Claire Matthews


Claire works across the South Eastern Circuit, with an exclusively criminal law practice. Her practice is almost equally divided between prosecuting and defending, and she is regularly instructed in cases of murder, manslaughter, serious child neglect/harm, and serious sexual assault/rape.

A grade 4 and RASSO prosecutor, she is often selected in cases which involve considerable expert evidence, complex third party issues, and/or vulnerable witnesses, including a number of cases with a particular emphasis on infant death/serious injury/neglect.

She enjoys the team work involved in cases concerning multiple experts in different fields and is often praised for her management and attention to detail in such complex cases.

She has defended cases of murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter as sole counsel, and works closely with her instructing solicitors to ensure clients with additional needs are looked after appropriately throughout the trial process.

For many years, she has prosecuted and defended parents/guardians in murder/manslaughter and s.5 cases including cases of alleged ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’, and has a strong grasp and understanding of the medico-legal issues in such cases. 

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Areas of practice


  • Called to the Bar 1998
  • LLB (Hull)

Associations and memberships

  • Member of Inner Temple
  • South Eastern Circuit (Secretary of the South Eastern Circuit Liaison Committee)
  • Criminal Bar Association
  • Junior Representative for the Cambridge & Peterborough Bar Mess
  • Grade 4 prosecutor and on the CPS panel of approved counsel for Rape cases

Notable recent cases

R v Ratcliff – defended vulnerable defendant who faced allegations of assisting an offender in a trial of murder involving planned execution of drug dealer’s rival. 7 week trial, defendant was the only one found not guilty.

R v R – defended 16 year old autistic defendant for 2 knife point stranger rapes in Peterborough, which led to a manhunt because of their gravity. Defendant unfit to plead, ‘unique’ package of medical issues, fully contested trial of act. Youngest defendant to receive s.41 Hospital Order at time of sentence. [Press restrictions prohibit naming]

R v Slavik et al - Lead counsel for the Crown prosecuting a family charged with people trafficking and modern day slavery offences in Slovakia and UK. Extradition proceedings, two UK trials and convictions against all 4 defendants, and subsequent POCA proceedings.

R v Mitchell – junior defence counsel in murder of 11 week old baby, lead by Matthew Jewell QC. Case concerned complex medical issues, as well as vast amount of bad character evidence setting the background of the relationship in which the child was living.

R v DB [press restrictions in place] – defended lead defendant in case alleging two counts contrary to s.5 DVCVA. Forensic cross examination of medical experts in fields of radiology, burns, bruising, and general paediatric medicine.

R v Cowey – sole defence counsel in murder where defendant pleaded guilty to killing his wife in multiple stabbing.

R v AM [press restrictions] – defended lead defendant in allegation of causing or allowing serious physical harm to a baby. Vulnerable client with complex needs. Multiple medical experts cross-examined.

R v RH [press restrictions] – prosecuted man for campaign of rape and serious neglect of young child, resulting in extended sentence of 33 years imprisonment. Judge described case as ‘worst of it’s kind’. Received letter of thanks from the support worker of the complainant who I had spent considerable time with discussing the case and outcome.

R v Woollard – defended as sole counsel man who pleaded guilty to the planned murder of his former son in law amid a custody battle.

R v Tyler Smith – defended as sole counsel in a murder against background of drug dispute. Client required careful management as he had a package of needs that necessitated significantly more conferences to ensure trust and maintain confidence in the trial process.

R v DP – defended a young defendant with serious mental health condition facing multiple rape allegations against a family member. Judge commended both prosecution and defence counsel for their care and attention in this difficult case.

R v Castles – prosecuted a former teacher for sexual abuse against multiple former students. Engaged by CPS RASSO at an early stage to consider the form of the indictment and jurisdictional issues. Defendant entered guilty pleas and was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

R v Davies – junior prosecution counsel to Stuart Trimmer QC in murder trial, where defendant was convicted of manslaughter. Deceased was said to have tried to rob the defendant of a quantity of drugs he was preparing, and in the course of the alleged robbery the defendant stabbed him fatally. Case entailed significant disclosure challenges, as well as all eye-witnesses being addicts who refused to co-operate in the trial process.

Directory recommendations

Chambers & Partners and Legal500 have given Claire Matthews their highest accolade – a ‘rated individual’ recommendation each year. See below for this and previous years comments:


"Her preparation is incredible, and she's so well respected, kind and reassuring with clients." "Very tactically astute".

Legal500 state in their 2020 directory:
"Prosecutes and defends with a particulart focus on serious violent or sexual offences".


"Her commitment, tenacious attitude and hard-working approach never fail to impress". "Her preparation is second to none and her ability to read the judiciary is incredible".

Legal500 state in their 2019 directory:
"Prosecutes and defends across a wide range of serious criminal cases".


"A courageous barrister, she is prepared to fight for her client and not afraid to say what needs to be said. Her client care is amazing".


"A superb advocate, she is tenacious and she is also extremely good with clients". "Her preparation is very good, very high calibre. Any case that requires a high level of information and concentration is where she would shine". "Recommended for serious murder and sexual offence cases".


"Has a broad criminal practice, equally divided between defending and prosecuting. Her caseload includes cases concerning child abuse, firearms, drugs and mental health among many other issues."


 "She is extremely intelligent, very good with the clients and very tactically astute."


"Receives praise as a talented junior who is renowned for her client oriented approach". "A junior barrister to watch, she acted for the prosecution in R v Diane Pullar, a high profile sexual abuse case".

Legal500 state in their 2017 directory:

“Highly experienced in sexual offence cases".