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Robert Tolhurst

Practice Summary

Specialist criminal practitioner who started out at the independent Bar at 3 Temple Gardens, then Drystone Chambers (formerly 2 Dyer’s Buildings), prosecuting and defending the broad spectrum of criminal work.

Career Background

From 2010 until joining Citadel in 2019,  Robert was employed by Shearman Bowen & Co; a leading City of London white collar crime firm, as in-house counsel where his practice was revolved around Southwark Crown and the Central Criminal Court. He is regularly instructed as leading, led and sole counsel, defending both private and publicly funded clients charged with the full spectrum of serious criminal work.

Practice Details

Recent instructions have included:

  • Providing pre-charge advice to private clients in unrelated, high profile, multi-jurisdictional investigations into global bribery and corruption and a complex cross-border European tax evasion scheme.
  • Represented one of 8 defendants charged with a conspiracy to launder in-excess of £150 million, the proceeds of drug trafficking. The allegation concerned the abuse of multiple third-party bank accounts by a Chinese organised crime group.
  • Operation J: defendant charged on an indictment with 7 others, a multi-million pound MTIC fraud revolving around the trade in waste precious metals.
  • Operation R: represented one of a number of defendants charged with multi-million pound mobile phone fraud, which involved an organised crime group systematically defrauding the major mobile phone networks.
  • Operation B: defendant one of two charged with a multi-million pound fishing fraud and money laundering. The investigation was a joint operation between the Metropolitan Police, Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency. The case involved the deliberate targeting of small businesses, because they were likely to have unsophisticated security measures in place, utilising calls and sophisticated telephone software to deceive the companies into believing that the caller was a genuine bank employee notifying them of fraud.
  • Represented one of a number of defendants charged with conspiracy to defraud involving the alleged systematic defrauding of customers of two motor vehicle engine re-manufacturing companies, set up as vehicles for fraud.
  • Operation S: one of a number of defendants charged with conspiracy to defraud involving a land banking boiler room fraud.
  • Operation P: represented one on a multi-defendant indictment, charged with conspiracy to defraud involving a carbon credit boiler room fraud.
  • Represented a defendant charged in a private prosecution with 13 historic counts of obtaining money transfers in excess of £20 million, by deception, in relation to events that dated back to 1999.  Described at the time as the largest private prosecution ever brought to trial.
  • Represented a defendant charged on a 3-defendant, 20 count indictment alleging offences of money laundering, fraudulent trading, false accounting and offences under the Company Directors Disqualification Act.
  • Represented a defendant charged with offences under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The case concerned allegations of providing financial advice to high net worth individuals when not being authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Recent instructions have included:

  • Operation M: defendant acquitted of murder. The deceased was shot in a crowded night club in a drug related turf war.   The defendant had been named by an eye witness, but the case turned upon the close examination of hundreds of hours of closed circuit television footage and undermining complex cell site and ballistics evidence.
  • Operation A: advised and represented a client on an appeal against conviction for Murder.  This appeal concerned multiple strands of fresh evidence including alleged confessions made by the co-defendant, a witness anonymity order and the digital reconstruction of the scene based upon the principal eye witness’ evidence at trial.
  • Operation L: represented one of 3 defendants charged with murder arising out of a classic joint enterprise stabbing – defendant acquitted.
  • Operation F: the deceased was murdered whilst asleep in his bed next to his girlfriend at the hands of a group of males armed with machetes.  The evidence comprised a complex matrix of circumstantial evidence which included a vast quantity of call data, cell site evidence, low copy mixed profile DNA and complex bad character issues relating to a multitude of suspects not charged.  Represented one of three defendants, all acquitted.
    Conspiracy to Cause Explosions.
  • Represented a defendant, first on an indictment charging him and others with conspiracy to cause explosions.  The case concerned the construction, delivery and detonation of pipe bombs at a series of residential addresses, arising out a feud between former business partners.  The evidence included an alleged prison cell confession, covert recordings of the client’s conversations with friends and family whilst on prison visits, a vast quantity of call data, cell site analysis, hundreds of hours of closed circuit TV footage and expert image enhancement.
  • Defendant charged with arson with intent to endanger life and doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.  A fire had been started at a retail outlet, causing significant damage.   The defendant was a former employee.  He was exceptionally vulnerable, having been previously undiagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum and was acquitted following the instruction of a dual qualified Clinical and Forensic Psychologist.
    Drug Trafficking.
  • Operation A: the defendant was charged as a member of an organised crime group with conspiracy to cultivate and supply cannabis on an industrial scale. The investigation spanned a 5 year period and involved a covert surveillance operation.
  • Operation B: represented one of a number of defendants charged with a multi-million pound conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs and money laundering. The defendant was a vulnerable person, and was twice severed from trials of other defendants. The evidence included an extensive surveillance operation and generated hundreds of hours of covert audio recordings.  The trial gave rise to issues arising out of the execution of unlawful search warrants resulting in application by the Crown under section 59 of Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 to retain evidence which had been unlawfully seized in order to prosecute this defendant.
  • Represented a defendant  alleged to be the head of an organised crime group running a conspiracy to supply class A drugs across a major urban conurbation. The investigation involved a 7 month covert operation involving surveillance and the deployment of a listening device generating significant audio transcripts said to evidence conspirators actively engaged in the supply of class A drugs.

Recent instructions have included:

  • R v B, and R -v- OA:  separate trials, defendants acquitted of two counts of rape made by independent complainants.
  • R v NB:  defendant charged with assault by penetration, grievous bodily harm with intent and controlling and coercive behaviour. The allegations arose out of an extremely volatile relationship, and the defendant had been convicted of similar offences against previous partners which were admitted as evidence of his bad character. Acquitted of the assault and GBH offences.

Recent instructions have included:

  • Represented a defendant acquitted of attempting to pervert the course of justice, in a trial where his father and uncle were charged with the murder of his aunt in an honour killing.
  • Represented a defendant charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice as part of an 8 person organised crime group.  The allegation concerned the dissipation of restrained funds through bank accounts opened specifically to defeat the restraint orders imposed upon suspects in an ongoing ‘cash for crash’ fraud investigation.

Further Information

  • Bar Council Vulnerable Witness Training.
  • Midland Circuit RASSO training.

Robert is a member of the Criminal Bar Association and is authorised by the Bar Council to undertake Direct Access work.

Robert is also very proud to be Chair of Governors at an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ all-through Academy situated at the heart of one of the most ethnically diverse and socio-economically challenged communities in the country.

Direct Access

Accredited by the Bar Council and in suitable cases is happy to accept instructions direct from members of the public. Please see the Direct Access section of this website for further information.

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