David McNeill

Year of Call: 2003

David has built up a wide experience prosecuting and defending difficult, complex, multi-handed cases, both alone and being led. He has particular knowledge of tax, VAT and Excise, drugs, money-laundering and organised crime cases. Although the mainstay of David’s practice is in criminal litigation, he maintains a strong commercial civil practice in chambers’ main areas of practice.

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David is a barrister with a strong practice in fraud and serious and organised crime cases. David is ranked in Chambers and Partners as a Band 4 leader in the field of financial crime.

"A very good advocate who is meticulous and a good negotiator."

"He is exceptionally thorough in preparation, mastering the detail in the case, and in court is an impressive advocate proving strong on cross-examination."

Chambers and Partners 2019.   

David has built up a wide experience prosecuting and defending difficult, complex, multi-handed cases, both alone and as junior counsel. He has particular knowledge of tax, VAT and Excise, drugs, money-laundering and organised crime cases and has been instructed on a number of cases with a significant international dimension.

Although the mainstay of David’s practice is in criminal litigation, he maintains a commercial civil practice in chambers’ main areas of practice. He is often instructed in areas such as fraud or asset forfeiture where there is an overlap between the criminal and civil worlds.

Professional panel appointments

  • Grade 4 advocate on Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Unified Prosecution List.
  • Grade 3 advocate on the CPS fraud List.
  • Grade 3 advocate on the CPS Proceeds of Crime List.
  • Grade 3 advocate on the CPS Serious and Organised Crime List.
  • Grade 3 advocate on the CPS Counter-Terrorism list.

Additional Information

Direct Public Access

  • David accepts Direct Public Access instructions.

David maintains a long-standing interest in China. On his most recent visit he took part in seminars led by Chinese universities and prosecutors on improving defendants’ rights, lectured to Chinese students on English criminal law and established links with Chinese criminal defence lawyers. He has written chapters and articles about English law (both in English and Chinese) for publications in mainland China.

Professional Memberships

  • Criminal Bar Association.
  • Fraud Lawyers Association.

Asset Recovery, Civil Fraud & Confiscation

David maintains a strong practice in the parallel criminal and civil jurisdictions under POCA and its predecessors. He is regularly instructed by the police, HMRC and NCA in civil cash detention and forfeiture hearings and appeals, and is also experienced in advising and acting in restraint proceedings and applications for civil freezing injunctions.

David has a wide experience of confiscation proceedings after conviction and is often instructed specifically for the confiscation stage of a case. He is currently instructed in several large scale confiscation proceedings, including a multi-handed £5m case arising out of the importation of half a ton of heroin, and a £2m benefits fraud confiscation case involving live-link evidence from Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

Business Crime

David has huge experience of acting both alone and as led junior in all types of government fiscal fraud cases, including tax, VAT and Excise fraud. He is comfortable in document-heavy, legally complex cases and where carefully managed disclosure becomes a key issue. In 2010-2011, David and a colleague were jointly instructed by the CPS to review and report on HMRC’s disclosure systems in large scale Excise fraud. Since then he has been regularly instructed in a numerous cases in which the loss to the Revenue has been in the millions of pounds.

He carries out Tax Tribunal work and was instructed in 2013 as led junior for HMRC in a £6m MTIC appeal.

David is regularly instructed on all types of benefit fraud cases prosecuted both by the DWP and local authorities and is particularly experienced in cases of multiple identities and organised conspiracies to defraud.

David’s fraud practice is not limited to frauds on the Revenue. Recent instructions include defending a convicted fraudster at the confiscation stage where the Crown sought £9m and the case centred on funds restrained in Pakistan, and led junior prosecution counsel in the UK’s first land banking fraud.

Chancery & Commercial

The mainstay of David’s civil practice has always been in litigation involving small and medium sized businesses. He is regularly instructed to advise and act in commercial contractual disputes, especially involving professional services and negligence claims – cases in which he has been instructed have concerned engineers, builders, architects, financial advisors and consultants, solicitors and accountants. He has recently been instructed not only in first instance trials but also in appeals from the County Court, High Court applications for security for costs and freezing orders, abuse of process applications and Companies Court applications before registrars and judges.

David is also experienced in consumer law, acting both for the consumer and provider in cases turning on misrepresentation, breaches of implied terms, penalty charges and unfair terms legislation.

Chancery & Company

From his days as a pupil in chambers, David has developed a specialist practice in traditional Chancery litigation, particularly in land law and probate. He has advised on and conducted trials of boundary disputes, private nuisance, disputed rights of way, parking rights, rights to light and other easements. In probate, although he advises on the administration of estates generally, he has specialist experience of acting in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, both in court and at mediation hearings.


David prosecutes and defends in a wide range of serious cases, specialising in organised and complex crime. He has been led in cases involving VAT fraud, tobacco and alcohol excise fraud, MTIC fraud and very large scale confidence fraud. Acting alone, he has conducted trials for the production, supply and importation of Class A drugs and importation, serious fraud, money laundering, GBH, kidnapping, immigration offences and serious sexual offences.

David advises on and acts in cases involving sensitive intelligence, PII issues and very complex disclosure tasks. He particularly enjoys cases that raise interesting and novel points of law. On the prosecution side, he is experienced in leading case teams of lawyers and officers and advising from an early stage.

David accepts private and direct access instructions in criminal cases where appropriate, and has a particular expertise in road traffic law.

Having previously prosecuted Customs, Revenue and DWP cases as counsel on the Attorney-General’s List, David is now a Grade 3 CPS prosecutor, on the Organised Crime, Fraud and Proceeds of Crime panels, and is a Grade B prosecutor for the Serious Fraud Office.

Judicial Review & Public Law

David also accepts Judicial Review and Public Law instructions.

Personal Injury & Professional Negligence

David’s personal injury practice, as well as advising on liability and quantum and conducting trials and disposal hearings, has included several claims involving interesting points of law, including claims under the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 1930, a claim by a security contractor injured on duty in Iraq and claims by users of rights of way over railways.

Planning, Property, Landlord & Tenant

David has always maintained a distinct property law practice, mainly dealing with business property in the context of commercial disputes. However, he accepts landlord and tenant instructions and has particular experience in dealing with neighbour and boundary disputes.

Professional Discipline & Regulatory

Local Government

David is regularly instructed by several London borough councils to prosecute environmental, trading standards, food hygiene and other regulatory cases, both in the magistrates’ and Crown Courts. He also advises on difficult points of regulatory and administrative law for local authorities and the police, as well as how to achieve policy aims through targeted and effective prosecutions. David has particular experience of prosecuting illegal money-lenders, from the pre-charge advisory stage to post-conviction confiscation proceedings.

Health & Safety

David accepts instructions for both sides in health & safety cases. In 2013 he was instructed as junior counsel to prosecute the organisers of the London Triathlon for failing to prevent the death of a spectator in 2009, a case in which the main defendant company received a fine of £300,000.

More recently he defended alone in a fire safety prosecution in which he secured the acquittal of one of his clients of all charges arising from an investigation into a north London restaurant.

Medical and Healthcare Regulation

David has a wide experience in Tribunal work, civil and criminal fraud of all types, and in dealing with expert medical evidence both in civil and criminal proceedings. He accepts instructions from both prosecuting agencies and from health professionals appearing before in Tribunals.

Financial Regulation

David’s criminal and civil fraud experience has led to him being instructed by central government bodies such as BIS to deal with insolvency and directors’ disqualification cases. He has worked with the FSA (now the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)) and continues to accept instructions both from regulatory bodies and from defendants in Tribunals.

Cases of Note

R v Lawrence (Crown Court, 2007)

Authority on the meaning of “cause or allow” in s 111A (1A) (d) of the Social Security Administration Act 1990.

R v Wright and others (Crown Court, 2007-8)

Junior counsel in a multi-handed tobacco smuggling case where the loss to the Revenue was £12.5m.

R v Muller (Crown Court, 2009)

Prosecution for HM Revenue and Customs of an importation into Harwich of 162 kilograms of cannabis. The prosecution case involved tachograph expert evidence as well as foreign evidence from six European countries.

R v Reynolds and Drew (Crown Court, 2010)

Junior counsel in a prosecution of a Sussex businessman for evasion of £650,000 of VAT.

R v Chen and Wang (Crown Court, 2010)

Prosecution of two defendants for the organised importation of more than 1.5 tons of tobacco from China to the UK.

Operation Tangelo II (Crown Court, 2010-2011)

Member of the disclosure team devising strategy and reviewing material in relation to a multimillion pound Excise and VAT Fraud.

R v Nassem (Crown Court, 2011)

Defended in confiscation proceedings in the case of a convicted fraudster. The Crown sought an order for £9m and the case settled at less than £2m.

LB Croydon v Iceland Ltd (Crown Court, 2011)

Prosecution of the food store Iceland for allowing their supply chain of supposedly ready-to-eat chicken curry to be contaminated with uncooked meat. The company received a total financial penalty of over £25,000.

R v Senyah and Bondzie (Crown Court, 2012)

Advised throughout the case, and prosecuted at trial, a complex benefit fraud where the defendants invented a false identity and maintained it for decades in order to claim a series of fraudulent benefits in the false name.

LB Tower Hamlets v IMG Ltd and AYS Ltd (Crown Court, 2012)

Prosecution junior counsel in health and safety prosecution of the organisers of the London Triathlon arising from the death of a spectator.

R v Ahmed and O’Neill (Crown Court, 2012)

Sole prosecution counsel in cannabis farm case. Both defendants were convicted of guarding the largest cannabis farm discovered in central Kent for over 10 years.

R v Eshpari and others (Crown Court, 2012)

Prosecution junior in the first land banking fraud trial in the UK. The prosecution successfully proved that the defendants’ business was a fraud as opposed to a legitimate investment scheme. The case raised several novel points and set the standard for subsequent land banking prosecutions.

R v Parma and Mori; “Operation Echowood” (Crown Court, 2013-4)

Prosecution junior at both prosecution and confiscation stages. Operation Echowood, in which two defendants smuggled over 100 lorry loads of Italian wine into the UK, was HMRC’s second biggest prosecution of 2013 by revenue loss and involved complex legal issues arising from the defendants’ extraditions from Italy to the UK.

Graham v Eltham Conservative and Unionist Club and others [2013] EWHC 979 (QB)

Appeared for the respondents in a series of conjoined appeals against decisions to strike out claims of racial discrimination by a club against its member. Hickinbottom J’s judgment gave general guidance on courts’ powers to deal with litigants in person and McKenzie friends.

R v Thomas (Crown Court, 2013)

Defence counsel for grandfather accused of sexually assaulting his granddaughter.

R v Yeboah (Crown Court, 2013)

Sole prosecution counsel in £120,000 VAT fraud case. The defendant was convicted of inventing or inflating his repayment claims for exports of green technology from the UK to Ghana.

Notebook Ltd v HMRC (First Tier Tribunal, 2013)

Instructed as junior counsel for HMRC in £6m MTIC fraud appeal to the Tax Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal.

R v Jeyakodi and others; “Operation Ben Nevis” (Crown Court, 2013-4)

Prosecution junior in multi-handed trial for conspiracy to commit immigration offences by Sri Lankan Tamils. A ground-breaking successful Home Office and police prosecution that relied on intensive cooperation with French and German police, foreign telephone intercepts and failed asylum seekers as prosecution witnesses.

R v Dobbs (Crown Court, 2013-4)

Sole prosecution counsel in £187,000 VAT fraud case at both prosecution and confiscation stages.

London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority v Malik and Saddique (Crown Court, 2013-4)

Defence counsel for restaurant accused of serious health and safety breaches. The case involved a novel and complex legal point on a tenant’s liability under fire regulations.

R v Hughes and others; “Operation Lighthouse” (Crown Court, 2014)

Prosecution junior in £2m alcohol fraud organised from Northern Ireland but involving lorry loads of often counterfeit spirits smuggled across the Channel from France to England.

Operation St Louis (Crown Court, 2014)

Sole prosecution counsel in prosecution of Cash and Carry business accused of being the beneficiary of large scale smuggling of beer and wine into the UK.

Operations Opposite, Brattice and Flesh (Crown Court, 2014)

Currently instructed as prosecution counsel in multi-handed £5m confiscation proceedings arising from three separate investigations into the importation of more than half a ton of heroin from Pakistan to the UK.

Operation Calluna (Crown Court, 2014)

David is instructed as junior prosecution counsel in this eight-handed case involving the importation of 26 tons of tobacco through the Gambian embassy. Four of the defendants were Gambian diplomats during the indictment period.

Operation Amazon (Crown Court, 2014)

Instructed as one of a team of disclosure counsel in this long-running £100m tax fraud case

“Operation Pagina” (Crown Court, 2014-)

Instructed by the NCA as independent disclosure counsel to consider potentially LPP material in this investigation of a suspected attempt to pervert the course of justice arising from a serious fraud trial.

R v Baxendale-Walker (Crown Court, 2013-6)

Instructed as junior counsel in fraud prosecution against a former tax solicitor arising from High Court proceedings in 2011.

R v Affi (Court of Appeal) [2014] EWCA Crim 2008

Represented the appellant in this successful appeal against sentence for robbery on the grounds of exceeding the Sentencing Guidelines and disparity between offenders.

“Operation Nifle” (Crown Court, 2015)

Instructed as junior counsel in NCA money laundering case where the defendants are alleged to have arranged to launder £550,000 in criminal proceeds for the benefit of a multi-billion pound Indian corporation.

Chatwani and others v NCA; “Operation Heterodon” (Administrative Court; Investigatory Powers Tribunal) [2015] EWHC 1283 (Admin); [2015] EWHC 1284 (Admin); and [2015] UKIPTrib 15/84/88-CH

Instructed as junior counsel for the NCA in this complex series of connected cases involving judicial reviews of PACE search warrants, POCA production orders and the arrests and detention of suspects. Also instructed in a similar hearing before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in which the Tribunal quashed an authorisation to plant covert surveillance devices in business premises.

R v Abukar and others; “Operation Miching” (Central Criminal Court, 2015)

David is currently instructed as prosecution junior counsel in this very large scale courier fraud prosecution due for trial in late 2015.