John Samson

Call date: 2001

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Areas of Practice



LLB (First Class Honours), Birkbeck School of Law, University of London
Bar Vocational Course (Very Competent), College of Law
CEDR Accredited Mediator

Experience & Expertise

John is a highly experienced junior specialising in all areas of media and information law including defamation, privacy, harassment and data protection. He acts for both claimants and defendants.

His recent cases include the long running privacy claims by blacklisted construction workers (Smith v Skanska) and the defamation and harassment claim against the actress who accused her neighbour of having sex with her pigs (Barkhuysen v Hamilton).

He is regularly instructed to advise on personal and commercial reputation matters.

A formidable advocate, John has been involved in over 150 cases and gained a well-deserved reputation for his advocacy and advisory practice having acted for diverse individuals as well as being instructed by publishers, local authorities, law firms, the police, public authorities, charities, trade unions, religious groups, private companies and public corporations.  He has acted in the phone hacking litigation, in defamation jury trials and in the longest running slander trial in English legal history. He also acts as legal adviser to foreign embassies and on feature length documentaries.

John worked full-time as an in-house lawyer for the Guardian Newspaper Group (Observer and Guardian) and as a freelance for Mirror Group Newspapers. Together with his time as a TV executive before transferring to the bar 15 years ago, he has a deep understanding of media production and journalism and associated legal issues.

John is instructed led and as sole counsel and has appeared in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Privy Council and the Information Tribunal.

John’s main areas of work include: Confidence, Contempt, Copyright, Data Protection, Defamation, Entertainment Law, Harassment, Human Rights, Injunctive Relief, Malicious Falsehood, Media Law, Pre-publication Advice and Privacy. He is a qualified and registered public access practitioner and accepts instructions as a mediator.

Current & Recent Work

Barkhuysen v Hamilton (2016-2017)

A land dispute between Cornwall village neighbours during which actress and film-maker Sharon Hamilton made (false) allegations that she saw 73-year-old Anton Barkhuysen having sex with a pig after enticing it with doughnuts.  The week-long trial in slander, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and harassment took place before Warby J.  John acted for the defendant.

Tracey Bell v Sam Ward & Others (2014-2017)

A successful chain of dentistry and beauty clinics and its founder and chief executive were the subject of Twitter attacks by former employees setting up a rival business two of whom are minor TV celebrities.  John acted successfully for the claimants who made claims in defamation and malicious falsehood.

Jones v Cheshire Constabulary (2017)

A local councillor and former leader of Cheshire East Council complains about the conduct of a police investigation into the awarding of contracts by one of the largest spending local authorities in the North-West with allegations of defamation and misfeasance in public office against the police. John is acting for the local authority defendant.

Smith v Skanska & Others (2013-2017),

John represented 150 claimants from the construction workers union UCATT in a 3 year, complex, high profile High Court Group Litigation action against all the major UK construction companies.  John’s clients received £9million in settlements. More than 3,000 workers had been secretly vetted over a 40-year period.  John initiated claims in misuse of private information, breach of confidence and defamation (in addition to claims for data protection breaches and conspiracy to cause loss by unlawful means).  For the first time the claim applied the law of privacy to new circumstances in the employment field.  John acted with Mark Warby QC (now Warby J, Head of QB Media and Communications List) and then Matthew Nicklin QC.

Cliff Richard v South Yorks Police (2016)

John was instructed by the defendant in a far-reaching claim for damages in privacy.

McGrane v Sefton Borough Council (2015-2016)

A medical practitioner convicted of murder and sex offences made claims in defamation, data protection and negligence with damages pleaded at £2.7milion. John acted for the local authority defendant whose child protection measures were under attack.

Necon v ProEconomy (2015-2016)

An Irish fledgling business and its founder, providing life critical water purification systems for hospitals, made claims in defamation and malicious falsehood for statements by a business rival. John acted for the claimant.

Morleigh Homes v BBC Panorama (2016)

Pre-publication Advice: BBC documentary programme with undercover footage making serious defamatory allegations about the mismanagement of care homes by the owners and mistreatment of residents by the staff.  The proposed edition of Panorama contained falsities and serious factual errors.  John was instructed to assist with mitigating the potential damage and prepare the ground for actions in defamation and malicious falsehood.

Diagnostics v Autoboss (2015)

A specialist on-line supplier of automotive parts made claims in defamation and malicious falsehood against a business rival for derogatory comments on its website.

Ansari v Knowles (2014)

A university lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University claimed in libel and slander for allegations of personal misconduct and professional incompetence against four defendants including a former colleague and Vilnius University. Vilnius settled the claim.  The Court of Appeal agreed with Eady J that the settlement with Vilnius did not extinguish the claimant’s causes of action or that it had become an abuse of process to continue with his claim against the remaining defendants.  John acted for Mr Ansari.

Topcoat Construction v Compromise Agreements (2014)

An early claim in defamation under the 2013 Act by a construction company involved in a number of substantial commercial contracts including the maintenance of social housing facing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in publicity materials uploaded by a claims management company to its website resulting in immediate financial losses. Post publication injunction obtained.  John acted for the claimant.

Selected privacy, media and harassment cases (2003-2014)

  • Allen v LB Southwark [2008] EWCA Civ 1478 (defendant, CA)
  • Aurel BGC v Relan (claimant)
  • Barrett v Hackney LBC (defendant)
  • Buddy Musical v Incentive (claimant)
  • Cantor Fitzgerald v Roger (claimant)
  • Charterhouse Research v Richmond Pharmacology [2003] EWHC 1099 (defendant)
  • Deen v Cheshire East (defendant)
  • Desmond v Cheshire West (defendant)
  • El Guerbouzi v UK newspapers (claimant)
  • Jimmy Nail v ANL (claimant)
  • Leedale v Goodwin (defendant)
  • Lucas v Enfield LBC (defendant)
  • Maccaba v Lichtenstein [2005] EMLR 6; [2005] EMLR 9 (defendant)
  • Mo George v News Group Newspapers (claimant)
  • Odone v Key Publications (defendant)
  • Pell v Express Newspapers [2005] EWCA Civ 46 (claimant, CA);
  • Phillips v Edmondson (defendant)
  • Power v Greater Manchester Police (defendant)
  • Rado v Ofcom (claimant)
  • Rea v Greyhound Racing Authority (defendant)
  • Ritchie v ICO (claimant)
  • Singh v Bristol Sikh Temple (claimants)
  • Tiscali v BT [2008] EWHC 2927; [2008] EWHC 3129 (defendant)
  • uVme v ITV (claimants)
  • Wallis v Valentine [2003] EMLR 175 (claimant, CA)
  • Wray v University of West Indies [2007] UKPC 14 (claimant, PC)
  • Zafar v HFC Bank (defendant)

Employment Law

John has a broader practice in employment law in which he is regularly instructed in cases of breach of contract, unfair dismissal, discrimination, victimisation, holiday pay claims and TUPE. In addition to a helpful personal background in business as an employer before being called to the bar, John’s knowledge of media and information law is often called upon in an employment context where he has considerable experience in matters where reputation and employment matters merge. John appears regularly in the higher courts and is often engaged on extended hearings and more complex and interdisciplinary matters. Notable cases include:

Peninsula Business Services v Donaldson [2016] ICR 565

Critical EAT case holding that child-care voucher schemes which ‘divert’ existing salary are part of an employee’s remuneration and therefore are not a benefit to which there is an entitlement during maternity leave.

Chandock v Tirkey (2015] ICR 527

An important EAT decision on the extent to which the statutory definition of ethnic origin includes a claimant’s caste or status within a caste system. The decision also includes significant observations by the President on the requirement for parties to set out the essence of their cases in the pleadings.

Sash Window Workshop v King [2015] IRLR 348

The Court of Appeal, on appeal from the EAT, has referred questions to the ECJ on the retrospective entitlement to payment of an allowance in lieu of annual leave not taken on termination of employment.

Robinson v Bowskill [2014] ICR D7

An EAT finding that an employee learning of her dismissal from a third party does not prevent the acquisition of that knowledge from satisfying the test that a contract of employment is not effectively terminated until the employee knows of the dismissal notwithstanding the fact that a formal letter of dismissal had been sent but not yet received.

Lewis v New College UKEAT/0533/10/DA

The ET did not allow the claimant’s representative to develop her case and one member showed a fundamental misunderstanding in relation to overlapping claims for unfair dismissal and race discrimination.

Peninsula Business Services v Malik (2010) UKEAT/0340/08/RN

An ET decision set aside for inadequate reasoning.

Peninsula Business Services v Rees (2009) UKEAT/0333/08/RN

The EAT remitted the case to a fresh tribunal on the basis of apparent judicial bias arising from the ET judge’s trenchant derogatory views on businesses such as that of the appellant made close to trial.

Redrow Homes (Yorkshire) v Buckborough [2009] IRLR 34

An early case on substitution clauses which distinguish a contract of employment from a contract for services establishing the principle of a sham not only where there is an attempt to deceive a third party but also where neither party intended to create the legal rights and obligations set out in the employment contract.

Wray v University of West Indies [2007] UKPC 14

The Privy Council held that the claimant was entitled to a declaration that his employer breached its contractual duty to give notice and a libel claim was not struck out but remitted to the Supreme Court of Jamaica.

Selected other employment cases include:

  • a respondent in multiple unfair dismissal and discrimination claims
  • two hundred claimants in a local authority TUPE case
  • a former Town Clerk in a constructive dismissal and whistle blowing claim
  • a respondent local authority in an unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and victimisation claim
  • a claimant in high value bonus claim
  • an SME in a constructive unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and whistle blowing claim
  • a shop steward claimant in an interim relief hearing
  • a respondent in multiple holiday pay claims
  • the claimants in mass ‘fire/rehire’ labour dispute with a local authority
  • commercial liability of third parties in relation to recovery of remedy damages
  • multiple claimants in redundancy and TUPE claims against a private contractor
  • a respondent in a claim for disability discrimination, unfair dismissal, harassment, breach of contract and whistleblowing

Directory Comments

He is a strong advocate, who is also praised for his drafting skills and powers of analysis. “He’s unprecedented in terms of his willingness to deal with the detail in a case. He knows his brief better than any barrister I’ve come across.”


“fast becoming a star of the Libel Bar.” His considerable legal acumen is further enhanced by his knowledge of the media world gleaned from his former career as a television executive."


‘has a wealth of journalistic experience, which is a massive boon” in this market. “A keen and energetic practitioner"


“…‘probably the most energetic person at the defamation bar.  Hungry and hardworking’…‘’


 “…‘absolutely devotes his all to the case’ whilst offering ’tactical thinking and a strong understanding of the practice area’ thanks to his background in media production‘’


‘Totally Dedicated’


Pro Bono

John volunteers assistance with advice and representation for the Bar Pro Bono Unit and regularly attends the St George’s Cathedral weekly pro bono legal surgery for London’s Spanish speaking community where he offers advice on employment and immigration issues.

Recent cases have included representing:

  • a Whitehall cleaner in the Cabinet Office campaigning for the Living Wage who was removed from his job but reinstated after negotiations with his employer
  • 40 cleaners at Saatchi buildings employed by external cleaning contractors whose unlawfully deducted wages were reimbursed
  • many EU nationals seeking certificates of permanent residence
  • a journalist underpaid and unfairly dismissed by a newspaper publisher compensated in damages
  • individuals unfairly dismissed by low wage employers