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Nicholas Purnell

Work 020 7710 6444
Cloth Fair Chambers (Cloth Fair Chambers)


Nicholas Purnell QC is Head of Cloth Fair Chambers. His career at the Bar spans over four decades and includes 20 years as a Recorder of the Crown Court and as a Deputy High Court Judge. Nicholas has covered every area of criminal and criminal-related law. His immense experience enables him to bring a commanding level of expertise and strategic planning to each new case.

Nicholas practises principally in commercial and business crime and in regulatory and professional disciplinary matters. When instructed in the investigation stage, he advises clients in cases under examination by global regulatory and prosecuting authorities including the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Financial Conduct Authority, the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The development of collaborative investigations across jurisdictions requires the appropriate team to be in place to provide joint advice on the impact of managing the response to investigations on a global basis. Nicholas has specialist experience in the development of the appropriate strategy to enable businesses to develop and cope with the resource demands imposed by such investigations.


Nicholas acted for ICBC Standard Bank to negotiate the first ever Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the Serious Fraud Office to be approved in the UK. Nicholas appeared before the President of the Queen’s Bench Division at the High Court to agree the terms of the DPA.

This case marks Nicholas’ hat trick of firsts; the first civil settlement with the SFO for Balfour Beatty; the first attempt at a simultaneous global settlement in the US and the UK with the SFO in Innospec; and the combination of this first charge under s7 of the Bribery Act as part of the process of  achieving this Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the SFO.

Nicholas’ recent cases include the successful defence of Victor Dahdaleh in his acquittal in the international corruption and fraud trial brought by the SFO. His representation of a defendant in the ‘Vantis Tax’ fraud case and of a former editor of a national newspaper charged with contempt of Parliament are reflective of the variety of the cases that have come to court.

The major element of Nicholas’ practice is focused upon advising in cases that are subject to investigations in the UK and abroad which may never result in trial. Currently, Nicholas is advising a global bank in an investigation by the FCA and the DoJ and an individual in relation to the SFO investigation into Rolls Royce for overseas bribery.

Nicholas represents clients awaiting trial in the allegations made by the SFO against Tesco and Barclays and a Director of De Puy International on trial in Athens.

Other notable instructions in recent years include:

  • Representing a former Governor of the Delta state in a multi-million pound corruption trial
  • Representing a Director of Mabey & Johnson Ltd, charged with international sanctions violations
  • Civil Aviation Authority v Travel Republic: Successfully represented Travel Republic Ltd leading to an acquittal by the regulator and success at appeal in the proceedings brought by the CAA
  • Representing Thyssen Elevator Ltd in a corporate plea agreement in the recent corporate manslaughter proceedings concerning health and safety breaches in a banker’s death at Holmes Place
  • Representing Sports Direct in their Successful Competition Appeals Tribunal hearing


QC - 1985

London Bar

Business and regulatory crime (including global investigations)

Within: Business and regulatory crime (including global investigations) – Leading silks

Nicholas Purnell QC - Cloth Fair ChambersHe defends c-suite management in heavyweight corporate fraud cases.

Within: Business and regulatory crime (including global investigations)

Cloth Fair Chambers is a group of ‘extremely high-quality barristers for business crime’, with a significant amount of work coming in the form of pre-charge advice. Three silks from the set are instructed to represent defendants in the upcoming Barclays trial concerning its 2008 fundraising – Nicholas Purnell QC is scheduled to defend the bank’s former CEO, John Kelsey-Fry QC is to represent the former head of investment banking, and Ian Winter QC will defend the former head of the wealth division.

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Fraud: crime

Within: Fraud: crime – Leading silks

Nicholas Purnell QC - Cloth Fair ChambersHe has a track record of involvement in the heaviest of cases.

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