Michael Birnbaum QC

Michael Birnbaum KC

‘incredibly committed professional and diligent’



Southgate Grammar school
First class honours degree in jurisprudence from Oxford University


King’s Counsel 1992
Recorder of the Crown Court1995 – 2014
Special Advocate in terrorism cases 2008 – 2014



Overview of Practice

During a career of over 40 years Michael specialised in serious crime for both prosecution and defence; extradition; serious fraud; criminal appeals and judicial review.  Since 2015 he has focused exclusively on appellate and advisory work.

Michael commenced his work on miscarriage of justice cases over 30 years ago in collaboration with the late Tom Sargent OBE, the legendary founder of the organisation, Justice, and with a number of city solicitors who instructed him in death row appeals to the Privy Council. He continued with this work once the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was established in 1997. Michael is often consulted on cases where trial counsel has advised that there were no arguable grounds and has persuaded the Court of Appeal to quash convictions in a number of such cases. Over the years he has done a substantial amount of pro bono work both in English and International cases.

Michael has conducted trial observations in Nigeria (Ken Saro-Wiwa and others 1995), Sierra Leone (treason trials 1998) and Sri Lanka (inquest into the massacre of 17 aid workers in 2006 – 2007). He was for many years, a member of the Executive Committee of the Bar Human Rights Committee and a Trustee of the Redress Trust. He has written pro bono numerous opinions and amicus briefs in relation to cases in Malaysia, USA, India, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Hong Kong and in (2016) a damning critique of the controversial findings by a medical tribunal against the noted neuropathologist, Dr Waney Squier.

For over two decades Michael campaigned to persuade the CCRC to refer back to the Court of Appeal the conviction for murder of a mentally challenged youth, Oliver Campbell. A first application to the CCRC in 2003 failed. But last year the CCRC finally agreed to refer the case in the light of new psychiatric evidence. Over the years Michael has worked with the BBC to publicise the case in two powerful pieces – a documentary in 2001 and an analysis on BBC Newsnight in April 2021.

See www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOIXcqujCx0 and www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p099z94b.

This is not the only case where Michael has persuaded the CCRC to refer convictions after it first declined to do so. The other is that of Winter and Winter, a father and son convicted in 2009 of the manslaughter of two men killed in an explosion at a fireworks factory.

Notable Cases

Some reported appeal and judicial review cases since becoming Queen’s Counsel:

Clarke and others v The State [2021] UKPC 21 (Privy Council) – Scope of cross examination as to credit in multi handed murder trial.

Miah and Ors [2015] EWCA Crim 1494 – Second appeal after CCRC reference. Fresh evidence of co-defendant exculpating Appellants.

Ferdinand and Ors [2014] EWCA Crim 1243 – Reliability of expert evidence on podiatry.

Ackerley v Her Majesty’s Attorney General for the Isle of Man [2013] UKP 26 (Privy Council) – Appeal by autistic youth based on fresh evidence.

Bonnett Taylor v The Queen [2013] UKP 8 (Privy Council) – Murder. Important evidence not called at trial. Jury irregularity.

Mahil and Ors v Regina [2013] EWCA Crim 673 – Appeal by medical student convicted of GBH.

Clinton v Regina [2012] EWCA Crim 2 – Murder conviction quashed. Leading case on loss of control defence.

Suleman v Regina [2012] EWCA Crim 2 – Arson. Bad character evidence.

Joof and Christie v Regina [2012] EWCA Crim 1475 – Convictions for murder quashed because of serious non-disclosure.

Omar Grieves and Ors v The Queen [2011] UKPC 39 (Privy Council) – 4 handed murder case. Jury directions as to identification.

Marsh [2009] All ER (D) 231 (Dec) – Murder of wife arranged by text message.

Miah and others [2009] All ER (D) 61 (Dec) – Murder. Joint enterprise.

State v John [2009] 5 LRC 259 (Privy Council) – Murder. Issues re identification and inducements to an accomplice witness.

Lebon and another v Aqua Salt Co Ltd [2009] 1 BCLC 549 (Privy Council) – Civil appeal in Mauritius land dispute.

Secretary of State for the Home Department v AV (proceedings under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005) [2009] All ER (D) 227 (Apr) – Control order.

R (on the application of Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2008] All ER (D) 123 (Aug) – Amicus Curiae.

Muirhead v R [2009] 2 LRC 534 (Privy Council) – Jamaican murder conviction quashed because of serious errors by trial counsel.

Maye v The Queen [2008] UKPC 36 (Privy Council) – Murder conviction quashed where separate trials of two accused had caused injustice.

Smith v R [2009] 2 LRC 428 (Privy Council) – Murder. Identification issues.

Roden and another [2008] All ER (D) 322 (Apr) – CCRC referral in notorious double murder case.

Mackin [2007] All ER (D) 97 (Aug) – CCRC referral. Fresh evidence.

Alibhai and others [2004] All ER (D) 573 (Mar) – Appeal on numerous grounds in massive counterfeiting case “The Microsoft Case”.

Phillips [2003] 2 Cr.App.R. 35 – Leading case on admissibility of background evidence.

Nolan [2002] All ER (D) 609 – Disclosure in identification cases.

AG’s Ref no 6 of 2000 [2000] All ER (D) 609 – Minimum term on discretionary life sentence.

Ex parte Kaur [1999] All ER (D) 779 – Estreating bail recognisances.

Ex parte Mortimor and Brown [1999] 1 WLR 17 – Practice and procedure on importations of dutiable goods.

Williams and others v R [1997] 2 WLR 910 (Privy Council)– Classification under Jamaican law of murders as capital or non-capital.

Ex parte Hill [1998] 3 WLR 1011 – Appeared for the South African government in first post apartheid extradition from UK.

Ex parte Asif [1996] STC 611 – Leading case on power of Customs to compel disclosure of banking information.

Mears v R [1993] 1 WLR 818 Privy Council – Leading case on judge’s unfair comments to jury. Conviction for murder quashed.

Hewitt and Davis 95 Cr. App. R 19 – Leading case on observation posts.

Ex parte Chinoy [1992] 1 AER 317 – Bank of Credit and Commerce International manager involved in money laundering. Appeared for US Government.


“A Tissue of error, illogicality and apparent bias.” A forensic analysis of the determination of facts of the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal in the case of Dr Waney Squier (2016 http://www.insidejusticeuk.com/pdf/a-tissue-of-error-illogicality-and-apparent-bias.pdf)

Nigeria. “Fundamental Rights Denied”. Report of the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others.

“A Travesty of Law and Justice”. An analysis of the judgment in the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others.

“VAT investigations and prosecutions. A criminal practitioner’s perspective.”

“Cheating the Revenue. What the Tax Advisor needs to know about the case of Charlton.”

“Pinochet and Double Criminality”. Criminal Law Review March 2000.

“Some Observations on Trial Observation” (Address to 2000 International Bar Association Conference in Amsterdam).

“Breaking the Codes Legal Human Rights and Practical Problems under Part 111 of RIPA.”

“Criminal Justice Act 2003. The Hearsay Provisions.”

Submissions on behalf of the English Bar on proposed amendments to the Hong Kong Crimes Ordinance relating to treason, secession, subversion sedition and official secrets.

Associated Work

Michael frequently broadcasts on issues of criminal law and human rights on the BBC, Channel 4 News, Sky News, NBC, CBS, Fox News, the World Service and “Hard Talk” with Tim Sebastian.