man who subjected his step-daughter to a campaign of rape and indecent assault. This Defendant was imprisoned to twelve years imprisonment.

Defending a former karate instructor who was accused of sexually assaulting his two step children.

Defending a man who had allegedly subjected his wife to what can only be described as a campaign of rape.

Defending a man in his first trial and in a re-trial accused of raping his partner. The Defendant was portrayed as a control freak who was said to have broken the will of the complainant.

Defending a young man accused of having sexual intercourse with an underage girl.

Defending a shop worker accused of sexually touching a 10 year old girl at the shop he was working at. The Judge halted this case after a half time submission was made.

Defending a young man accused of raping his then partner.


Mr. Keeley has vast experience in prosecuting and defending all matters of violence from Murder, Violent Disorder and section 18 assaults to Common Assault. Some Cases of note are listed below:

Murder (shooting).

Murder (The killing of an alleged paedophile).

Attempted Murder (Grandmother attacked with a hook by her grandson. The victim fit and healthy beforehand left totally incapacitated by the attack).

Attempted Murder. An 82 year old man allegedly being beaten with a hammer in his own home (Defending).

“The Lord Of the Flies Case” as quoted by the Daily Mail. Prosecuted four children, the youngest being 13 for attempting to cause Grievous Bodily Harm on a 15 year old with a mental age of 8. The victim was lured to some woods where he was stripped, beaten unconscious, laid in a make shift grave and urinated upon. Mr. Keeley worked alone with the Officer in the Case ensuring that all additional work for trial was done. This case generated a large amount of national media interest. Mr. Keeley rejected the Defence pleas of assault occasioning actual bodily harm leaving the Defence to finally offer pleas to the Indictment that he drafted of Attempt to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm on the day of trial.

In June 2006 prosecuted a two week case involving three Defendants. The case involved a gang of white people attacking an Asian takeaway whilst using racist language.

Prosecuting a nurse for illegally administering a drug, which could have had potentially fatal consequences, to a severely disabled child.

Prosecuting an eight-handed affray. This case involved a group of racist thugs, attacking a family and then beating a man who came to their rescue.

Defending a young Asian man, accused of being in a gang of fourteen, some of whom were said to have guns, who allegedly smashed a restaurant in Skipton to pieces.

Defending a young man who allegedly stamped on another youths’ head outside a night-club, thereby causing potentially life-threatening injuries.

Defending a man who was found to be legally insane at the time he brandished a gun at two community psychiatric nurses who had come to visit him in order to dispense his medication.

Armed Robbery. Defending an alleged Iraqi armed robber who prayed on a take away outlet in Bradford.

Defending a large scale, violent disorder in the centre of Doncaster where it was, quite literally bouncers versus customers.

Prosecuting an affray, where the defendants were attacking the police, on the notorious Little London Estate.

Defending in a multi handed allegation of affray that occurred at a railway station. This case is particularly serious in that the alleged victim was hit by a train during the incident.

Mr. Keeley was asked to prosecute a plea involving a multi-handed violent disorder that had racial undertones and involved two rival gangs.

Defending a young Asian man who was accused of threatening a teenager and then a mother and her baby with an imitation firearm.

Drugs and Customs Offences

Mr. Keeley has prosecuted and defended many individuals who have had drugs of Class A and B in their possession with intent to supply.

Entrapment. Mr. Keeley was asked to advise several clients in Hull, arising out of a major police operation, in respect of their chances of running the defence of entrapment in line with the European case of Teixeira de Castro v. Portugal.

Mr. Keeley was led in a case whereby over a million pounds worth of heroin was found in Bradford.

Defending a man in possession of a large quantity of firearms and heroin, worth in the region of £150,000.

Mr. Keeley led another junior barrister in defending the mastermind behind a series of crack cocaine houses in Chapeltown. This was a major Conspiracy case with voluminous documentation involving six defendants in all.

Representing a Polish National who was accused of conspiring to import 1.7 million cigarettes into this country.