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Michael Aspinall

Practice Summary

Instructed to prosecute and defend in a wide variety of criminal matters, at Crown Court, Administrative Court and appellate level.

Career background

Legal career began at the law reform group ‘Justice’ (the British section of the International Commission of Jurists): involved in cases concerning allegations of miscarriage of justice from all parts of the United Kingdom, and in advising those responsible for law reform, particularly on the application of the European Convention on Human Rights.

1988 to 1991, Principal Crown Prosecutor in Inner London, then joined CPS headquarters developing nationwide policy and the response to the Runciman Commission on criminal justice. Later a member of Special Casework Directorate dealing with extradition and higher court appeals. Seconded to the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, as legal assistant to the Attorney General. Work included dealing with Attorney General’s consent to prosecute, assisting in matters relating to the Attorney’s superintendence of the CPS, and reviewing applications for leave to appeal unduly lenient sentences and matters of law following acquittal.

In 1998, appointed as legal adviser at the Criminal Cases Review Commission, with responsibility for providing advice to caseworkers and commissioners. He had responsibility for investigating particularly difficult cases (for example, R (Hunt) -v- CCRC [2001] 2 Cr. App. Rep. 6), for ensuring that Commission decisions were made within appropriate parameters, and for dealing with challenges to Commission decisions by way of judicial review. He was responsible for the Commission response to the application which led to the definitive judgment on the Commission’s powers, in R -v-  CCRC ex parte Pearson.

Practice details

 Has been selected as one of the list of Counsel to review the convictions resulting from the use of expert testimony in infant sudden death cases. Acts as independent Counsel dealing with issues of legal professional privilege in cases brought by HM Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office.

Recent and notable instructions have included:

  • Junior in several murder trials.
  • Represented a defendant charged with allegations of historic child abuse, and successfully achieved stay of proceedings on the basis of abuse of process.
  • Involved in high profile prison riot case which led to the Court of Appeal providing clear guidance on the nature and scope of the offence (R -v- Mason & Cummins [2005] 1 Cr. App. Rep. 11]).
  • Represented an applicant for leave to appeal out of time, based on changes in the law following a decision of the House of Lords (R -v-  Cottrell, The Times 5th September 2007).

Further Information

Continuing professional development

Has lectured on bad character evidence, and on international criminal law.

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