John Butterfield QC - Crime
“An exemplary advocate.”
“Without doubt one of the best performing.”
“Each case is meticulously prepared.”
“A persuasive and impressive manner.”
“Amongst the best.”
“Knows how to exploit weaknesses in his opponents’ cases.”
John has practised exclusively in crime, both prosecuting and defending, since his call to the Bar.
John is one of the very few Criminal Law barristers to have been feted by the Times in their 'Lawyer of the Week' section.
He has extensive experience in all types of homicide cases as well as grave sexual offences and matters involving serious violence. He is routinely approached to conduct cases of the highest sensitivity and complexity.
He has conducted cases which have involved elements of Police Discipline, ‘undercover’ police operations, Foreign Letters of Request and all aspects of Public Interest Immunity. John also has substantial experience in fraud trials.
Prior to taking Silk John was a Grade 4/Level 4 CPS Prosecutor for over a decade.
Included on the CPS Special Advocate Panel July 2013.
Attorney-General's List of Approved Counsel (List B).
Sits as a Recorder (appointed 2009).
LLB First Class (Honours) Liverpool
President of the Legal Society
Bar Vocational Exam (Inns of Court very competent)
Recipient of the Sir Thomas Moore Bursary (Inns of Court School of Law)
Hardwicke Scholar (Lincoln’s Inn)
Qualified Pupil Supervisor
Member of the Midland Circuit
Member of the CBA
Achieved national publicity for his defence of a journalist facing a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office as part of the Crown’s Operation Elveden investigation. The coverage included full-page national reports on a closing speech described by experienced media commentators as "Brilliant" and "A masterclass".
Defence Counsel in leading authorities on witness intimidation (R v Patrascu) the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (R v Colohan) the law of hearsay (see recent cases section, Richard Boothman, below) and the admissibility of DNA evidence (see recent cases section, Mark Pickering, below).
John has prosecuted Counter-Terrorism Unit investigations in Operation Yapton and Operation Thorp. Both were ‘disruption’ prosecutions which involved detailed consideration of the sort of sensitive unused material generated in CTU cases.
Prosecuted in the complex and sensitive undercover officer cases Operation Pragmatic (leading to a multi-handed trial lasting 3 months) Operation Glebe and Operation Pragmatic 2, in which consideration of RIPA authorities and covert material was paramount. Led by a Silk.
Prosecuted a large number of the cases arising from the 2005 Birmingham Riots (Operations Siluga, Mehari and Geronda). The offences included murder and violent disorder as well as firearms charges.
Acted more than once in fraud cases lasting over 5 months, in R v Mudhar & others (Defending, Led by a Silk) and the “Centrex Fraud” (Prosecuting, Led by a Senior Junior).
Prosecution Counsel in R v Pritchett and others (the “Cuddles” brothel case, Operation Larman).
Junior Counsel in “Operation Stanstead” (R v Ellis & Others) - the “New Years’ shootings” case.
Defending. Secured acquittal on a charge of causing death by careless driving in a case which attracted local and national publicity.
Atiqzoy and others
Successfully prosecuted Operation Jitiri (a multi-handed stabbing murder).
All Defendants were convicted on all charges.
Defending a manslaughter case.
Secured a plea on a favourable basis to a reduced number of Counts and with an agreement that the Crown would discontinue against all those who were co-accused.
Successfully applied for the charge of murder to be withdrawn at the close of the evidence in the trial of a fatal stabbing.
Successfully applied for an acquittal to be directed at the close of the Prosecution case in a high profile care-home manslaughter allegation which attracted national publicity.
Defending in Operation Elveden (see notable cases, above).
Prosecuted the trial which was the culmination of years of undercover officer deployment, involving multiple such officers and in-depth consideration of RIPA authorities and covert material. Incorporated Operation Umber. Involved numerous drugs charges as well as the importation of millions of counterfeit cigarettes.
Defending in the prosecution’s Operation Zorn/Operation Zorn 2 –a number of serious and organised armed robberies. Jury acquittals secured.
Dale Warburton & others
Prosecuting as Leading Counsel the Crown’s Operation Atlas involving a number of drugs and firearms charges. The case included consideration of covert surveillance and the effect of one Defendant absconding in a multi-handed case. Analysis of both phone and “WhatsApp” traffic featured in the case.
Prosecuting as Leading Counsel a multi-handed case charging conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and involving detailed evidence about the workings of the Police National Computer.
Defending a surveyor charged as part of a voluminous conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud.
Acquitted after a 2-month trial.
Ibrahim Lyazi & others
Prosecuting Operation Yapton a complex 9-handed bank robbery trial whereby the West Bromwich branch of the Co-op was attacked in broad daylight by males armed with batons and £130,000 taken. Acting as a Leading Junior. Convictions secured. Sentences totalling 54 years’ imprisonment resulted.
Defending multiple historic allegations of rape and indecency with a child in charges going back over 30 years. Acquittals were eventually secured.
Defending multiple charges of rape & sexual assaults in a complicated family context. Acquittals secured on the only counts the jury could decide upon.
Kieron Powell & Tallon Walford
Conducted a sensitive prosecution which involved calling the sight-restricted, brain-damaged, epileptic victim to give evidence of rape by two males including her half-brother.
Defending a man charged with sexual assault. Objection taken to the admissibility of the DNA evidence. Became part of a conjoined appeal which is now a major authority on the admissibility of DNA evidence, reported as Dlugosz, Pickering and MDS.
Paul Ayre and others
Prosecuting Operation Dweomer as a Leading Junior. A sensitive multi-handed case in which it was acknowledged one Defendant had been registered as a Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) – i.e. a police informant.
Witness anonymity orders were made for officers including his case handler. Believed to be one of the first cases in UK regarding methamphetamine.
The indictment also included a heroin importation valued at £1 and a quarter million and a conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Concerned with the distribution of ‘cutting agents’ in such amounts as could have been used to generate Class A drugs worth £2billion.
Defending. The violent armed robbery of commercial premises (the Crown’s Operation Sport) whereby the owner of a motor repair business was stabbed, shot and the subject of an attempted kidnap.
The defendant accepted he drove the armed robbers to the scene but sought to maintain a defence of duress.
His acquittal by the jury marks a rare instance of such a defence succeeding.
Defending a large-scale fraud perpetrated on the budget of the West Midlands Police and which had formerly-serving police officers as Defendants. It was alleged that the proceeds of fraud were laundered through 3rd-party business and Mr. Willn was alleged to have assisted in that way. The Crown’s Operation Acumen. Rulings obtained on behalf of Mr. Willn at the start of the trial obliged the Crown to offer no evidence.
Defending an alleged drug dealer who also faced money-laundering allegations with an indictment span of 6 years. Not guilty verdicts secured. Police Operations Torchio and Redchange.
The Crown’s Operation Variation 2. Defending charges of Class A drug-dealing in a multi-handed indictment. Now a leading case on the law of hearsay, reported as R v Twist and others.
Prosecuted the firearms/robbery cases of Operation Stargaze (part 1 and 2) and also (as a Leading Junior) the countrywide building-work fraud which targeted elderly victims namely Operation Mustang.
Prosecuted numerous multi-handed drugs cases including Operation Fatique (Miller & others) Operation Muscadet (Akhtar & others), Operation Diversify/Trooth (a 13-handed case leading to two separate trials, acting as a Leading Junior) and Operation Flurrie part 1 (a 10-handed trial, acting as a Leading Junior).
Operation Enact (R v Hoolichan)
A highly sensitive manslaughter prosecution arising from the ‘body in the river’ case of the death of Jack MacLeod. Led by a Silk.
Operation Balopy (Najafi & others)
Prosecuting fraudsters who arranged fraudulent loans with the assistance of a corrupt employee of a major bank. The dishonesty included wide-scale identity theft by the alteration of details on the electoral roll and the creation of fictitious companies.
Operation Nallart (Highfield & others)
A multi-handed prosecution at Wolverhampton Crown Court on charges relating to Class A drugs, money laundering and firearms.
The Moosab trials
Rape and numerous other sexual offences based on the systemic degradation of young females by their Father and brothers. Multi-handed prosecution over two trials.
A stabbing murder emanating from Warwick which was tried at Birmingham. Led by a Silk.
Defending an alleged cannabis importer in a trial lasting 3 months. (Led by a Senior Junior.)
Jury acquittal secured.