Stephen Spence


Stephen Spence has considerable experience both prosecuting and defending in all aspects of serious crime, particularly sexual offences, fraud, Internet crime, murder and cases involving historic child abuse. He has acted as leading counsel in a number of high profile cases including recently prosecuting would be serial killer Alex Palmer. Stephen is a grade 4 and RASSO list prosecutor and vulnerable witness training trainer/facilitator.

Chambers and Partners state:

"He is absolutely brilliant - very honest and very professional." - 2018

"He balances the gravitas of a very experienced member of the Bar with a friendly accessibility, and an ability to make my clients feel very comfortable with him. His ability to talk to the jury rather than at them is also very good indeed.” – 2017

Legal 500:

“ known for his aviation practice and is very highly rated for his criminal practice”


Stephen is recognised for his specialist aviation practice. An RAF trained pilot with flying experience ranging from gliders to fast jets and rotary he has an enviable reputation for defending aviation related prosecutions. These have ranged from regulatory issues to allegations of gross negligence manslaughter. His clients have included aircraft engineers, pilots (private and commercial), aviation businesses and international airlines. He acted as leading counsel for Internet giant Amazon in their recent prosecution for shipping dangerous goods by air. He is currently instructed in the Shoreham Air Show crash prosecution.

Stephen is instructed in Inquests and in High Court civil claims arising out of aircraft accidents. He is able to advise on aircraft leasing and operating agreements. He has written for a number of aviation publications on legal topics and was a guest speaker, at a Royal Aeronautical Society legal conference, on the admissibility of AAIB reports in legal proceedings.

Sports Law

Stephen is a former Board member of the British Bobsleigh Association, and the Special Advisory Committee of the FIBT (Federation International de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing). He has advised a number of sports governing bodies on disciplinary procedures and drug testing, appearing in numerous disciplinary tribunals involving a variety of sports Stephen has sat as Chairman in both sports disciplinary proceedings and Olympic selection appeals. Stephen is on the Sports Disputes Resolutions panel of approved lawyers to provide pro bono advice to athletes who are accused of anti-doping or other disciplinary offences.

Stephen Spence is qualified to accept instructions via Direct Access.

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  • Called to the Bar 1983
  • BSc (Cardiff)

Associations and memberships

  • Member of Gray’s Inn
  • South Eastern Circuit
  • Grade 4 CPS Prosecutor

Notable Cases

CAA v Amazon, leading counsel (leading Eleanor Sanderson) for the defence. The company was charged with 11 counts of shipment of dangerous goods by air, relating to lithium ion batteries and flammable aerosols which were destined for flights within and outside the UK. Click here to be re-directed to the news item and press reports.

R v Hoyle, leading counsel (leading Edward Cole) for the defence in a 4-week gross negligence manslaughter trial, arising from a light aircraft crash – acquittal. BBC article.

GMC v X Defence – successfully defending GP in three day fitness to practice hearing before the General Medical Council.

R v Collins Prosecution – new DNA evidence used to catch rapist twenty years after offence committed. One of the first trials to use LCN and YSTR DNA.

R-v-Robson and others Prosecution – Leading counsel prosecuting teachers from a special school. Trial –convicted.

R-v-Roe Prosecution – Prosecuting foster parents charged with abuse of children over a number of years. Trial– convicted.

R-v-Bailey Defence – Leading counsel. Bailey was charged with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to commit GBH. Trial – convicted of ABH.

R-v-Keogh & O’Connor Defence (with John Farmer) – Official Secrets Act case. Trial – convicted.

R-v-Tull Defence – Leading counsel for the defence in Holiday Promotion fraud. Trial – acquitted.

R v Slack Defence – 3 handed “cut throat” murder

R v Farmbrough Defence – murder (stabbing with issues of causation).

R v C Defence – alleged of murder of Barclays Bank Executive.

Aviation law

CAA-v-L Defence – Magistrates’ Court defence of pilot charged with reckless endangerment – found not guilty.

CAA-v-M Defence – Crown Court defence of ATPL charged with reckless endangerment – found not guilty.

R v W Defence – Crown Court defence of aircraft inspector charged with manslaughter following fatal aircraft crash. Nolle Prosequi entered by the Attorney- General following legal argument.

CAA v G Defence – international airline charged with operating transatlantic flight with invalid C of A and AOC.

Court of Appeal

R v Gleeson Duties of defence on disclosing case to prosecution

R v Greeves Admission of guilty pleas of co-defendants

R v Turner Departure from minimum sentence provisions in class A drug cases.

Directory recommendations


Chambers & Partners have given Stephen Spence their highest accolade – a ‘rated individual’ recommendation.

"Very thorough and undeniably fair." "A very safe pair of hands".

Legal500 have also recognised Stephen's ability by recommending him, stating in their 2020 directory:

"Instructed on a wide range of cases".


In the 2019 directory it states:

"Noted for his expertise in cases involving internet crime".

"He is very experienced, has a very good following and is well regarded".

In the 2018 directory it states:

"He is absolutely brilliant - very honest and very professional".

In the 2017 directory it states:

"He balances the gravitas of a very experienced member of the Bar with a friendly accessibility, and an ability to make my clients feel very comfortable with him. His ability to talk to the jury rather than at them is also very good indeed."

In the 2015 directory it states:

“Has a wide-ranging practice that includes serious crime. He is a former RAF pilot and has developed a specialist aviation regulatory practice.”

In the 2013 directory it states:

Is a well regarded figure on the Norfolk legal scene. In addition to his work in drug and sexual offence cases he has developed a notable aviation and sports law practice. He was recently instructed as sole junior counsel on R v Ostrovskis, a case involving a stabbing that occurred during a drunken argument

In the 2012 directory it states:

Stephen Spence is qualified to advise on aviation and sports law issues as well as general crime. He is a sound choice for those seeking an "experienced, versatile and effective barrister," sources say. He advised on the historic rape trial of R v Collins.

Legal500 state in their 2012 directory:

“has a specialism in aviation matters”

Legal500 state in their 2010 directory:

“ known for his aviation practice and is very highly rated for his criminal practice”

Aviation law CV

Aviation related experience Glider pilot, soloing at age 16. RAF trained pilot. Qualified Skydiver. Private Pilot’s licence held since 1982. I have flown some 40 different aircraft types ranging from a Druine Turbulent through to the BAe Hawk. I am particularly experienced on vintage aircraft (Tiger Moth, Stampe, and Stearman types) and currently fly a 1942 L4 and Cherokee 6 (PA32-300). Tug pilot and aerobatic pilot. Have flown a number of rotary types and have handling experience ranging from the Schweizer 300 to a Puma. Aircraft owned: C150, Robin 100-210, Pitts Special, Piper L4. Aviation Law I have acted for the defence in a number of cases involving CAA prosecutions. Clients have ranged from private pilots to ATPL holders accused of a variety of offences from paperwork issues through to Reckless Endangerment. I have acted for airlines and other commercial operators defending in CAA prosecutions. I have successfully defended in prosecutions following aircraft accidents including manslaughter allegations arising out of alleged negligent maintenance. Aviation bodies that have sought advice from me include BALPA, the British Parachute Association, GAPAN, the BMAA and the LAA. I am frequently involved in advising from the outset of CAA investigations. In a number of instances (involving both pilots and commercial operators) early advice and the drafting of responses to the CAA has resulted in no further action being taken or warnings/cautions being issued rather than prosecution. I have a good rapport with members of the CAA legal department and have been able to directly negotiate with them to obtain mutually satisfactory outcomes. I am instructed in personal injury claims arising out of aircraft accidents and parachuting incidents. I have a close working relationship with a number of aeronautical-engineering experts and accident investigators in the UK, Europe and the US. I have advised upon and drafted aircraft ownership and leasing agreements and aircraft operating agreements for types ranging from light aircraft through to multi-million pound business jets. I have written for Pilot Magazine on Aviation Law related matters.

Sports law CV

A rugby player at school and university, I have been an amateur bobsleigher for a number of years competing at National Championship level. In 1998 I was asked to review the British Bobsleigh Association anti-doping and disciplinary procedures. I re-drafted the disciplinary code and this was adopted by the BBA and used as a template by other sports bodies. Thereafter I have continued to review anti-doping and disciplinary procedures and make proposals and amendments where necessary. In about 2000 I was appointed as legal affairs director of the BBA, a position I held for ten years. Although stepping down from the board (by rotation) I remain a legal advisor to the Association. In this role I have had conduct of BBA legal affairs and have been involved in anti-doping and other disciplinary matters. I have also been responsible for the formulation and drafting of: • Athlete’s agreements • Selection policies and procedures • Sponsorship agreements • Image rights • Media and marketing agreements (including television/film contracts) • R & D and intellectual property agreements I have acted for athletes and commercial sports teams in both Judicial Review and disciplinary proceedings. I am on the Sports Disputes Resolutions panel of approved lawyers to provide pro bono advice to athletes who are accused of anti-doping or other disciplinary offences. I have experience of working with the BOA, UK Sport and UK Anti-doping. I have experience as a tribunal Chairman and have chaired Olympic selection appeals.