Jessica Wells has a broad commercial and international practice, with a particular interest in public international law, public law, shipping law and international commercial arbitration. In 2017, she was appointed to the Attorney General’s “A Panel” of Public International Law Counsel.
Jessica is experienced in both advisory work and litigation before the domestic courts (including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court) and international tribunals (including the ICJ, ICSID, ICC, LCIA and LMAA).
“An absolutely brilliant junior with a very strong background of PIL expertise.” “Very impressive written advocacy.” – Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021
“She is a delight and lovely to work with.” – Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2018
“She writes some very impressive submissions and is very good to work with.” – Chambers UK Bar 2017
- Examples of recent cases
Recent notable cases include:
- R (oao Campaign Against Arms Trade) v Secretary of State for International Trade  EWHC 1754 (Admin);  HRLR 8: Instructed (with Sir James Eadie QC and Jonathan Glasson QC) by the Secretary of State in this challenge to the licensing of military equipment to Saudi Arabia for use in the conflict in Yemen. The Divisional Court, reviewing both open and closed material, concluded that the Secretary of State’s decision to continue to grant export licences was not irrational. CAAT’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was heard in April 2019.
- R (oao) Tony Michael Jimenez v (1) First Tier Tax Tribunal & (2) HMRC  EWCA Civ 51: Instructed (with Sir James Eadie QC and James Rivett) by HMRC in their successful appeal. The Court of Appeal confirmed that HMRC has power to serve a notice requiring the provision of information on a taxpayer who is outside the jurisdiction, rejecting the taxpayer’s submission that such service would constitute an exercise of enforcement jurisdiction in breach of international law.
- R (oao Freedom and Justice Party) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs  EWCA Civ 1719: Instructed (with Karen Steyn QC and Guglielmo Verdirame) by the Secretary of State in his successful defence of a claim for judicial review brought by, inter alia, the Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt. The claimants had sought the arrest of the Director of the Egyptian Military Intelligence Service during the course of an official visit to the United Kingdom. The FCO had certified that consent had been given to his visit as a special mission. The Court of Appeal upheld the Divisional Court’s ruling that there was a rule of customary international law under which a member of a special mission was entitled to personal inviolability and immunity from criminal jurisdiction and that the common law gave effect to this customary international law rule.
- Benkharbouche v Embassy of Sudan  UKSC 62;  3 WLR 957 and Reyes v Al Malki  UKSC 61;  3 WLR 923: Instructed (with Karen Steyn QC and Ben Jaffey QC respectively) by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which intervened in these two appeals to the Supreme Court. The appeal in Benkharbouche, concerned the compatibility of certain provisions of the State Immunity Act with Articles 6 and 14 of the ECHR and Article 47 of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Al Malki concerned the scope of diplomatic immunity in the context of the employment of a domestic worker.
- Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v United Kingdom) (International Court of Justice): Instructed (with Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC and Guglielmo Verdirame) by the United Kingdom. Following a Preliminary Objections hearing in March 2016, the ICJ accepted, in its Judgment of 5 October 2016, that there was no justiciable dispute between the parties and that it could therefore not proceed to hear the merits of the claim. law gave effect to this customary international rule.
- Arbitration & related court applications
Jessica has acted and advised in arbitrations across a wide range of jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, Singapore and the Dubai International Financial Centre. She has experience of a wide range of institutional rules, including ICC, LCIA, LMAA and UNCITRAL. Jessica also sits as an arbitrator and is a member of the LCIA. Recent instructions include:
- Representing the respondent state in two related billion dollar investment disputes under UNCITRAL rules;
- Acting and advising in an arbitration involving claims of breach of trust, fiduciary duty and contract in the context of the sale and supply of oil;
- Acting and advising in a challenge to an LMAA arbitral award under 68 of the Arbitration Act, on the grounds that the tribunal had failed in their duty to act fairly and impartially and failed to consider all the issues which were put to it.
- Commercial dispute resolution
Jessica advises and acts in a wide range of commercial disputes, both alone and as junior counsel. She has appeared on her own, and as a junior, in a number of tribunals, including the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Recent reported cases include:
- Egiazaryan v OJSC OEK Finance  EWHC 3532 (Comm);  1 Lloyd’s Rep 295: Jessica was instructed (with Richard Millett QC) for the Respondents in this application under section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 which raised issues of choice of law and abuse of process.
- Sonatrach SpA v Statoil Natural Gas LLC  EWHC 875 (Comm). Jessica (with Toby Landau QC) represented Statoil in the defence of the application by Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, to set aside an ICC award. Flaux J dismissed the application, rejecting Sonatrach’s contentions that the tribunal had failed to take into account key evidence and had improperly delegated authority to its administrative secretary.
- AES Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydro Power Plant LLP v Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydro Power Plant JSC  UKSC 35;  1 WLR 1889. Jessica was instructed (initially with Bernard Eder QC and latterly with Toby Landau QC) by AES in this successful application for an antisuit injunction, restraining proceedings in Kazakhstan brought in breach of an arbitration agreement. In the appeal to the Supreme Court, JSC contended that the courts’ powers to grant declaratory or injunctive relief in respect of arbitration are limited to those contained in the Arbitration Act 1996. The Supreme Court conclusively rejected this appeal, confirming that the 1996 Act does not constitute an exclusive code and does not remove the courts’ general jurisdiction to grant relief under s. 37 of the Senior Courts Act.
- Human rights & civil liberties
Jessica was instructed by the Government as junior counsel in Othman (Abu Qatada) v United Kingdom (2012) 55 EHRR 1, before the European Court of Human Rights and in the subsequent domestic proceedings before SIAC, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Jessica is acting (with Hugh Mercer QC) for the claimant landowners in King and others v Environment Agency  EWHC 65 (QB);  Env. LR 19. The claimants claimed that the Environment Agency, in adopting a policy of using their land for flood protection purposes without the payment of compensation, had breached Article 1 of the First Protocol of the ECHR. An application to the European Court of Human Rights is pending.
Jessica has also been involved in a number of safety on return cases, involving allegations that returning the applicant to their home state would violate Article 3, whether as a result of ill treatment directly at the hands of the authorities of the receiving state, or as a result of the general conditions in the receiving state, including access to medical facilities.
Jessica is the Editor of the European Human Rights Reports.
- Public & administrative law
Jessica has acted and advised in a variety of public law cases. She is currently instructed by the Government in R (oao Campaign Against Arms Trade) v Secretary of State for International Trade, which concerns a challenge to the grant of licences to export arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia for use in the conflict in Yemen. Jessica also has a particular interest in agricultural matters and has recently acted in litigation relating to the application of the Welfare at the Time of Killing Regulations (R (oao) Association of Independent Meat Suppliers  EWHC 1961 (Admin) and of the Single Payment Scheme (Stody Estate Ltd v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  EWHC 378 (Admin).
- Public international law
Jessica has a particular interest in Public International Law, building on her experience of teaching the subject at Oxford University. In 2017, she was appointed to the Attorney General’s “A Panel” of Public International Law Counsel and regularly appears in the domestic courts in cases involving issues of Public International Law.
She was recently instructed by the United Kingdom Government in relation to the application of the Marshall Islands to the International Court of Justice alleging breach of obligations owed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law.
As a pupil, she appeared before the International Court of Justice as Counsel for Rwanda in Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application: 2002) (Democratic Republic of Congo v Rwanda).
Jessica was instructed by the UK Government in Eurotunnel v. UK and France (an arbitration concerning the Channel Tunnel).
- Shipping & admiralty
Jessica is developing considerable experience in this area, and regularly acts and advises in relation to a wide range of shipping matters. Recent reported cases include:
- Palmali Shipping SA v Litasco SA  EWHC 2634 (Comm): Jessica is instructed (with Nathan Pillow QC) by the Claimant in a billion dollar claim arising under a Contract of Affreightment. The matter is listed for a six week trial in 2020.
- Golden Endurance Shipping SA v RMA Watanya SA  EWHC 2110 (Comm): This phase of the proceedings raised the, previously undecided, issue of whether the commencement of proceedings in a “Hamburg Rules” state is sufficient to stop time running for the purposes of Article III rule 6 of the Hague Rules.
- Golden Endurance Shipping SA v RMA Watanya SA  EWHC 3917 (Comm);  2 All ER (Comm): Jessica acted for the defendant insurers in a cargo dispute, in setting aside an anti suit injunction restraining proceedings commenced in Morocco and in challenging the jurisdiction of the English court.
2016 Editor, European Human Rights Reports
2004 Call: Lincoln’s Inn
2000- 2003 Lecturer in Law and Fellow by Special Election, Keble College, University of Oxford
1998 Research Assistant, Law Commission
2004 BVC (Very Competent), Inns of Court School of Law
2000 BCL (Distinction), Keble College, University of Oxford
1998 BA Hons (First Class) (Law), Keble College, University of Oxford (ranked 3rd in Year)
2004 Megarry Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn
2003 Lord Denning Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn
2001 Hardwicke Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn
2000 John Morris Prize for Best Paper in Conflict of Laws (BCL)
1997 Proxime Accessit in Gibbs Prize in Law, University of Oxford
1997 Scholarship, Keble College, University of Oxford