Rated in the directories as a leader in the fields of crime, financial crime, health and safety and inquests and public inquiries and awarded "Crime Silk of the Year", Jonathan Laidlaw QC was described by Chambers, in 2015, as one of the "star silks" who is "an outstanding advocate ... regularly instructed in headline-grabbing cases" but "also eminently well equipped to advise significant individuals on sensitive matters involving reputational issues". The directories have spoken of "an extraordinarily able advocate with great style who can deal with the most difficult of cases with the greatest of ease" and with "lethal cross-examination skills and a mean way with closing speeches".
His practice is predominantly in fraud and business crime, in defending directors and companies facing charges brought by the HSE and in professional, regulatory and disciplinary matters. Much of his work, both for individuals and companies here and abroad, is pre-charge and advisory in nature. Jonathan Laidlaw QC has also appeared in major inquests and in sporting tribunals.
Recent instructions include acting for Rebekah Brooks; for GSK; for the Football Association in the Hillsborough Inquests; for Statoil in the In Amenas Inquests; for Fluor and Hugo Boss in fatality cases; for the Princes Sporting Club who faced a charge of corporate manslaughter; for Highland (the Texas based hedge fund); for Aviva; for JC Decaux; for a series of successful claimants in commercial litigation considering launching private prosecutions; for a number of individuals and financial institutions facing SFO, FCA, DoJ and CMA investigations; and producing silk led reports for internal inquiries.
Areas of Expertise and Notable Cases
As a junior Jonathan Laidlaw QC acted for Marconi in the unsuccessful prosecution brought against the company by the SFO and appeared for the Schreiber brothers in the Hatton Garden gold fraud trial. In silk Jonathan Laidlaw QC has also acted for Kevin Burrage, the under-bond dealer, in one of the largest diversion frauds prosecuted in this country; for the director of a highly successful building and maintenance company who was acquitted following a long-running trial brought by the Central Fraud Group; for James McCormick who faced fraud charges relating to the sale of fake bomb detection equipment to the Iraq Government; and for an American hedge fund. The 2015 Chambers and Partners guide, in the Financial Crime chapter, says this of Jonathan Laidlaw QC: "He is highly respected for his expertise in criminal fraud and regulatory issues. Often instructed in novel and challenging cases" and those contributing to the guide say, "He is unbeatable in my opinion. He is amongst the top QCs in the area" and "he is phenomenal".
During his time as Treasury Counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC gained an almost unrivalled experience in prosecuting the most demanding and serious cases brought in this country during that 15 year period: from the first war crimes prosecution; the PIRA bombing of Canary Wharf trial; the Official Secrets Act prosecutions of both Tomlinson and David Shayler; the Jill Dando murder trials; the CCRC reference to the Court of Appeal in the case of Jeremy Bamber; the prosecution of corrupt Metropolitan police officers; the prosecution of Barot and others (the al Qa'eda cell who had planned pre 9/11 attacks in the US and then bombings in this country); the al Qa'eda attack in London and on Glasgow Airport through to and including, the prosecuting of allegations of corruption against a CPS lawyer; a Saudi Prince for murder; a former BA employee charged with terrorist offences; and Delroy Grant (the 'Night Stalker'). He also appeared in the House of Lords and frequently represented the Attorney General in the Court of Appeal. Jonathan Laidlaw QC's involvement in prosecution work extended to advising various Government departments, the intelligence agencies and the police and he was one of the security-cleared counsel. He is highly experienced in the pre-charge preparation of long-running investigations, developing the strategy and in managing and running teams of investigators and lawyers. Such cases frequently involve highly sensitive work and enquiries with consequent PII issues. He has also recently advised in respect of the bringing of a private prosecution of a large banking organisation, he acted for the UK Government in Karadzic's case in the Hague and for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in the Miranda/Guardian case before the Divisional Court. The 2014 edition of Chambers and Partners speaks of Jonathan Laidlaw QC being "a concise, persuasive and focused advocate", who "seems so relaxed at the same time as being in total control of a case". The 2015 guide says, "He is fantastic. He's the hardest-working individual I have ever come across. The work he does is phenomenal. He is top-drawer."
Throughout his career Jonathan Laidlaw QC has maintained a health and safety practice appearing for a large number of corporate clients which include Texaco and Gulf, BOC, Ford, Southern Cross, Esso, BHP Billiton, Fluor, Marwood and Merck. In recent years he has successfully defended BHP Billiton in a series of cases brought by the DTI, the MCA and the HSE arising from incidents at the Liverpool Bay field, acted for Southern Cross in cases involving fatalities in their care homes; successfully defended Fluor in a prosecution arising from the construction of the Inoes Chlor plant in Warrington; successfully defended Marwood Limited in a case which was to have been tried in Bradford; successfully defended one of the directors in the Lion Steel corporate manslaughter trial in Manchester; and successfully defended the Ancient Order of Foresters. Apart from advisory and trial advocacy work, Jonathan Laidlaw QC has also appeared for a number of these companies in inquests. Most recently he has represented Fluor in the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm Inquest, The Football Association in the Hillsborough Inquests and Statoil in the In Amenas Inquests. He also has experience in military inquests and coronial inquisitions arising from deaths overseas. Legal 500 rate Jonathan Laidlaw QC as one of the leading health and safety silks and for his work in this area he has been described in the Chambers and Partners guide as having "a stellar reputation" with "a health and safety pedigree stretching back over 20 years". One source of that directory said; "He is a fantastic cross-examiner and a fantastic operator in terms of dealing with jurors. He has a very good style, combining the cut and thrust of criminal advocacy with an intellectual air". In 2013 he was nominated by Chambers and Partners as "Health and Safety Silk of the Year". The 2014 edition of that directory said of him, "He brings a sense of great humanity to the table, and he is able to talk to people at any level. Level-headed and sensible, he approaches everyone in an equally balanced way and without any pomposity." The 2015 edition is in these terms, "Jonathan Laidlaw QC ... is frequently involved in cases relating to the construction sector, and ... receives a large number of instructions from US companies. Market sources speak about his practice in glowing terms and note his involvement in the leading corporate manslaughter cases of the day."
Jonathan Laidlaw QC has considerable experience in professional disciplinary matters, particularly in the sporting field. For a number of years he has acted for the Football Association in crowd control cases brought against Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC, West Ham FC etc and in the proceedings brought against Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford. He acted for the FA in their investigation of the racist remarks made by John Terry. Legal 500 have identified Jonathan Laidlaw QC as a leading silk in the area of professional discipline and regulatory law and have described him as a "top-notch performer" and as "a well-respected silk with a niche in the sports world".