James Watson is Watson Woodhouse’s Chairman and Head of Special Case Work. For over three decades James has successfully grown Watson Woodhouse from a small criminal defence practice to make it the leading multi-specialist solicitors in Teesside, Durham and North Yorkshire.
As a very highly regarded and much sought after criminal defence solicitor, James works nationally and internationally, specialising in white collar and cyber fraud cases.
James graduated from Newcastle University in 1979 and from Guildford College of Law in 1979. He qualified as a solicitor in 1982 and has since then devoted his career to providing access to justice to individuals who are in conflict with the State. His first major case was in Housing Law, acting for the defendants in Redcar Borough Council v Boase and others, 1984 – 1986, a High Court challenge to a local authority seeking to forcibly evict its tenants in order to block privatise lucrative parts of its housing stock. The case was of national significance and won for the defendants on the technical basis of inadequate consultation. It was the subject of broad national debate and Parliamentary scrutiny, and resulted in tenants being given important additional rights in the Housing Act 1988. James represented many families who lost children in the Cleveland Sexual Abuse scandal of 1987, successfully securing the return of all the children following contested High Court proceedings. He worked closely with Sir Stuart Bell MP in the process that led to his private members bill becoming the Children Act 1989, a major piece of legislation reforming the law relating to children. He secured acquittals in a sequence of murder trials during this period.
In 1988 he founded the firm that became Watson Woodhouse in order to establish a specialised practice providing access to justice to the individual, regardless of means and across all areas of law. He brought with him specialists in Family Law, Housing Law, Criminal Law, and High Court Judicial Review.
He gained acquittals throughout the 1980’s on a number of domestic murders. During the 1990s he secured acquittals for all defendants in a sequence of “gangland” trials involving the murders of Kevin ‘Rico’ Richardson, Lee Duffy and Lee King. From 1997 – 2000 he was centrally involved in exposing the “drugs for confessions” scandal at Cleveland Police, overturning the conviction of MC in the Court of Appeal and leading to Operation Lancet. Between 2000 – 2003 he represented 7 defendants in the notorious Operation Imago trial , which culminated in a 9 month pre-trial hearing examining allegations of serious malpractice involving senior police officers and which resulted in the indictment being stayed against all defendants. Between 2003 – 2008 he was involved in a string of alleged drug conspiracy cases in which all defendants were acquitted, concluding with the case of R v BT at Newcastle Crown Court in March 2008.
More recent notable cases include:
R v AD and others. March 2015, Teesside CC (Operation Bamburgh).
£7m mortgage fraud. Client acquitted after trial.
R v AP and others, February 2016, Teesside CC.
Conspiracy to supply cocaine. Acquitted after trial.
R v KE. Lincoln Crown Court, November 2016, Court of Appeal May 2017.
Double familial murder (mother and sister) by 14 yr old girl. Leading authority on anonymity of youths.
R v CG and others. January 2017, Southwark CC. (Operation Tambourine).
£5m conspiracy to import counterfeit material from Far East. Client acquitted after pre trial argument.
R v MK and others. November 2017, Teesside CC. (Operation Cleo).
£20m conspiracy to defraud. Acquitted following collapse of trial.
R v DA. March 2018. Inner London Crown Court.
Murder. Discharged jury.
James is currently conducting cases of high value MTIC fraud, conspiracy and murder before the Crown Courts in Inner London, Lewes, Liverpool and Leeds.