Overview

Headed by Phil Smith, who is known for his ‘great tactical nous’ and tenacity (Chambers and Partners 2020), our long established Crime & Regulatory department includes Anthony Burton, one of the firm’s founding partners, who enjoys a ‘towering’ reputation (Chambers and Partners 2020).

Shortlisted by The Lawyer Awards 2020 for Business Crime Team of the Year, we are recognised as leading authorities in criminal law in the UK and internationally and have dealt with many of the most notable cases in recent times, including ground-breaking decisions in the Supreme Court, Privy Council, and courts across the EU, most recently the French Constitutional Council and the Supreme Court of Gibraltar.  We have experience with cross-jurisdictional investigations involving the US federal law enforcement agencies.

We have extensive experience in representing clients in public inquiries most notably the Leveson Inquiry, Inquiry into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and the Inquiry into “Bloody Sunday”.

For emergencies we offer a complete 24 hour service: our solicitors personally attend clients day and night from the moment of any arrest or involvement with the authorities, adopting a proactive approach in dealing with investigators: initially to secure release and subsequently to effect a proper, even-handed investigation.

  • I cannot speak highly enough of the team – they are formidable lawyers but remain very approachable.

  • The firm retains a deep level of experience and expertise in order to provide a very high standard of service.

    Chambers & Partners, 2021
  • The team was really supportive and on the ball as well as being good to work with.

    Chambers & Partners, 2021
  • Forensic, detailed and thorough. No stone was left unturned. I felt, at every stage, that I could not have been in better hands.

    Legal 500, 2021

What we do

  • Criminal Litigation

    We are recognised as a Band One Top Tier firm by The Legal 500 and as a leading firm by Chambers Directory.

    We advise on all aspects of criminal law for both UK and international clients and are well known for our work on some of the most widely-reported cases. We started as a criminal law firm and are highly ranked in all legal publications for our work in this area.

    We deal with cases across the full range of the criminal law, from common assault, possession of controlled substances and criminal damage, to complex frauds, corruption, sexual offences, murder and terrorism.

    We are known for our discreet handling of allegations involving sexual offences, including those of an historic nature.

    We enjoy an excellent reputation for our crisis management skills and ability to respond swiftly to circumstances where someone’s professional or personal standing is at risk. We frequently represent lawyers, police officers, medics, finance professionals, musicians, media personalities, journalists and broadcasters.

    The department also has unparalleled experience in media related criminal law, with both Phil and Anthony having been heavily involved in the phone hacking trials where they represented editors and deputy editors of national newspapers. We are regularly instructed in cases concerning breach of reporting restrictions, contempt of court, and production orders.

  • Business Crime & Fraud

    Our prominence in business and white-collar crime is reflected by our Lawyer Awards 2020 shortlisting for Conduct, Enforcement or Business Crime team of the year.

    We have particular expertise in defending both companies and individuals in complex and high value fraud investigations. We have acted in innumerable investigations and prosecutions brought by the Financial Conduct Authority and Serious Fraud Office and have secured numerous acquittals over the years.  We act for individuals who receive a Section 2 notice under the Criminal Justice Act 1987 (CJA).

    We are known for our efficient preparation of fraud cases and are a first choice for financial professionals facing allegations of market abuse, fraud by abuse of position, tax fraud, insider dealing, and various forms of bribery and corruption. We were notably instructed in relation to both the LIBOR and EURIBOR rate-rigging scandals.

    We are solicitors of choice for individuals involved in internal investigations and are regularly instructed by City firms to act as independent counsel and oversee internal investigations. We often advise on matters relating to financial and corporate irregularities, money laundering, confiscation proceedings and the potential financial outcomes following criminal cases.

    We regularly act in cases involving cutting edge financial crime including emerging trends in cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled financial crime, automatic and algorithmic trading, and artificial intelligence.

  • Public Inquiries & Regulatory

    We have considerable experience in looking after interested parties and witnesses in the specialist field of public inquiries. This involves negotiating terms with the solicitors to the inquiry, advising and drafting detailed witness statements, instructing Counsel and attending with clients at the Inquiry hearing.

    We regularly act for regulated individuals and entities who are subject to enquiry by the FCA and support them through the process, whether it is civil or criminal.

    We provide financial regulatory advice to major financial institutions, international charities, corporate financiers, asset managers, insurers, intermediaries and senior management in FCA and PRA (Prudential Regulation Authority) regulated bodies.

    We also advise professionals and directors on the regulatory framework in which they operate, and act for professionals in proceedings brought against them by governing bodies.

    Our advice extends to rules relating to managing client money, money laundering, bribery and corruption, terrorist financing and sanctions, and all aspects of professional and regulatory compliance, including disciplinary matters.

  • Sexual Offences

    We have an unrivalled level of experience in sexual offences. This encompasses the most significant trials and investigations into historic sexual allegations over recent years, including Operations Midland and Yewtree.

    We are the first port of call for those whose personal or professional reputations are at risk.  This is reflected in the instructions we receive from high net worth individuals including performing artists, professional footballers, lawyers, and doctors.

    We provide an immediate, coordinated response working closely with other departments in our firm and, when necessary, skilled PR advisers.

    Our cases embrace complex legal and factual scenarios; we acted in a case where the medical defence of non-insane automatism, known as ‘sexomnia’, was successfully advanced at trial. Many of our cases are sensitive and require careful and discreet handling.

    Sexual Offences: Frequently Asked Questions

    1. When should I instruct a solicitor if I have been accused of a sexual offence? What if I have already been questioned by Police?

    You should instruct solicitors to act for you as soon as you become aware of an accusation. The sooner we are instructed, the sooner our expertise can be applied to protect you. This is especially important during a police interview when a solicitor will advise you on the best course of action.

    If you have already been interviewed without a solicitor, we will deal with the police on your behalf and work to mitigate any problems that might arise from the interview.

    Work at the earliest stages of a criminal case is often the most beneficial as it helps put you in the strongest position from the outset.

    1. Will police assume I am guilty if I ask for a lawyer before I agree to answer their questions?

    No. You have a right to independent legal advice and police will not draw any inference if you ask for a lawyer.

    The law on sexual offences is a complex mixture of Acts of Parliament and decisions made by the courts. We will provide essential expert advice on how this relates to the allegations.  

    You should remember that the police caution says ‘anything you do say may be given in evidence’. This means that anything you say in interview, however true, honest, and well-intentioned, might later be held against you. Under pressure, people will often express themselves badly, or say something that does not come across as intended.

    For this reason, it is imperative that we are instructed as early as possible to ensure that your position is expressed clearly and cogently.

    1. What does it mean to be ‘Released Under Investigation’?

    Changes to laws on pre-charge police bail in 2017 mean that fewer and fewer people are now released on bail. Instead, they are ‘released under investigation’ (RUI).   We will establish a dialogue in order to exert influence on what can be an unsatisfactory position where there are no conditions attached to your release, but the investigation remains hanging over you. There is no time limit on how long one can be ‘under investigation’, with some periods of investigation lasting years.

    1. I have been falsely accused of sexual assault. Should I still instruct a solicitor?

    In these circumstances it is imperative that you are properly represented in order to ensure that the police investigation comprehensively deals with the facts which support your innocence. You should always instruct solicitors to act on your behalf. Even if the allegations are entirely false, the Police do not know this and are under a duty to investigate.

    Having us present is particularly important if you have been falsely accused, or believe that someone is making a malicious complaint. If this is the case, it is essential that we attend interview with you and make this clear from the outset.

    If you have already attended an interview and have been released under investigation, you may still be charged at a later date. Work done between interview and charge is often the most important in ensuring that your defence is properly advanced. The earlier we begin work on your case, the better.

    1. Do innocent people get convicted of sexual assault? Will people believe I am innocent?

    Yes, innocent people do sometimes get convicted. Inadequate representation, or no representation at all, significantly increases the chances of this happening. Conversely, representations which we advance on your behalf may well make the difference between conviction and acquittal in your case.

    Remember that although in the eyes of the law you are innocent until proven guilty, some people will assume that you must be guilty because you are being interviewed. This is true of all alleged crimes, not just sexual offences. For this reason, we do not suggest that you talk openly about any criminal matter. Any dealings with the Police should be taken extremely seriously.

    1. Can my name be published in the media even though I am innocent?

    It depends on what stage the case has reached. If this becomes an issue, we work closely with a number of extremely skilled public relations professionals whom we can engage on your behalf.

    If you have been charged, you will need to attend a ‘first appearance’ at a Magistrates’ Court. What happens in court is a matter of public record. This means that with very few exceptions, once you have attended the first appearance, your name and the charge are also a matter of public record and can be reported. Some examples of possible exceptions are where there are ongoing linked criminal proceedings, or where publication of your name might lead to the identification of a vulnerable complainant.

    In practice, the media are most interested in cases with an aspect that sets them apart. For example, this could be that the defendant is someone with an existing public profile, that there is a breach of trust or duty associated with the offending, or that the facts of the alleged offending are extremely unusual or topical.

  • Civil Fraud

    We advise on all aspects of civil fraud where deceit, misrepresentation, fraud, or dishonesty form part of the basis of the action. Our advice extends to directors, companies and individuals and comprises claimant and defendant work, including insolvency related matters. We also advise on regulatory issues which will impact directors operating in the UK and internationally.

  • Testimonials

    “They are great – they are responsive and put the client and their needs first.” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “They are exceptional – reassuring for the client and great in dealings with authorities.” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “Exceeded all my expectations.”
    Legal 500, 2021

    “Led by the ever-wise Anthony Burton and the exceptional Phil Smith, the crime team at SMB provide a complete and unrivalled service to corporate and individual clients under investigation.”
    Legal 500, 2021

    “The team is always knowledgeable, committed, organised and efficient.”
    Legal 500, 2021

    “SMB are an outstanding firm. Anthony Burton CBE demonstrated extraordinary passion and expertise in fighting my case at the Old Bailey; and in lifting my occasional despair at an absurd, unfounded prosecution. Even if he and his team had not secured a unanimous not guilty verdict I would not fault them.”
    Legal 500, 2021

    “Well-known for acting for high-net-worth individuals and celebrities across a range of sensitive cases.”
    Legal 500, 2020

    “Dedicated, passionate and untiring in its work.”
    Legal 500, 2018

    “Outstanding.”
    Legal 500, 2018