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James E. Petts

James Petts’s practice is in the fields of Chancery and commercial, with a particular focus on contentious matters involving especial forensic rigour, either in terms of the law or facts, including claims involving an element of fraud or where there are serious disputes of primary fact (e.g. relating to undue influence or disputed oral agreements).

James’s interest in claims involving a significant element of fraud or dishonesty come from the first three years of his practice at the Bar in which he practised in criminal law, before going on to develop a successful Chancery and commercial practice. James is the (civil) education secretary to the Fraud Lawyers’ Association and contributes to Westlaw Topics on fraud related subjects.

Commercial & Business Disputes

James acts in relation to commercial chancery matters, including insolvency, unfair prejudice petitions, and trusts disputes in a commercial context.

Recent cases

  • Appearing successfully for the defendant in a trial regarding the alleged surrender of a charge over property by virtue of the mortgagee having proved in bankruptcy, disclosing the charge but erroneously failing to state its value.
  • Acting for the defendant in an intimated claim to enforce an Australian judgment for costs arising out of a failed attempt by the defendant to enforce her own English judgment against the defendant in Australia (in circumstances where the claimant had been declared bankrupt in Singapore but not discharged from that bankruptcy) and in relation to the recovery of the original judgment debt from the claimant.
  • Acting for the claimants in a claim in the High Court for a declaration of trust over shares in a special purpose vehicle intended for the development of a substantial parcel of land.
  • Acting for a defendant to a High Court claim in proprietary estoppel and a simultaneous unfair prejudice petition arising out of a joint restaurant business in London after the personal relationship between the defendant and the claimant had broken down.
  • Acting for the defendant in intimated litigation brought by a major outsourcing company used by a high street bank arising out of an allegedly mistaken payment of just over £2m made by the bank to a company under his control.

Reported cases

  • Maqsood v. Mahmood [2012] EWCA Civ. 251 (mentioned in the White Book at para. 3.4.18) – appeal against a striking out of claim at trial (having not appeared below) on the basis that, contrary to the judge’s judgment, the claims were not lacking in merit; appeal dismissed on the basis that the arguments now advanced could not readily have been perceived by the judge on the way that the case was put before him, and concerned a difficult area of law (proprietary remedies for unjust enrichment) that the court did not think this the appropriate case to address. That issue of law was ultimately resolved by the Supreme Court in Re D&D Wines [2016] 1 W. L. R. 3179.


  • LL. B. (hons. – first class) University of Reading
  • B. C. L., St. Hugh’s College, Oxford


  • Bar Standards Board Independent Decision-making Body
  • Civil education secretary, Fraud Lawyers’ Association
  • Advocacy trainer, Middle Temple

Associations & Memberships

  • Chancery Bar Association
  • Fraud Lawyers’ Association
  • London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association
  • Advocate
  • Middle Temple


  • Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents – vol. 3(1) auctioneers, estate agents and valuers – co-contributor, 2018 and 2022 reissues
  • Westlaw Topics – sole contributor to:
    • deceit and fraudulent misrepresentation;
    • dishonest assistance; and
    • knowing receipt
  • The substance of the rule of law – International Bar Association Journal, September 2019
  • Licences, death, wills and trespass [2023] P. C. B. 169

For more information and advice

Call: +44 (0)20 7405 0758


Pricing Policy

Unless otherwise agreed my Clerk will calculate my fees based on my current hourly rate. My rates are reviewed annually and details can be obtained from my Clerk. Once a rate is set for any particular case the hourly rate will only ever be adjusted with express agreement between my Clerks and those instructing me. All fees are subject to VAT at the prevailing rate where applicable.

James E. Petts is a self-employed, independent barrister whose practice is regulated by the Bar Standards Board [Bar Council Ref 44149]. He is fully insured with the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund [BMIF Ref 2360/084] to provide legal services, please refer to the BMIF website for full details of the world-wide cover provided. He is registered for VAT under the reference 661114567.

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