Rhona Friedman

Rhona has been a criminal solicitor for over twenty years specialising in complex homicide cases, extradition work, advise and representation in international Mutual Legal Assistance cases, serious fraud and financial crime including allegations of off-shore money laundering, ‘boiler room‘ fraud and terrorism-related matters.

As part of a proactive defence approach Rhona has travelled to Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Switzerland to speak to witnesses and gather evidence for cases.

She is also experienced in cases with a mental health component, or where defendants are particularly vulnerable because of their age, learning disability or neuro diversity or for some other reason.

Rhona is one of only 5 defence solicitors recommended in Chambers and Partners for expertise in protest defence. She has defended anti-war, environmental and climate crisis activists and campaigners against human rights abuses and has acted as an advisor to the Black Protest Legal Support Group.

Rhona’s appeal practice is often in the news. She currently represents Charles and Diana Ingram seeking to overturn their conviction for cheating on quiz show “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire”. Link

In 2020 Rhona’s client Robert Firkins had his conviction for double murder referred by the Criminal Case Review Commission following submissions co-authored by Rhona and Jane Hickman of Hickman and Rose Solicitors acting on behalf of Robert’s brother Lee Firkins.

Also, in 2020 the Commission referred the historic convictions of striking union members the Shrewsbury Pickets. Link Rhona drafted the successful submissions for the Shrewsbury Pickets case when at her previous firm Bindmans LLP.

Here’s what people say:

She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of criminal law and a real passion for justice.” Chambers UK 2020

absolutely fantastic and incredibly committed.”  Chambers UK 2017

obviously brilliant” receives praise for her legal aid work and experience in appellate proceedings.

Sources report: “She is a bright and innovative solicitor who is very good on psychiatric and psychological issues. She is very good on the analysis of cases, finding things that other people would not.” Chambers UK 2016

exceptionally bright and very charismatic“. Chambers UK 2015

Sources describe Rhona Friedman as “absolutely fantastic,” “her understanding of not just  criminal law but of the context – the way police work, the way in which organised crime works – is just phenomenal.” Chambers UK 2014

​Notable cases:

R v M – successful defence of a man extradited to the UK alleged to be the head of a multi- million pound Class A drug supply gang. Rhona identified multiple failures of prosecution disclosure which caused the case to be halted during a retrial

R v S – successfully defended young man accused of a gun killing of a teenager in Camden

​R v M – client acquitted of gang related gun murder in Tottenham High Road

​R v P – historic family allegation brought to a halt during trial after expert evidence of a false confession

​R v M – successful defence of community activist and rights campaigner accused of fraud

​R v McKnight – successful defence of businessman accused of attempted murder

​R v Hamza – successful defence of well-known engineer and social reformer accused of plotting to kill high ranking Egyptian political figures

​R v A – attempted murder acquittal of teenager accused of knife revenge attack in Essex

R v E – a successful psychiatric defence of a woman accused of attempted murder of her adopted child

Rhona was on the advisory panel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission statutory inquiry into the treatment of disabled people in the criminal justice system in 2019

Rhona was named Times Lawyer of the Week for representing Samantha Orobator whose release from death row in Laos was secured by the legal charity Reprieve

Rhona is a committee member of the London Criminal Courts’ Solicitors Association and is a co-founder of the campaigning organisation Justice Alliance

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Grace Loncraine

Throughout her legal career, Grace has practiced almost exclusively in criminal defence, conducting advocacy in the Magistrates’ Court, litigation at the Crown Court and protecting her clients’ interests during interviews with the police. She has a varied caseload, representing clients charged with offences ranging from serious fraud to murder. She is also instructed in extradition matters, criminal appeals and in crime-related work (such as challenging the disclosure of criminal records and cash forfeiture proceedings).  

Grace has a particular interest in cases involving police misconduct, and regularly challenges irregularities in evidence gathering and disclosure. She has extensive knowledge of police powers in the arrest and detention of suspects, and has given training on this topic to other professionals.  

Grace specialises in youth work, conducting her own advocacy in youth trials. She frequently succeeds in diverting young people out of the criminal justice system. A social worker supporting a young person Grace recently defended wrote:  

I have been extremely happy and satisfied working with Grace. She has been professional, very knowledgeable and contactable.  She has made the whole process for my young person a better experience.  My young person struggles with other professionals, but Grace was amazing with her and has also helped me understand legal situations and advocated well.  I wish I could use Grace for all of my cases.” 

Grace’s notable recent cases include: 

R v M (2020) – Guilty plea to half-a-million-pound fraud against former employers. On the back of psychological and psychiatric reports prepared on behalf of the defence, Client received a sentence which was half the length argued for by the Prosecution.  

R v C (2019) – Secured not-guilty verdict for a youth following a successful argument that his comments in interview should be excluded because they were made in response to misleading information 

R v M (2020) – Secured not-guilty verdict after successfully rebutting the Crown’s argument that youth client could be found guilty on a joint enterprise basis.  

R v N (2020) – Crown agreed to drop charge of possessing a loaded firearm as part of plea deal.  

Grace graduated from the University of St Andrews with first class honours in English Literature and Spanish. Outside of her day-to-day practice, Grace has delivered online CPD-certified lectures on updates in the criminal law and campaigns on issues affecting access to justice. She is a founding member of Legal Sector Workers United, a grassroots trade union. 

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Ben Stuttard

Ben is a specialist criminal lawyer who represents and advises in criminal investigations and prosecutions. He qualified as a solicitor in 2015 with a reputable human rights firm and was a co-founder of Commons when the firm opened in 2017.

He has considerable experience representing people from a wide range of backgrounds facing criminal allegations ranging from lesser offences through to Firearms, Fraud and Money Laundering, Modern Slavery Act offences and murder. 

Through a pro-active approach where appropriate and expert judgement, Ben is regularly able to divert cases away from prosecution during an investigation.

As an advocate, Ben regularly represents his clients at trial in magistrates’ courts in London and beyond. 

Ben is committed to representing clients on Legal Aid where it is available and is also happy to accept instructions on a privately funded basis where it is not.

Ben also represents individuals facing extradition to stand trial or serve sentences in other jurisdictions and also those facing extradition into the UK.

In addition to criminal proceedings, Ben is frequently contacted at short notice by charities and other lawyers to represent extremely vulnerable clients facing applications for closure orders which if granted would result in the loss of their homes.

Prior to qualification as a solicitor, Ben worked for an international NGO in Kosovo and Serbia. His recent cases include:


​R -v- G (2019)

Human Trafficking case involving multi- jurisdictional investigation

R -v- S (2019)

Money Laundering allegation in the context of a multi million pound, multi-jurisdictional Class A drugs supply operation

R -v- J (2018)

After an acquittal was secured in the Magistrates Court, Ben’s client was nevertheless remanded in custody owing to failings in the Court and prison administration to authorise the release of the client. Ben made an urgent application to the High Court on a Friday evening to secure a writ of Habeus Corpus ordering the client’s immediate release

​R v G (2017)

Ben acted in the unique case of R v G where G was accused of preventing a lawful burial, perverting the court of justice and perjury

​R v S & others (2016)

Ben’s client was the only defendant out of five to be acquitted in a case which attracted national press coverage

Extradition ​

Republic of Turkey -v- S. (2019)

Ben successfully defended a request brought by Turkey in relation to a local businessman on Human Rights grounds

​Republic of Kosovo – v- K (2017)

Ben acted in the first extradition request brought by the Republic of Kosovo in relation to a murder allegation. Submissions were made leading to the discharge of the arrest warrant

​In 2018 Commons were subjected to an independent peer review by the Legal Aid Agency. Twelve of Ben’s cases were randomly selected for scrutiny by an experienced solicitor working in criminal defence. The firm as a whole was one of 16 firms nationally in 2018 to receive a mark of ‘Excellent’, the highest mark available. In particular the reviewer noted:

  • “very good police station advice”
  • “much thought being given to legal strategy”
  • “extremely careful and thorough trial preparation”
  • “relatively unusual and complex cases were handled particularly well”
  • “excellent outcomes”

​Ben’s work is frequently found to be conducted with “exceptional competence, skill or expertise” when assessed by the Legal Aid Agency. Here’s what his clients and others say:

  • “You not only gave me excellent advice, but put me at ease when we first met at the police station. You were confident, thorough and professional, which in turn gave me confidence.”
  • “My experience with Ben has been astonishing. He has worked extremely hard and gone the extra mile. His knowledge of law is spot on. He is a true fighter who never gives up.” 
  • “Thanks very much for all your help and the clever argument you put forward that resulted in the case being cut short.”
  • “Thanks again for the hard work and effort you’ve put into these cases for me. I really do appreciate it.”
  • “I wanted to thank you for all your time and fantastic support… I’m really glad about the outcome and will definitely contact you in the future if I or my colleagues come across any similar cases.” (from referrer)
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Commons Sense 05 – after ITV’s Quiz, what is next for Charles & Diana Ingram?

In 2001 Major Charles Ingram, a contestant on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’, was said to have cheated his way to the top prize of £1m by relying on coughs from an accomplice in the audience indicating the correct answers. This alleged accomplice was Tecwen Whittock. Charles’ wife Diana, sitting in the audience, was supposedly also in on the ruse. The trio were convicted at Southwark Crown Court in 2003.

For the last 17 years, Charles and Diana have steadfastly maintained their innocence. Rhona Friedman of Commons is representing the couple in their upcoming appeal (read more here – you can also watch a dramatized version of events in ITV’s Quiz). Here we explain what the legal process looks like for the Ingrams.

What crime were the Ingram’s supposed to have committed?

Many people do not realise that cheating on a gameshow can be a criminal offence. The specific crime that Charles, Diana and Tecwen were convicted of is “procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception”. 

  • A valuable security can be a document which transfers one person’s right in property to another – e.g. a cheque for a million pounds. 

  • A cheque is executed when the property owner – say, the show’s host Chris Tarrant – signs it. Charles and the others are said to have “procured” the signing of the cheque because it was alleged that they did something which caused Chris to sign it, like giving 15 correct answers.

  • Finally, they were said to have achieved all of this by deception – in this case, it was the apparent cheating which was the false representation. If, whilst slowly working his way through the answers, talking Chris through his thought process, Charles was really just buying time whilst waiting for Tecwen to cough to indicate a correct answer, then he was falsely representing to the host that he was playing by the game’s rules. 


How can the Ingram’s get their conviction overturned? 

Charles and Diana were convicted by a jury sitting in the Crown Court. That means only the Court of Appeal can overturn their conviction. In 2004 Charles unsuccessfully tried to appeal. Diana has so far not applied for permission to appeal and so we are preparing Grounds of Appeal for her alone at present. This will be based on advances in scientific evidence which were not available in 2003, the year of the original trial.  

Diana needs to apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. This is a written application, in which the defendant (now called the appellant) attempts to convince a single Court of Appeal judge that it is “reasonably arguable” that their appeal could succeed. 

If the single judge gives permission then at a later date the defendant’s arguments are heard, in person, before the full court of three Appeal judges  These judges decide whether the conviction should be overturned or not. 

If the single judge does not think that the written application has revealed any reasonable chance of success, the appellant can still present their case to the full court, by “renewing” their application for permission. Not everyone does this, however: partly because legal aid (public funding for lawyers) won’t automatically be granted, and partly because if the appellant is in prison it can sometimes result in extra prison time if the Court of Appeal think an application with no merit has been continued. 

An appellant only gets one shot at going directly to the Court of Appeal. If Charles wanted to appeal again he would need to go through a separate legal process, via the Criminal Cases Review Commission. However, 

Because of the interconnected nature of the evidence in this case if Diana gets leave to appeal the Court should then go on to reconsider the safety of the conviction of Charles and Tecwen Whittock at the same time. 

Sign up here to receive further updates on the Ingrams’ case: ingramsappeal.org

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Commons Sense 04 – ‘under the radar’ injustices

An allegation of fare evasion is one of the most common interactions many people have with the criminal justice system. With the advent of technologies that allow people to ‘tap in’ with debit or credit cards, as opposed to buying a paper ticket or using a pre-paid card (such as the Oyster card in London) – it has probably never been easier, on certain modes of transport, to buy a ticket to travel.

Alongside this, the government has shifted the process for people who are accused of fare evasion so that it has never been easier for them to enter Guilty pleas online and in some areas of the country, via a new scheme called the Single Justice Procedure. The Single Justice Procedure is where a single magistrate deals with adult summary-only, non-imprisonable offences for “guilty” pleas and “proof in absence” cases. The magistrate sits with a legal advisor outside of a court room without the defendant or prosecutor being present, for cases such as speeding, vehicle excise duty and fare evasion. According to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, these cases account for about 850,000 of the total cases per annum.

There are, however, a multitude of circumstances in which someone may not have had a valid ticket for travel on a particular occasion but the wider reasons for this may mean that it is not in the public interest to prosecute them for a criminal offence. It is very difficult for people to know, without legal advice, whether their individual circumstances mean that such issues should be raised on their behalf instead of them being criminalised. Unfortunately, as things stand, it is unlikely to be viewed as being ‘in the interests of justice’ for such people to be granted Legal Aid, in order to support them to receive that advice.

In addition, many fare evasion cases are not brought by the state prosecutor, the Crown Prosecution Service, but by private prosecutors such as rail companies or transport bodies like Transport for London. These private prosecutors often seek their legal costs from the individual they are prosecuting. This can mean £225.00 legal fees being claimed from the accused person for a failure to purchase a £1.50 bus ticket.

In the drive for efficiency, the triple combo of the Single Justice Procedure, a lack of legal aid for individuals, and high legal fees being claimed by private prosecutors have meant that people are being penalised disproportionately and unnecessarily. These ‘under the radar’ injustices do not attract a lot of scrutiny or attention given the low level nature of the offences involved. However, in our view, the criminal justice system itself risks being undermined in the eyes of the public where people feel they are being are criminalised with a lack of substantial and significant scrutiny.

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