Public law junior of the year (finalist), 2020: Legal 500
Francis is a leading election lawyer (Chambers and Partners) who also increasingly focuses on constitutional cases, as well as specialising in public law, commercial law and employment law.
In 2015 Francis, appearing against two Queen’s Counsel and following the longest election petition trial for a century, secured a High Court judgment that voided the election of Lutfur Rahman as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and found him and his election agent guilty of corrupt and illegal practices. Francis regularly appears in election petitions and in related proceedings, including political reputation management, and has a considerable advisory practice. He is currently representing Craig MacKinlay MP (led by David Mason QC), who is to be tried for alleged election expenses offences.
Francis is ranked by the Legal 500, in Band 2, as one of the top 20 leading juniors in Administrative and Public Law; and, by Chambers and Partners, in Band 1 as one of only three juniors ranked in Election Law.
‘A complete tour de force… worthy of the admiration of the Court’. Commissioner Richard Mawrey, QC (Erlam & Others v Rahman & Another (2)  EWHC 1215 (QB))
Made ‘well reasoned’ submissions and ‘compelling analysis’. Mr Justice Jay (Baxter v Fear & Others  EWHC 3136 (QB) (Divisional Court)).
Francis can accept instructions directly from members of the public.
If you would like more information about Francis’ practice, please email his clerks or call them +44 (0)20 7405 6114.
- Election Law, Party Political Cases and Reputation Management
Francis is one of only three juniors rated by Chambers and Partners, in band one, as Election Law specialists.
Francis appears and advises in election petitions, injunctions and prosecutions pursuant to the Representation of the People Act 1983 and in related proceedings. He acts – in England and Wales and in other common law jurisdictions – for candidates, political parties, local authorities, returning officers, third sector organisations and other campaigning organisations, some on an ongoing basis.
Francis acts in related proceedings concerned with party political process and political reputation management. He advises and acts for political parties and their members in internal (including disciplinary) disputes and in legal actions. During the 2015 and 2017 general elections and in subsequent elections, he has advised Parliamentary and other candidates on possible injunctive relief preventing publication of false statements about their personal character; and he advises about and acts in defamation, harassment, data protection and other proceedings issued in order to protect personal and political reputations.
Francis writes and lectures about election law (see below, under ‘Publications and Media’).
Re. Parliamentary Election in Peterborough (Mike Green v Lisa Forbes MP), 2019 (ongoing)
Francis is instructed by a candidate in an election petition challenging the Parliamentary by-election in June 2019. The petition is brought on the grounds of election fraud. In December 2019, the Divisional Court considered whether the dissolution of Parliament abated an election petition, a matter that had not been determined since 1972. Judgment has been reserved. Francis is instructed by Wedlake Bell and is appearing (alone) against Gavin Millar QC and a junior.
Darren Grimes v the Electoral Commission, 2019
Francis acted for Darren Grimes, a Leave campaigner in the EU referendum in his successful challenge against findings by the Electoral Commission that he reported expenditure incorrectly as individual expenditure when it was allegedly expenditure of an organisation, BeLeave; and to have engaged in unreported ‘common plan’ expenditure with Vote Leave, meaning that his expenditure should have been declared by Vote Leave, which would have put them above their spending limit.
Francis was instructed by Saunders Solicitors, alone, until just before the trial, at which he was led by Timothy Straker QC (who had previously been acting for Vote Leave in the joined proceedings). He acted as sole counsel, against Sir James Eadie QC, Senior Treasury Counsel, in substantial legal submissions concerning whether Article 6 of the ECHR required an appeal against a finding by the Commission to be heard as a re-trail.
Mr Grimes’s successful grounds of appeal included a challenge to the construction of paragraph 22 of the EU Referendum Act: does a campaigner ‘incur’ expenditure when it is deemed incurred only by the lead campaigner; whether over-declaration of expenditure is an offence; and the definition of joint expenditure under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000?
R v Craig Mackinlay MP & Others (2017-19)
Francis was instructed, by Manley’s solicitors, as junior counsel to Mr Mackinlay (led by David Mason QC) in the successful defence to his prosecution for election offences arising out of the election return in the 2015 general election. It was alleged that the return excluded items of expenditure that should have been included as expenses in the national return of the Conservative Party (under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000).
This prosecution arose after investigations by Channel 4 and has received considerable national and international coverage. It was the first prosecution of a MP for election expenses offences for twenty years. (See Channel 4, BBC, Guardian)
In May 2018 Francis and Mr Mackinlay’s legal team appeared in the Court of Appeal, which upheld Mr Mackinlay’s appeal on a preliminary point of law as to whether notional election expenses (provided for free or an undervalue) must be authorised by a candidate or agent. This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in R v Mackinlay and Others  UKSC 42. Mr Mackinlay was found not guilty in a criminal trial that ended in early 2019.
Francis has been engaged since August 2018 as the sole counsel advising Facebook on its compliance with electoral law in the United Kingdom and in British Overseas Territories.
Francis has been engaged since August 2019 as the sole counsel advising Mainstream UK, a major political campaign on its compliance with electoral law as a Third-Party campaigner in the 2019 general election.
Leading junior counsel to Petitioners. Successfully resisted strike out application in the Divisional Court (2014) appearing against James Laddie QC and Timothy Straker QC. After a seven-week election petition trial, appearing against Duncan Penny QC and Timothy Straker QC, Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC made the following findings:
- Electoral fraud, through false and dishonest registration and postal voting fraud;
- False statements against the opposing candidate, John Biggs;
- Bribery, through the unlawful distribution of Council grants (first ever such finding);
- Threats of spiritual injury (first finding since the 19th century); and
- The payment of canvassers.
The Divisional Court refused Mr Rahman permission to judicially review all but the findings of spiritual influence in January, 2016.
In 2017 the Divisional Court refused Mr Rahman permission to amend his claim for judicial review. This application was on the grounds that the failure of the CPS to prosecute Mr Rahman for election offences imposed a duty on public bodies, including the court, to treat him as innocent. See Francis’s commentary on this part of the JR in Lexis.
Francis also acted for the Petitioners, in mid-2015, in their successful application for a final freezing order against Mr Rahman.
Acted for a candidate for the European Parliament who was next on the Conservative Party list after the sitting MEP, Timothy, Lord Kirhope, who resigned following his entry into the House of Lords. The candidate had the right to be approached by the returning officer but was denied a certificate of standing by his Party. Judicial review proceedings against the returning officer concerned whether or not he could delay further approaching the candidate below Mr Story in the Party List (who, if approached and able to provide a certificate of standing, would then be returned as the MEP) pending proceedings against the Party challenging the decision not to provide a certificate. Appeared against Timothy Straker QC and Sappho Dias.
(see: The Daily Express)
Francis acted for Mr Story challenging the refusal by the Board of the Conservative to provide a certificate to permit him to succeed Lord Kirkhope as MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, notwithstanding that he was placed second on the list after Lord Kirkhope. The judgment determined important issues as to the extent to which the Court could interfere with decisions of a political party as a board (or executive) and in making decisions about its candidates; and whether it was entitled to consider the Parliamentary history of the European Parliamentary Elections regulations.
Advisory work and representation for GO Movement Ltd, Leave.EU, Grassroots Out and Labour Leave (July 2015-December 2016)
The former was one of the two leading organisations that applied for designation (by the Electoral Commission) as lead ‘Leave’ campaigners in the EU Referendum (supported by the latter clients). Francis advised and represented them in the designation process, on compliance with electoral law, on potential challenges to decisions by HM Government and the Electoral Commission and on all other electoral matters.
(see: The Telegraph)
Instructed by the Conservative Party to represent Councillors in an election petition caused by an error of the returning officer. The ‘novel and important point’ (Jay J) concerned whether it was constitutionally improper to take into account how voters might have voted in determining whether an error ‘appeared to have affected’ the result of an election. Appeared against Gavin Millar QC and Timothy Straker QC.
Election petition an untested point relating to errors in nomination papers, successfully retained to ensure respondent candidate avoided costs liability. Timothy Straker QC acted for the returning officer.
Rehman v Khan ((2015), Election Court)
Election petition alleging spiritual influence. Retained by petitioner. Drafted pleadings and submissions for trial. Gavin Millar QC acted for the respondent Councillor.
- Company & commercial
General Commercial: Francis is instructed in all areas of commercial law, including contract, restraint of trade, construction, the sale and carriage of goods, credit hire and professional negligence (see under public law for details of his commercial immigration practice). Ongoing and recent cases include:
- A £1.5 million commercial dispute over the restitution of monies paid ancillary to rent, involving successful applications before the High Court for freezing injunctions;
- Acting for a local authority in a case currently before the Technology and Construction Court concerning the defective installation of paving on the highway;
- Acting for an education provider in a contractual dispute with a funding network in a contract regulated by the Skills Funding Agency;
- A construction dispute involving a major building project at a university: application to strike out on grounds of abuse successfully resisted and claim settled for the full amount;
- A substantial claim for damages in a contractual dispute relating to the establishment and running of a nightclub in central London;
- A number of disputes between recruitment agencies and companies over the payment of commission charges;
- Francis is frequently asked to advise, by employers and employees, as to the enforceability of restraint of trade covenants.
Company/Commercial Chancery and Insolvency: Francis is often instructed and advises in claims brought in the Companies Court and the Chancery Division of the High Court and in the Chancery list at Central London County Court. His case load includes partnership, claims and applications brought under the Companies’ Act, including:
- Acting for a member of a business organisation incorporated as a company in an application to wind it up on the just and equitable ground, alternatively for relief due to unfair prejudice, on the grounds of the mismanagement of company funds and elections to positions. CCMC and strike out application in January 2017.
- Acted for the member of a company in another application to wind up on the just and equitable grounds or for alternative relief in a case involving the alleged misappropriation of company property. Successful settlement obtained.
- An injunction in the High Court, Companies Court, involving issues of passing off, misappropriation of company property, competition in a quasi-partnership; successful settlement obtained;
- A partnership dispute relating to dissolution accounts and allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, partnership turnover c £2 million;
- Two other partnership disputes involving accusations of breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, theft and harassment;
- Applications for restoration of companies to the register (including where there is an impending claim against a dissolved company) under s 1029 of the Companies Act 2006
- Corporate and personal insolvency, including winding up petitions, bankruptcy petitions, applications to set aside statutory demands, etc.
Professional Negligence: Francis advises and acts in professional negligence disputes. Recent cases have included:
- Currently instructed, appearing against Queen’s Counsel at an application for summary judgment, in a surveyor’s negligence claim involving the issue of the personal liability of an employed surveyor in a claim in contract;
- Acted in a claim against an accountant on the grounds of his failure to advise a business of their liability to register for VAT;
- Advised in a potential claim against criminal solicitors for their allegedly negligent failure to advise positively on appeal;
- Acted for a firm of immigration solicitors in a claim alleging the negligent failure to advise on the correct type of application for a business visa.
- Other Public Law
Parliamentary and constitutional law and Brexit:
R (English Democrats) v the Prime Minister, 2019
Francis is instructed by a political party in a judicial review of the first extension of the period within which the UK may negotiate withdrawal from the EU provided by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The grounds for the claim were that no prerogative or statutory power existed for the extension agreed by the former Prime Minister in March 2019. Sir James Eadie QC acted for the Prime Minister.
R (Leave Means Leave) v Minister for the Cabinet Office, 2019
Francis was instructed by Wedlake Bell in a successful challenge to HM Government’s initial decision not to hold European Parliamentary elections in the event of an extension under Article 50 TEU. The challenge is made in the light of the obligation on the UK to ensure democratic representation within the EP for all EU citizens, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU. Reliance is also placed on the indefinite duration of EU membership in the light of the possibly unilateral revocation of A50 (confirmed by Wightman v the Secretary of State (2018) C-621/18).
Francis was junior counsel to the fifth intervener in the Supreme Court in R (Miller) v Secretary of State of Exiting the European Union  UKSC 5, the case determining whether or not an Act of Parliament was required before giving notification under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union;
Other cases and publications
- Advised on the merits of a possible judicial review of the lawfulness of the Government’s decision to provide and fund a leaflet to all electors in the EU Referendum, in March 2016, for a leading campaigner in the EU referendum;
- Author of a paper arguing that the UK is free to negotiate free trade agreements with non-EU members prior to its exit from the EU.
- Author (with Martin Howe QC and Dr Gunnar Beck) of a paper on ‘Adjudicating Treaty Rights in post-Brexit Britain’, which proposes a new tribunal system within the UK dealing with rights under any future treaties with the EU and an international adjudication procedure for disputes between the EU and the UK under such treaties.
- Author (with Martin Howe QC and Dr Gunnar Beck) of a paper suggesting a resolution to the question of the rights of EU citizens resident in the EU after withdrawal, which heavily influenced government policy and the UK’s offer on citizens’ rights in June 2017;
- Drafted suggested amendments to the Immigration Act 2016 at the request of the Leader of a local authority;
- Drafted suggested amendments to other Bills and Acts for members of both Houses of Parliament;
- Author of a recent article in The Times on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.
- In September and October 2019, interviewed by Channel Four News, Newsnight, BBC Five Live and BBC Northern Ireland about the Supreme Court’s decision on the prorogation of Parliament and the ‘Benn’ Act requiring a further extension to be requested under Article 50 TEU.
Local Authorities and PII:
Francis regularly acts for and against local authorities, particularly in housing matters. He has a particular expertise in applications for injunctions against council tenants under the Housing Act 1996. Francis is instructed by local authorities in the specialist area of public interest immunity applications in the Crown Court. Francis is particularly well placed to act in this area having had an extensive criminal prosecution practice in the past, in addition to his specialist public law experience.
Mental Health and capacity:
Francis acts for individuals, local authorities and other public bodies in cases before the High Court, Court of Protection and (in relation to Mental Health Act cases) the County Court. In 2018/19 he has appeared in a number of High Court cases, including London Borough of Croydon v KR & Anor  EWHC 2498 (Fam)
Inquests: Francis acts for public bodies, insurers, businesses, individuals and families, as interested persons, in Inquest proceedings before the Coroners Court.
Francis’s human rights practice – including leading against Queen’s Counsel in cases of national importance involving ECHR issues – is of great assistance in Inquests concerning the actions of public bodies. Francis also has the unusual quality of being an experienced jury advocate (having led in criminal trials including rape and serious fraud) who now has a heavyweight civil and human rights practice, making him well suited to this area.
Recent cases involve:
- Re Keria (East Sussex Coroner’s Court): an inquest into the death of a young person while she was in the effective custody of the Priory Group (acting for the local authority at which she had resided); see the Guardian; the Telegraph; the BBC; ITV; and the Daily Mail
- Inquest (Westminster Coroner’s Court) into the killing of a man by his domestic partner, following a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity (acting for the local authority).
- Instructed by HM Coroner for Buckinghamshire in a potential challenge to his rulings during an inquest.
- Inquest (Walthamstow Coroner’s Court) into the death a 16 year old in the care of a local authority through a drugs overdose (acting for the authority).
- Inquest (Westminster Coroner’s Court) into the death of a recently sectioned mental health patient, which concerned issues as to the responsibility of a NHS Trust and the local authority (acting for the authority).
Prison Law: Francis acts for prisoners in cases before the Parole Board, in disciplinary proceedings and in civil claims against the state for miss-treatment in prison. Recent cases involved a life prisoner 20 years over his tariff and two prisoners convicted of rape on indeterminate sentences. In December 2012, Francis appeared (led by Jonathan Cowen) in the judicial review of the refusal of Rampton High Security Hospital to permit access by patients to pornographic material.
Housing: Francis acts in the full range of housing cases, including possession, homelessness and Pt VII applications, disrepair, etc. He has a particular specialism in anti-social behaviour injunctions and in cases of unlawful eviction.
Ongoing cases include:
- A judicial review of a local authority’s refusal to provide temporary accommodation pending review of a homelessness decision, pursuant to s 188 (3) of the Housing Act 1996 (acting for the claimant); and
- A county court appeal (under s 204 of the 1996 Act) against a suitability decision (acting for the local authority)
Commercial Immigration: Francis is regularly instructed by companies and individuals in cases in the Tribunal and in the High Court and County Court. These include work permit appeals and County Court appeals against penalties for the employment of illegal workers. Francis is currently instructed by a college at risk of a penalty in consequence of its alleged failure to abide by controls on its immigrant entrants; and is acting for another college at risk of losing its ability to sponsor Tier 4 students.
Other Public Law/Cases involving public bodies: Francis acts for defendants in civil actions against the police, including wrongful arrest, miss-treatment and malicious prosecution. He acts in the area of mental health. With his criminal and human rights background, he is well placed to advise in related cases affecting the liberty of the subject.
Francis is currently acting in a ground-breaking case involving the question of when limitation starts to run in claims for damages in cases of wrongfully administered cautions that have subsequently been discharged. There is currently no common law authority on this question.
Francis acts for both employers and employees. He regularly advises employers on proposed redundancy settlements, redundancy claims, proposed changes of terms and conditions and associated claims, unfair dismissal, TUPE transfers and associated claims and discrimination claims. In addition, Francis’s commercial expertise is of great value when he is frequently asked to advise and act in contractual restraint of trade claims. Employers and employees need to act with particular care before issuing and defending such proceedings, given the high degree of uncertainty in the enforcement of such agreements.
With a considerable practice in public law and human rights, Francis frequently advises and acts in discrimination claims, from before potential actions (eg during the internal disciplinary or grievance process) to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and beyond. With his extensive litigation and advocacy experience, he is well placed to advise employers and employees before litigation, including on employment contracts, transfers of undertakings, redundancy schemes and disciplinary and grievance procedures, in addition to potential actions.
Francis acts in cases before the Employment Tribunal, the EAT, the County Court and the High Court (in contractual cases). Recent cases have included:
- Edmunds v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council (2019, ongoing) Representing a fraud investigator in an unfair dismissal and discrimination claim, alleging that his dismissal was a sham redundancy with the object of ending prematurely fraud investigations into the Council’s Youth Service. The final liability hearing was held over 12 days in August and December 2019 and judgment has been reserved. The case was widely reported, including by The Times, Daily Mail and The Sun.
- Snowball v Leslie Franks Ltd (December 2016): six day case in the Employment Tribunal, London Central, involving a claim (for c£200,000) of disability discrimination by a solicitor against her former employer (judgment reserved). (See The Times, ‘Law firm head accused of bullying and disability bias’.)
- Miah v NHS (ongoing in 2017): claim (for c£200,000) in the Employment Tribunal, London Central (alternative proceedings in the county court pending) of alleged racial and religious discrimination by the NHS.
Francis writes and lectures on employment law. In 2012-2014, he has lectured at six seminars for solicitors and an advocacy training event on redundancy. He recently produced a webinar on ‘Pursuing and Defending Claims under the Equality Act’ and his guide to facility time for trade unions was published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance in September 2012.
- Property and Contentious Probate
Francis acts for and advises in commercial and residential landlord and tenant matters, including in cases of disrepair and harassment. Recent cases include:
- Advising a property developer over a hotel development and applications under TOLATA in view of the objection of co-beneficiaries;
- Acting for a local authority in an application before the First-tier Tribunal (Residential Property) applications
- Advising a substantial golf club in a number of planning and property matters, including substantial disputes with a local authority;
- Unlawful eviction actions, including a criminal trial acting for a local authority and a civil action acting for a tenant.
Francis acts in contentious probate cases. Ongoing and recent cases include the following:
- Ashman v Thomas: A claim involving issues of execution, capacity and undue influence. Francis acts for the defendant challenging the propounding of three wills. There are two reported cases on this matter. The first ( EWHC 3806 (Ch) http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2016/3806.html) concerns due execution and is one of the only reported cases of the propounder of a will failing to establish due execution (in the case of two of the wills). The second ( EWHC 1810 (Ch) http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2016/1810.html) concerns whether a court may make an interim costs order after a hearing and has excited considerable comment, including in the Law Gazette (9.8.2016: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/legal-updates/clarity-on-costs/5057054.article) and the Association of Costs Lawyers (21.7.2016: http://www.associationofcostslawyers.co.uk/News/payment-on-account-of-costs-can-be-sought-after-hearing);
- Williams v Spencer: A High Court case in which Francis successfully struck out a claim contesting the validity of a will after probate;
- Personal injury
Francis represents claimants and defendants in all areas of personal injury. His cases range from standard fast track road traffic cases to complex cases involving issues such as work-place bullying, psycho physiological illness and carbon monoxide poisoning. He is well placed to act and advise from the earliest stages, when issues such as permission to instruct experts may be of critical importance.
- Additional professional information
Elected member of the Committee of the Criminal Bar Association, 2007-2010, in which position he drafted a large number of CBA responses to Government consultations relating to law reform. Francis has also served on sub-committees of the Bar Council. Interests include running (Francis ran the Flora London Marathon in 2008 and raised £2,500 for Cancer Research); skiing, riding, history and singing.
- Publications & media
- In September and October 2019, interviewed by Channel Four News, Newsnight, BBC Five Live and BBC Northern Ireland about the Supreme Court’s decision on the prorogation of Parliament and the ‘Benn’ Act requiring a further extension to be requested under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.
- Paper on ‘Adjudicating Treaty Rights in post-Brexit Britain’
- Commentary (with others) on the implications of a hung Parliament.
- Paper proposing a settlement to the question of the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK after Brexit (June 2017)
- ‘EU citizens will not automatically keep access to public services’, The Times, December 2016;
- ‘The government has a good chance of winning the Brexit Supreme Court ruling and here’s why’, The Independent, November 2016;
- ‘The UK’s right to negotiate free trade agreements before leaving the EU’, Lawyers for Britain, October 2016;
- Cited by The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph, in 2016, for his opinion on matters of election law.
- In July 2015, the Taxpayers Alliance published a paper by Francis assessing the implications of HMRC’s proposals for the Direct Recovery of Debts from individual bank accounts. His paper received coverage in the Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and City AM.
- Comments in The Times and has advised The Independent and The Sunday Times on election law.
- Francis’s pleadings and advocacy in the Tower Hamlets election petition featured on the national news on the BBC, ITN and Channel Four; on the front pages and in leading articles in The Times (in August 2014 in addition to April 2015), The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Evening Standard; in addition to The New York Times and other international publications.
- ‘Limitations to the right to time-off for trade union activities’, legal briefing published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance in September, 2012
- ‘How to save your seat’ Local Government Lawyer, June 2011. Francis Hoar looks at the implications for election candidates at all levels of government after the first MP is ejected from the Commons in 100 years.
- ‘Public or Personal Character in Election Campaigns’: A Review of the Implications of the Judgment in Watkins v Woolas’, Modern Law Review Vol 74, Issue 4, June 2011;
- Author of a chapter on a British Bill of Rights in ‘The State of Liberties in Modern Britain’ (Biteback Publications, 2010)
- Regularly appears on Radio Five Live’s Victoria Derbyshire show, most recently to discuss two newsworthy immigration decisions;
- ‘There’s no Justice in Anonymity’ Counsel, 2008
- ‘Serving Justice’ (article on the role of the Lord Chancellor), Counsel, 2007.
- LLB. (Bristol): Law (2:1 (Hons))
- John Colston Award for international debating, Bristol University (2000)
- Hardwicke Scholar, Lincoln’s Inn (2000)
- Thomas More Bursar, Lincoln’s Inn (2000)
- Pupillage Scholar, Lincoln’s Inn (2001)
- Professional memberships
- South East Circuit
- Employment Law Bar Association
- Privacy Notice
Francis’ Privacy Notice can be found here