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John Cooper QC

Call 1985 • QC 2014

"Health & Safety Silk of the Year"
(Chambers & Partners 2017)

John Cooper QC specialises in the fields of Safety and Environmental Regulatory work. He has appeared as an expert in this area in commercial litigation in the USA and has been involved in many of the appellate cases that have shaped the law in the field of Health & Safety.

He represents companies, directors and senior managers in the Criminal Regulatory field, involving gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and safety breaches in cases involving fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace. He advises in relation to compliance and good practice in both fields.

Criminal Regulatory & Environmental

Defence Cases

John is instructed in the following cases

  • To represent Coleman and Company in relation to the collapse at Didcot Power Station
  • To advise and represent a party in relation to the Bosley Mill explosion
  • To represent the Priory Group in relation to a prosecution concerning a ligature fatality
  • To represent Mitchells and Butler in relation to a prosecution concerning a norovirus outbreak
  • To represent Hawkeswood Metal in relation to fatalities that occurred at their site in Birmingham

Environmental

  • John is representing recycling company Mid UK in relation to a major fire that occurred at one of its Lincolnshire sites
  • John represented Glastonbury Festival and successfully persuaded the court in a two day ‘Newton’ hearing that the culpability of the Festival was low in relation to a category 2 pollution incident at the 2014 festival.
  • John successfully defended Red Industries after a 5 week trial at Stafford Crown Court with Not Guilty verdicts recorded in respect of 8 counts relating to a major pollution incident on the River Trent and the subsequent investigation concerning a cyanide release in the River Trent that caused a large fish kill.
  • John appeared on two occasions for Cable & Wireless in relation to pollution incidents.
  • John defended a waste company in a wide ranging case alleging exposure to noxious fumes from a composting process following fires on site.
  • John represented Safapac in relation to a pollution incident at Peterborough Crown Court

Fire Safety

John has represented a number of high profile companies including Shell International and New Look Retail in relation to enforcement action under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The New Look case was considered by the Court of Appeal and concerned an analysis of the principles behind the Order. John represented a defendant in the Penhallow Hotel Fire prosecution (BBC News).

Selected Cases

Completed Safety Cases

  • John successfully defended William Hill in relation to a fatality arising from the collapse of a sign
  • John (leading Mike Atkins) successfully defended ENW in a case concerning a fatality when ivy was being removed from a pole. The company were acquitted of failing to risk assess and of exposing anyone to a risk of harm. A outstanding appeal is to be heard (leave has been granted) in relation to an allegation under the Work at Height Regulations.
  • John secured the acquittal of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, the first ever Trust to be prosecuted for Corporate Manslaughter. The Trust is also the largest organisation of any kind prosecuted for the offence so far.
  • The prosecution arose out of the tragic death of an obstetric patient who failed to recover fully from a general anaesthetic. The Prosecution alleged that two of the doctors responsible for her care lacked vital qualifications and experience and that there were serious shortcomings in supervision, in particular on the day of the incident. One of those doctors, a consultant anaesthetist, was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence. The other, a specialty doctor, had left the jurisdiction and so played no part in the trial.
  • John successfully defended a director of Watling Tyres in a two week trial at Canterbury Crown Court.
  • John represented the director of who was acquitted of gross negligence manslaughter and also represented his company CGA who were fined £50,000 following its plea to Corporate Manslaughter at the end of November. The case relates to an incident in June 2010 when a 6-year-old girl sustained fatal injuries after becoming trapped in an electronically powered gate at the newly constructed housing development in which she lived. The gate had been installed by CGA 2 months earlier. The sentencing judge made a publicity order but made no order for costs. The company was granted 7 years to pay the fine.
  • John successfully defended Ward and Burke Construction Ltd when the company were unanimously acquitted by the jury after a two and a half week trial at St Albans Crown Court. The company had been charged with offences relating to an accident arising from the movement of steel piles on a site.
  • John successfully defended a director of a specialist roofing company charged under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act of neglect in relation to fatality as a result of a fall from height at a construction site in Northampton. The jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty At Northampton Crown Court in November 2012 after an 8 day trial. Dominic Kay appeared for the Principal Contractor who were also acquitted. Both Defendants were awarded all of their costs.
  • John successfully defended (leading Mike Atkins) a director of Lion Steel charged with manslaughter and an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 3 July 2012. Not guilty verdicts were returned at Manchester Crown Court after three and a half weeks of trial.
  • John successfully defended Booker Ltd in a four day trial in Nottingham
  • John successfully defended DSM Demolition in three appeals against two prohibition notices and an improvement notice at Leeds Employment Appeals Tribunal
  • John successfully defended AMEC in a three week trial in Manchester in a case concerning a fatality at the Spinningfields development September.
  • Successfully defended a director of Innovia Films.
  • Successfully defended a Defendant in Penhallow Hotel Fire case.
  • John represented Heineken Uk Ltd at trial at Reading Crown Court. On the fourth day of trial the Prosecution offered no evidence and not guilty verdicts were recorded
  • He has also successfully defended Balfour Beatty Rail Projects at trial
  • He successfully Brookfield Construction and persuaded Aylesbury Crown Court to stay proceedings against the company as an abuse of process in a prosecution relating to the construction of a town centre in High Wycombe.
  • John successfully defended in the Golden Jubilee Bridge fatality case after the case had been referred back for a re trial by the Court of Appeal.
  • He successfully defended at trial Enterprise Management Services Ltd
  • He successfully represented Captain Mark Phillip’s Equiland Company in the Gatcombe Park prosecution concerning a fatal accident at the annual three day event. The prosecution was stayed as an abuse of process. (Stroud District Council v Equiland and Henson)
  • In addition, John successfully defended a Headmaster in an asbestos related prosecution under the Health & Safety at Work Act at Leicester Crown Court.
  • John appeared on behalf of the company in R v HTM at first instance and in the Court of Appeal (see below under significant cases) and successfully defended the company at trial HSE v HTM.

Industrial Disease

John was first junior counsel for the British Coal Corporation in the British Coal Respiratory Disease Litigation (see Kemp F2A-101) the largest Group Litigation conducted in the UK. He dealt with the engineering and apportionment aspects of the case at trial. In 1998 he was retained by the DTI to advise upon the compensation scheme for the outstanding 580,000 miners’ claims and to negotiate the terms of the Claims Handling Agreement. He was instructed to represent the DTI in the Coal Mining Contractors’ Group Litigation in which judgment was successfully obtained (June 2004) against the Contractors imposing a liability upon them to contribute to the Scheme. He led for the DTI in relation to their Court approved fast track and scheme closure proposals.

Recommendations


“…while John Cooper QC is also worthy of mention here for his meteoric rise through our health and safety rankings over three consecutive years.”

Chambers & Partners 2018

“He is able to instil confidence in the client by drawing on his vast experience of cases. He puts the client at ease and then in court has a very good manner with the judge. His arguments are clear, lucid and succinct.”

Chambers & Partners 2018

“An excellent advocate who commands respect.” “He is very good on environmental law, particularly major pollution incidents.”

Legal 500 2017

“Great regulatory lawyer, who is a superb attack weapon. When you know you’re in a fight he’s your man”…..”He is an incredibly capable health and safety lawyer” who is “extremely tenacious and skilful.”

Chambers & Partners 2017

“John Cooper QC is very tenacious and willing to fight a client’s corner.”

Chambers & Partners 2016

“His elevation to QC status is much deserved. If you have a scrap on your hands, John Cooper is the man you’d want in your corner. He is also very commercial and good with clients.”

Chambers & Partners 2016

“Tenacious and committed, no point is lost on him and his strategy is first class.”

Legal 500 2016

“Tenacious, combative and not scared to take the judge on”, “a robust trial advocate and an aggressive litigator.”

Chambers & Partners 2015

“Bright and very experienced in products issues.”

Legal 500 2015

“He has been a very powerful force in health and safety for years, if you have an uphill fight on your hands, he is your man. He is tactical and incredibly intelligent, and robustly handles any ‘punches’ thrown at him by the other side.”

Chambers & Partners 2014

“A true terrier, who sniffs out weaknesses in the other side’s case and goes for blood.”

Legal 500 2014

“He has got an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law, is passionate about the cases he does, is exceptional on his feet and brings to the table a fire in his belly that not many other barristers have.”

Chambers & Partners 2013


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