Professional practice

Legal 500 Rising Star

Stephen has a varied commercial practice, and appears led and unled before courts and before arbitral tribunals under rules including UNCITRAL, ICC, LCIA, and LMAA. As sole counsel he is instructed both in commercial arbitrations and in courts at all levels, from the Commercial Court and Chancery Division to the Privy Council.

He has been described in recent directory editions as ‘an exceptional junior’, ‘first rate and very hard working’ with ‘the ability to fit in and get on with a wide spread of individuals’ and ‘incredible attention to detail’, and being ‘very hard working, clever and professionally competent’ and ‘wise beyond his years and an intellectual powerhouse.’ (Legal500 2022 & 2023)

As a complement to his commercial practice, Stephen practises in in public international law disputes before international and domestic courts and tribunals.

Some of Stephen’s recent cases include the following:

  • Crane Bank Ltd v DFCU Bank Ltd [2022] EWHC 1121 (Comm), [2021] EWHC 2364 (Comm): claim by a Ugandan bank alleging breach of trust and fiduciary duty by the Bank of Uganda and a conspiracy between it and the defendants, raising issues of foreign act of state (led by Ricky Diwan KC, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP)
  • Advising on issues under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union (instructed by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office)
  • A shareholder dispute between members of a well-known retail company, arbitrated under the UNCITRAL Rules (led by David Davies KC, instructed by Hogan Lovells)
  • Gem Management Ltd v Firefox Ltd [2022] UKPC 17: appeal from Mauritius to the Privy Council in a commercial claim for payment of sums in connexion with the sale of a shareholding (as sole counsel, instructed by Berkeley Rowe)
  • Heathrow Airport Ltd v HM Treasury [2021] EWCA Civ 783: judicial review of the withdrawal of VAT-free schemes, alleging breaches of WTO law (one of The Lawyer’s ‘Top 20 cases of 2021’, led by Eleni Mitrophanous KC, Naina Patel, and Raj Desai, instructed by HMRC)
  • Arauco Navigation Ltd v China Navigation Company Pte Ltd (‘CCNI Arauco’): multi-party Commercial Court charterparty dispute arising from an explosion and fire on board a container vessel (led Christopher Smith KC, instructed by Reed Smith LLP)

In 2020 Stephen was appointed to the Attorney General’s public international law C panel of counsel. In 2021 he was promoted to the London B panel.

Stephen is an author of the forthcoming edition of Company Directors (OUP), has had articles on international law and on human rights published in leading journals, and is an assistant editor of the European Human Rights Reports.

Before coming to the bar, Stephen was judicial assistant to Lord Kerr in the Supreme Court and Privy Council, and taught public international law at the University of Edinburgh and King’s College London. He studied law at Glasgow, Oxford, and Yale (as a Fulbright scholar and board member of the Yale Journal of International Law). He is also a practising advocate at the Scottish bar.

Stephen is fluent in French and has a working knowledge of several other languages.

 

What Others Say

Legal 500 UK Bar 2023, Tax: VAT and excise 

“An exceptional junior, Stephen takes on difficult and time-sensitive tasks without hesitation and delivers insightful and thorough results. He has remarkable research and drafting skills, which he combines with a particularly impressive in-depth knowledge of tax law.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2023, Shipping

“Very hard working, clever and professionally competent.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2022, Shipping

“First rate and very hard working. He is also a good team player with the ability to fit in and get on with a wide spread of individuals. Incredible attention to detail, wise beyond his years and an intellectual powerhouse.”

Commercial dispute resolution

Gem Management Ltd v Firefox Ltd [2022] UKPC 17: appeal from Mauritius to the Privy Council in a commercial claim for payment of sums in connexion with the sale of a shareholding (sole counsel, instructed by Berkeley Rowe)

Crane Bank Ltd v DFCU Bank Ltd [2022] EWHC 1121 (Comm), [2021] EWHC 2364 (Comm): claim by a Ugandan bank alleging breach of trust and fiduciary duty by the Bank of Uganda and a conspiracy between it and the defendants, raising issues of foreign act of state (led by Ricky Diwan KC, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP)

Export Credits Guarantee Dept v BAE Systems plc: ongoing Commercial Court claim arising out of non-repayment by BAE, following arbitral proceedings against the Iranian Ministry of Defence, of sums paid to it by the Department under various guarantee agreements (led by Roderick Cordara KC, instructed by the Government Legal Department)

Derine v The Family Officer Ltd: Commercial Court claim for damages for breach of an alleged investment agreement (sole counsel, instructed by Withers LLP)

Urincha v Libra: Commercial Court claim alleging breaches of derivative contracts for the financing of container ships and related unlawful-means conspiracy (led by Philippa Hopkins KC, instructed by Fried Frank, for the defendants)

London Partners Capital Management LLP v Utkan [2021] EWHC 1647 (Comm): claim for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, knowing receipt, and dishonest assistance by an investment management firm as assignee of an Albanian bank, involving freezing and search orders and an additional claim by Mr Utkan against the CEO of the bank for an indemnity (led by David Davies KC, instructed by Steptoe & Johnson)

De Cristofaro v Cerri: Commercial Court claim for damages for breach of an alleged loan agreement, said by the defendant to be a forgery (sole counsel, instructed by Withers LLP)

Yukos v Georgiades [2020] EWHC 173 (Comm): Commercial Court trial of claims for fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty by a director and for knowing receipt of their proceeds (led by Jamie Goldsmith KC, instructed by CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP, for Yukos)

Yukos v Merinson [2020] QB 336 (Court of Appeal): fraud claim under Dutch law against a former senior employee raising issues of jurisdiction, conflict of laws, and the effect of foreign court settlements (led by James Willan KC, instructed by CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP)

Latin American Investments Ltd v Maroil Trading Inc. [2017] EWHC 1254 (Comm): Commercial Court claims for breach of fiduciary duty and secret profits, with applications for freezing relief (led by David Foxton KC and Louise Hutton KC, instructed by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP)

Advising the defendant law firm in a large claim for negligent misrepresentation, currently pending in a foreign jurisdiction and raising novel issues of common-law jurisdiction (led by Joe Smouha KC)

Banking & financial services

Crane Bank Ltd v DFCU Bank Ltd [2022] EWHC 1121 (Comm), [2021] EWHC 2364 (Comm): claim by a Ugandan bank alleging breach of trust and fiduciary duty by the Bank of Uganda and a conspiracy between it and the defendants, raising issues of foreign act of state (led by Ricky Diwan KC, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP)

Advising a government entity on novel legal and factual issues arising from the tracing of unlawfully acquired crypto assets (as sole counsel).

Derine v The Family Officer Ltd: Commercial Court claim for damages for breach of an alleged investment agreement (sole counsel, instructed by Withers LLP)

Urincha v Libra: Commercial Court claim alleging breaches of derivative contracts for the financing of container ships and related unlawful-means conspiracy (led by Philippa Hopkins KC, instructed by Fried Frank)

London Partners Capital Management LLP v Utkan [2021] EWHC 1647 (Comm): claim for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, knowing receipt, and dishonest assistance by an investment management firm as assignee of an Albanian bank, involving freezing and search orders and an additional claim by Mr Utkan against the CEO of the bank for an indemnity (led by David Davies KC, instructed by Steptoe & Johnson)

De Cristofaro v Cerri: Commercial Court claim for damages for breach of an alleged loan agreement, said by the defendant to be a forgery (sole counsel, instructed by Withers LLP)

LCIA arbitration under a $300m facility agreement

JAMS arbitration under a contract for financial services (sole counsel)

Arbitration & related court applications

Arbitrations

Pair of 3-week LMAA arbitrations for breach of various provisions of charterparties on redelivery of passenger ferries (led by Christopher Smith KC, instructed by Studio Legale Lauro)

A shareholder dispute between members of a well-known retail company, arbitrated under the UNCITRAL Rules (led by David Davies KC, instructed by Hogan Lovells)

ICC arbitration arising out of alleged breaches of contracts for the supply of oil (sole counsel, instructed by Withers LLP)

LCIA arbitration under a $300m facility agreement

4-week arbitration between ferry companies under a share-sale agreement governed by both Greek and Italian law, with complex choice-of-law issues arising from the interaction between them (led by Roderick Cordara KC and Christopher Smith KC, instructed by BDM Law LLP)

JAMS arbitration under a contract for financial services (sole counsel)

Ad hoc arbitration concerning breaches of a contract for the construction of solar panels (led by Hugh Mercer KC and Iain Quirk KC)

Ad hoc arbitration under a shareholders’ agreement of claims of unfair prejudice (led by Paul McGrath KC and James Willan KC, instructed by Elborne Mitchell LLP)

Related court applications

PJSC VTB Bank v Mejlumyan [2021] EWHC 1386 (Comm): claim for an anti-suit injunction arising out of a pledge agreement in support of a facility agreement between VTB and a mining company (led by Vernon Flynn KC, instructed by King & Spalding)

Soletanche Bachy France SAS v Aqaba Container Terminal (Pvt) Co. [2019] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 423: challenges under sections 67 and 68 of the Arbitration Act to an award in an ICC arbitration (led by David Foxton KC and Iain Quirk KC, instructed by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP)

Erdenet Mining Corp. LLC v ICBC Standard Bank plc [2017] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 25: LCIA arbitration and Commercial Court proceedings under a guarantee and an indemnity, arising out of a banking fraud and giving rise to the first successful application under section 70(7) of the Arbitration Act 1996 for security for the amount payable under an arbitral award (led by David Joseph KC and Edward Brown KC, instructed by Clifford Chance LLP)

Advice to award creditor on questions of public international law arising in the enforcement of an arbitral award (led by Malcolm Shaw KC)

Advice to award creditor on enforcement of an arbitral award and foreign judgment obtained against a state (led by Hugh Mercer KC, instructed by Fladgate LLP)

Investment treaty disputes

Application to set aside registration of an ICSID Award, raising issues about the application of state immunity from enforcement in light of the ECJ’s decision in Achmea (led by Huw Davies KC, instructed by Simmons & Simmons)

Advising an investor as to jurisdictional bases for an investment treaty claim following a change of regime in the host state (led by Sam Wordsworth KC, instructed by Fenwick Elliott)

Merck Sharpe & Dohme (IA) LLC v Ecuador PCA Case No 2012-10: assistant to the tribunal (Sir Frank Berman KCMG KC, Judge Stephen Schwebel, and Judge Bruno Simma) in an investor–state arbitration under the UNCITRAL rules at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (settled)

Advising a UK government department on investment treaty issues arising from proposed regulation of a sector of infrastructure (as sole counsel).

Before coming to the bar, appeared for the investor in a multi-billion-dollar investor–state arbitration under the UNCITRAL rules concerning the supply of natural gas (led by Ben Juratowitch KC)

As part of a team of counsel, advised a Government department on various aspects of international law concerning the protection of investments (led by Jess Wells)

Public international law

Before international courts and tribunals

Advising on issues under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union (instructed by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office)

Advising a UK government department on investment treaty issues arising from proposed regulation of a sector of infrastructure (as sole counsel).

An interstate boundary dispute (led by Vaughan Lowe KC and Mathias Forteau)

Wightman v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2019] QB 199: preliminary reference before the Full Court of the CJEU determining the circumstances in which the United Kingdom could withdraw its notification of intention to leave the European Union (led by Gerry Facenna KC, Morag Ross KC, and Anneli Howard, instructed by Bindmans LLP and Harper Macleod LLP)

Before domestic courts

Heathrow Airport Ltd v HM Treasury [2021] EWCA Civ 783: judicial review of the withdrawal of VAT-free schemes, alleging breaches of WTO law (one of The Lawyer’s ‘Top 20 cases of 2021’, led by Eleni Mitrophanous KC, Naina Patel, and Raj Desai, instructed by HMRC)

Crane Bank Ltd v DFCU Bank Ltd: claim by a Ugandan bank alleging breach of trust and fiduciary duty by the Bank of Uganda and a conspiracy by the defendants, raising issues of foreign act of state (led by Ricky Diwan KC, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP)

Application to set aside registration of an ICSID Award, raising issues about the application of state immunity from enforcement in light of the ECJ’s decision in Achmea (led by Huw Davies KC, instructed by Simmons & Simmons)

Advisory

Advising a UK government department on investment treaty issues arising from proposed regulation of a sector of infrastructure (as sole counsel).

Advice on questions of public international law arising in the enforcement of an arbitral award (led by Malcolm Shaw KC)

Advice concerning issues of state succession (led by Sir Frank Berman KCMG KC)

Shipping & admiralty

Pair of 3-week LMAA arbitrations for breach of various provisions of charterparties on redelivery of passenger ferries (led by Christopher Smith KC, instructed by Studio Legale Lauro)

A salvage arbitration, instructed for salvors, in a claim concerning alleged defects in repair works (led by Christopher Smith KC, instructed by HFW)

Urincha v Libra: Commercial Court claim alleging breaches of derivative contracts for the financing of container ships and related unlawful-means conspiracy (led by Philippa Hopkins KC, instructed by RPC)

LMAA arbitration under a time charter where, after her security escort had departed, the vessel was boarded by pirates, following which her crew were detained after being rescued by the coastal state’s navy, who wrongly believed them to be the pirates (sole counsel, instructed by Tatham & Co.)

Arauco Navigation Ltd v China Navigation Company Pte Ltd (‘CCNI Arauco’): multi-party Commercial Court charterparty dispute arising from an explosion and fire on board a container vessel (led Christopher Smith KC, instructed by Reed Smith LLP)

Advised buyers on the effect of Covid-19 quarantine measures on sellers’ ability to complete delivery, where her crew could not disembark at the port of delivery nor could the buyer’s own crew safely embark (led by Jern-Fei Ng KC)

Advised owners in a demurrage dispute arising from Hurricane Harvey (sole counsel)

Advised in a claim for late delivery charges under a shipbuilding contract (led by Roderick Cordara KC)

Commercial chancery (including insolvency)

A shareholder dispute between members of a well-known retail company, arbitrated under the UNCITRAL Rules (led by David Davies KC, instructed by Hogan Lovells)

East-West Logistics LLP v Melars Ltd: appeal concerning the scope of the presumption that main insolvency proceedings should be opened only by the courts of the Member State where a company has its registered office (led by James Sheehan, instructed by Hogan Lovells LLP)

Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. Ltd v Hollingsworth: settled defence for the defendant journalist in a Chancery Division claim by a large Kazakh natural resources company for alleged breach of confidence relating to the SFO’s investigation of it (sole counsel, instructed by Atkins Thomson, for Mr Hollingsworth (subsequently in person))

Advising the defendant law firm in a large claim for negligent misrepresentation, currently pending in a foreign jurisdiction and raising novel issues of common-law jurisdiction (led by Joe Smouha KC)

Fitzherbert v Fawsitt: Part 64 claim by a technology entrepreneur for breach of trust over part of the shareholding in a startup (sole counsel, instructed by Macfarlanes LLP)

Re Hellas II [2019] 1 WLR 3347: trial in the Chancery Division of a claim under section 423 of the Insolvency Act 1986 arising from the multi-billion-euro refinancing of a Greek telecoms company (led by Joe Smouha KC, Stephen Davies KC, Ciaran Keller, and Tom Ford, instructed by Norton Rose Fulbright)

Bord na Móna Horticulture Ltd v Washington [2017] EWHC 2406 (Ch): fraud claim arising from a share sale and purchase agreement, with applications for freezing relief (led by Huw Davies KC, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP)

Tax

News Corp v Revenue & Customs Comrs: Supreme Court appeal concerning whether digital news services are ‘newspapers’ for VAT purposes (led by Eleni Mitrophanous KC, instructed by HMRC)

Large technology company: ongoing advice on cross-border VAT issues (led by Roderick Cordara KC, instructed by Baker McKenzie)

Tenconi v Revenue & Customs Comrs: Upper Tribunal claim concerning application of corporation tax to the disposal of the beneficial interest in company shares (as sole counsel, instructed by HMRC)

R (Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust) v Revenue & Customs Comrs: ongoing judicial review of HMRC’s decision not to allow recovery of input tax (led by David Scorey KC, instructed by Hempsons)

Heathrow Airport Ltd v HM Treasury [2021] EWCA Civ 783: judicial review of the withdrawal of VAT-free schemes, alleging breaches of WTO law (one of The Lawyer’s ‘Top 20 cases of 2021’, led by Eleni Mitrophanous KC, Naina Patel, and Raj Desai, instructed by HMRC)

Career, Education and Awards

Career

  • 2021 Attorney General’s London ‘B’ Panel of Junior Counsel
  • 2020 Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Government
  • 2020 Attorney General’s Public International Law ‘C’ Panel
  • 2019 Attorney General’s London ‘C’ Panel
  • 2016 Tenant at Essex Court Chambers
  • 2015 Advocate at the Scottish bar
  • 2014–15 tutor in public international law, University of Edinburgh
  • 2014 Juriste in public international law team, Freshfields, Paris
  • 2013–14 Judicial assistant to Lord Kerr, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; tutor in public international law, King’s College London

Education

  • 2013 LL.M., Yale Law School
  • 2012 B.C.L., Lincoln College, Oxford
  • 2011 M.Sc. (philosophy), University of Edinburgh
  • 2008 LL.B., University of Glasgow

Awards

  • 2014 Lord Reid and Faculty of Advocates scholar (for pupillage at the Scottish bar)
  • 2012 Fulbright scholar
  • 2012 Shearman & Sterling mooting trophy, University of Oxford
  • 2011 Runner-up, Times Law Awards
  • 2008 Dean’s Cup, University of Glasgow
Publications

Chapter in Company Directors: Duties, Liabilities, and Remedies (4th edn, OUP, 2022)

‘Conflicting jurisdiction agreements in treaty and contract’ (2020) 69(4) ICLQ 759

Chapters on ss 67 and 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 in Bullen & Leake & Jacob’s Precedents of Pleading (19th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2019)

‘No consensus on consensus’ (with L Wildhaber & A Hjartarson) (2013) 33 HRLJ 248