Steven Kay QC
Head of Chambers
BACKGROUND AND EXPERTISE
Steven Kay QC is Head of Chambers at 9 Bedford Row, a leading set of barrister’s Chambers established in London over 60 years ago. He is a leading international criminal lawyer with a global reputation who has been in the landmark cases that have established modern international criminal law including: the first UN trial at the Yugoslavia Tribunal (Dusko Tadic) that created modern international criminal law; the first trial of a former Head of State (ex-President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic); the first trial at the ICC of an incumbent Head of State (President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya).
Steven is also engaged by governments and organisations to investigate matters of international concern such as the 30 years conflict in Sri Lanka between the Tamils and the State; Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood; Montenegro Corruption and Conflicts of Interest; Human rights abuse alert Algeria
His reports have been influential upon world affairs - and in the case of President Kenyatta at the ICC, he won the presidential election during his trial.
Steven’s international fraud and corruption practice focuses upon the criminal issues arising in complex international commercial cases and transactions where he is also works with multi-national and multi-disciplinary teams.These cases involve offshore jurisdictions such as the BVI, Cayman Islands etc.
At 9 Bedford Row with Gillian Higgins he has established an Interpol Red Notice Hot Desk, to deal with the increasing number of international arrest warrants requested by states against perceived enemies of a regime that may be politically or financially motivated. This area of work also covers applications for clients to the international financial information databases of World Check and Lexis Nexis; and representation of persons and companies listed on international sanctions lists including advice upon the US sanctions against Iran.
Steven is experienced in advising clients at the crisis stage of an international situation by setting out their options and guiding their responses, whilst also making the preparations necessary for future litigation. His cases below demonstrate the depth of experience and the quality of the work for which he has been hired. 9 Bedford Row’s other international lawyers have been involved in most of these cases with him and they have developed an impressive team to meet the unique challenges these cases present in whatever part of the world they may arise. Some international cases upon which he has been asked to advise are necessarily confidential.
Steven is registered to accept instructions under Direct Public Access and is licensed to litigate.
International Criminal Law
International Criminal Court proceedings commenced in December 2010 against President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya, and son of the first President of the nation, Jomo Kenyatta, alleging a leading role in the post-election violence of 2007 - 2008 for which he was charged with crimes against humanity. At the confirmation of charges hearing the defence challenged the prosecution case theory comprehensively and called Uhuru Kenyatta to give evidence in his own defence. The defence evidence and submissions to the court clearly established the strong foundations of the defence case. Although the Pre-Trial Judges confirmed the charges, it was subsequently established that the defence contentions at the hearing had been correct. Furthermore, an alternative case the Prosecution had tried to create against Uhuru Kenyatta after confirmation of charges was also successfully challenged. In January 2015 the charges were finally withdrawn by the prosecution, having admitted there was an insufficiency of evidence upon which to proceed to trial. The result achieved by the 9BR team in this case has changed the course of African politics. Report here.
Acquittal of General Cermak at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia which undertook the prosecution of three Croatian Generals arising from the conduct of military forces in Operation Storm in August 1995 that resulted in the liberation of territory from the RSK. Gillian Higgins of 9BRi was co-counsel with him in this case that has been described as the most important trial in the history of the State of Croatia. The essential evidence to be challenged in this case principally arose from UN witnesses who had their own view of matters on the ground, as opposed to the reality of Cermak’s position in fact. Detailed review of military regulations and orders was necessary to persuade the court of the actual and exact unfolding of events at the time, not apparent from the prosecution case. Expert evidence from internationally respected witnesses upon the Croatian military and powers of the police underpinned the truth of the defence case.
In January 2011 Steven was instructed with the 9BRi team by Jamaat E Islami to represent their members prosecuted by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal for war crimes alleged to have taken place in the conflict to create the state of Bangladesh in 1971. Steven challenged the fairness of the Bangladesh International Crimes Act and its Rules at a human rights conference in Dakhar, in October 2010 attended by many leading politicians and lawyers and exposed in a public forum the flaws of the ICTA 1973 to start the Defence campaign to challenge the fairness of the ICT. The 9BRi team on the case worked with local lawyers to put together trial strategies and build the defence cases to challenge the prosecution’s evidence. The further brief to the team was to attempt to persuade the Government of Bangladesh to reform its laws that have been internationally condemned as unfair and to seek international support to pressurize for reforms.
U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia appointed Steven in September 2001 as amicus curiae with responsibility for defence issues in the trial of the ex-President of Serbia. In September 2004, he was appointed the Court Assigned Defence Counsel for Slobodan Milosevic. Gillian Higgins of 9BRi was also counsel in this historic case that was the first international trial of a Head of State. The trial was upon 3 joined indictments concerning the wars of the 1990s waged in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia by the Serbian forces and was the largest international criminal trial in its scope. This trial involved political, historical and factual issues of a highly complex nature and legal argument that has been referred to ever since.
U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. This was the first trial of a civilian alleging command responsibility for genocide and it took place in Arusha, Tanzania. The defence team included Gillian Higgins of 9BRi and they were the first U.N. Defence counsel to enter Rwanda to conduct investigations in the field. These investigations produced important and critical evidence for the case that had been overlooked by prosecution investigators who had been established in the field.
U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. This was the first international war crimes trial since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials of the 1940s. This landmark trial in 1996 established the foundation for modern international criminal law. Tadic was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case had many legal arguments that set the foundations for the future conduct of international trials. This case started with enormous emotional hostility against the accused and through the careful presentation of the defence case, there was a sea-change of interest into the merits of the case which seemed inconceivable at the start.
Advised suspects held in US Army captivity on ways and means to exercise their human rights.
With John Traversi of 9 BRi training Defence and Prosecution counsel in Kazakhstan how to deal with the introduction of jury trials into the criminal justice system in January 2007.
Advisor to the government of Sudan re: referral by UN Security Council of Darfur situation to the International Criminal Court and the arrest warrant issued for President Bashir.
Advisor to the Syrian Government and individuals concerning the investigation into the assassination of Lebanese ex-Premier, Rafik Hariri and 14 related terrorist explosions that are the subject of the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Steven Kay QC and Eeva Heikkila undertook pro bono the case of the siege at the school in Beslan by Chechen terrorists in September 2004 and in 2013 received notice from the European court of Human Rights it had been referred to the Russian Government for observations. The case before the Court is that the deaths of the 334 hostages were as a result of the excessive and indiscriminate use of lethal force by the Russian security forces. The case to the ECHR is not only that the assault upon the school violated the rights of the children and innocent civilians inside the school, but also that the persistent denial of justice and lack of accountability for this crime constitute breaches by the Russian Federation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Drafting with David Hammond of 9BRi the 100 Series Rules for the Use of Force for a Flag State and SAMI for submission to the IMO. Advising upon the liabilities of security companies, insurers, charterers and individuals in the use of force to protect a vessel and all aboard from piracy or armed robbery at sea. Advising upon the impact of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 upon companies employing armed guards or providing armed guards for the protection of merchant vessels. The 100 Series RUF has now received international recognition.
Drafting a report for the ABA ROLI on the effectiveness of the Defence in the criminal justice system of the Kingdom of Bahrain as part of the programme aimed at implementing internal justice reforms. Devising an 8-stage training programme manual to improve the quality of the Defence counsel that was followed by delivery of the training programme to lawyers and trainers in 2013.
Providing submissions to the OISL of the UNHCHR on behalf of 3 Sri Lankan NGO’s upon the 30 years conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) that resulted in the final defeat of the LTTE in 2009. Steven led the team at 9BR that submitted detailed reports upon various aspects of the conflict and to support these with evidence. With documents originating from Sri Lanka, and extensive media reports from open sources, comprehensive and persuasive reports were compiled to challenge the extensive media campaign that had built up to prosecute Sri Lanka. The 9BR reports challenged the narrative issued by the NGOs and UNHCHR. To read one of the reports., click here:
Leader of the 9BR team from the international practice group at 9 Bedford Row commissioned by the State Lawsuit (Litigation) Authority of Egypt to provide a series of reports upon the Muslim Brotherhood, the first of which “The History of the Muslim Brotherhood” was released on 2 April 2015. The further reports are: The Egyptian experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in power 2012-2013; The Egyptian Revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood 2013; and The current situation in Egypt
Pro-bono project to challenge on behalf of the Virunga National Park in DRC a UK FTSE 200 company, prospecting for oil and gas in the famous UNESCO heritage site and home to the last species of mountain gorillas. This matter involved consideration of international environment law, the national laws of DRC and national laws of the company. Steven’s team at 9BR were determined to protect the local people and wildlife under threat from the commercial activities of the company.
In Washington DC took part with Kirsty Sutherland of 9BR, Federica D’Alessandra and Greg Kehoe in the Inquiry into the Kwanliso (political prisons) arranged by the IBA North American Office and heard by International Judges.
Advisory opinion for Channel Isles company upon the effect of US sanctions on a contract involving Iranian airport security
International Fraud and Corruption
Advised in claims in the BVI and London against Grant Thornton (UK) and Kaupthing bank (Iceland)
Expert witness on BVI Proceeds of Criminal Conduct law in the Ablyazov litigation, an international commercial fraud involving the BVI, Russia, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and the UK
Embezzlement and fraud involving a Liechtenstein trust of high value with litigation in Cayman Islands, US, Israel, Switzerland, UK, Liechtenstein. See Mark Hollingsworth , Independent, Thursday 8 March 2018 Liechtenstein: The mysterious tax heaven that's losing the trust of the super-rich.
A portfolio of Hilton hotels bought by Vincent Tchenguiz, leased back to Hilton and eventually put into administration upon default of a loan scheme hedged by Bayerische Landesbank in circumstances where the value of assets were believed to be undersold. Story here
Philippa Seilern asset tracing case for the deceased’s family members against a Liechtenstein Foundation. See here for full story.
A Ponzi scheme fraud by a Swiss registered company using the Hong Kong branch of the Singapore based bank DBS.
Al Jibouri Multi jurisdictional case of corruption in the global oil industry linked to UNAOIL investigation. See here for full story
UK Commercial Court, two ex-Metropolitan police officers sued by owners of FBME bank for breach of confidentiality agreement in providing information to Central Bank of Cyprus and US FINCEN of serious criminal conduct and regulatory breaches. Story here.
- Secretary of the Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales 1993-1996
- Prime Minister’s Special Committee on Victims in the Criminal Justice System 1995
- Founder Member of the European Criminal Bar Association 1997
- Founder member of the International Criminal Law Bureau 2008
• The Role of the Defence – Commentary on The Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court ed. Casese, Gaeta, Jones OUP 2002
• International Criminal Justice – Westlaw online
• Cases that Changed our Lives – The First Nuremburg Trial And Its Enduring Legacy “Even Rulers Are Under God And The Law
Professional commentary and attribution
"He's extremely eloquent and displays a great level of wit and expertise in international criminal law." "He is a very senior practitioner who understands the complexities of acting in very sensitive and difficult cases extremely well." (Chambers UK, 2020)
"A very impressive operator" (Legal 500 - 2020)
‘He has the reassuring ability to distil the most complex factual cases and express clear thought.’ (Legal 500, 2018)
"Has significant experience before the International Criminal Court in matters involving crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is also sought after to counsel governments, corporations and membership organisations on best practice and compliance matters." (Chambers UK, 2016)
“Leading silk with a vast depth of experience of handling ICC proceedings, particularly those involving significant and high-profile political figures”.
PROFILE: Steven Kay QC
“He has a stellar international criminal law practice and he is great in court.”
Fraud, Bribery & Corruption
Human rights law
Fraud, Bribery & Corruption
Human rights law
Financial and Corporate law
020 7489 2727
Leeds University 1973-76
Inns of Court School of Law 1976-77
Called to the Bar of the Inner Temple 1977
Queen’s Counsel 1997
Recorder of the Crown Court 1997
Master of the Bench of Inner Temple 2008
Co-Chair IBA War Crimes Committee 2012-16
Special Advisor IBA War Crimes Committee 2017
Co-Chair ABA International Criminal Justice Standards Working Group 2017
Secretary IBA Judges Forum 2019