John Ellwood
  • John Ellwood

  • Partner


LLB hons solicitor/ Higher Rights

Legal Qualification:

Newcastle University and Guilford University

Year Of Admission:


Career Highlights:

  • First notable case is R v Weber (2004) 1 Cr.App.R.40 HL an attempted murder case which progressed to the House of Lords to clarify the law on what happens when someone refuses to answer questions in the police station.
  • R v SF involving money laundering case arising out of handling stolen goods and tax evasion, covert police surveillance and undercover police officer.
  • R v B successful abuse of process application based on prosecution failure to disclose information, money laundering regulatory breaches, licensing.
  • R v D business debt claimed as blackmail, prosecution witness lies, CCTV enhancement, telephone analysis.
  • R v H money laundering confiscation cell site analysis and pattern of contact, drug supply conspiracy.
  • M copyright, abuse of process, private prosecution, Sky television, premier league.


Experience and Expertise:

From the late 1980's onwards, virtually all my work has been as a criminal defence lawyer.

At first I represented large numbers of clients in the Magistrates’ Court predominantly with the benefit of legal aid. I later concentrated on the more serious and complex cases and I began to spend more and more time at the Crown Court. 

In 2005, I was awarded the Higher Courts qualification, one of the first solicitors to attain this distinction. This means that I have rights of audience in the Crown Court in all proceedings and in all other courts in all criminal proceedings.

Tilly  Bailey & Irvine has grown to become the largest firm in the Tees Valley. We are also now the solicitors of choice for most commercial clients in the area. Our growth has coincided with a change in policy of the government. More and more business people are now prosecuted in the criminal courts for offences which previously would have been regarded as civil matters. My firm’s reputation and my personal reputation mean that I receive a large number of enquiries to represent clients on a private basis - that is without legal aid.

I am now an unusual solicitor. I have experience and knowledge in criminal defence work and have represented clients in virtually every area of law known to the criminal courts. I continue to represent clients on legal aid, but that is in respect of serious offences. I usually represent at least two clients a year charged with murder and I am often asked to be one of the barristers in their defence as a result of my Higher Rights qualification. It is however in the area of defending private clients that my business has grown.

I decided to offer these private clients the kind of service that I would have liked myself and that is when a client instructs me they get me. I appear in court for them and I am there each time their case is at court. Each client has my personal mobile telephone number and they can ring it 24/7. I am available not just to talk to them on the telephone out of office hours but I am available to see or deal with problems that arise whenever they arise. It is a fact that sometimes investigating authorities choose to interview clients or even arrest clients outside office hours in the hope that senior solicitors will not be available. I have spent many hours in police stations and interview situations during the night for clients who want me. I do not send a clerk or a junior representative for the clients who wish to instruct me personally. In some specific cases, it is best that I be led in a case by very senior barristers. As a result of my experience and reputation I have access to the best there are around and, in fact, some senior barristers have actually referred cases to me.

This service comes at a cost. If a client instructs me in their defence and chooses not to go down the legal aid route (usually because they are outside the means testing criteria for serious cases in the crown court) and they are found not guilty, they do not get their costs back. They are effectively punished for being prosecuted even though they are found not guilty. Where they have applied for legal aid and legal aid has been refused on means grounds, they get back some of their costs. However, these clients are facing serious issues which in the worst case could result in prison sentences or bankruptcy. The majority of the private clients who I represent are found not guilty and, in these serious cases, paying the costs is a better result than facing the worst case outcome.

Here are some examples of the diverse areas in which I have experience:

  • Inferences to be drawn during interviews about offences. This is an ever-changing and developing area of law and I have litigated on behalf of clients who are faced with consequences of allegedly failing to mention facts in interview which are later relied on in court. The leading case on this subject was litigated in the Court of Appeal and subsequently in the House of Lords as it then was. It appears as the leading case in a number of text books on the subject and it was the case in which I was instructed and litigated.


  • Financial Crime and Money Laundering. I am a member of the Solicitors Association of Money Laundering and I have represented numerous clients in connection with applications to seize their assets and to investigate financial crime. My family has a background in accountancy and I have acquired a knowledge of this subject.  I have a distinction in revenue law. I have represented numerous clients where the revenue claim that they have more money than they ought to have as a result of what the revenue claim is either undeclared income or illegal income. I have successfully represented these clients both in relation to criminal proceedings and subsequent Proceeds of Crime allegations. I work closely with specialist accountants in negotiating settlement figures with the revenue and I have expertise and knowledge in relation to money laundering allegations.


  • The Scrap Metal Industry is a particular area of expertise. Prior to recent legislative changes, the police and local authorities decided to tackle scrap metal theft by investigating and prosecuting the scrap metal merchants who received what was alleged to have been stolen property. I have successfully represented a number of large scrap metal dealers who have been investigated and prosecuted in connection with both handling, concealing and dealing in stolen property and the Proceeds of Crime. To explain my involvement references to my experience are necessary.  I have represented clients from the interview stage, through the Magistrates’ hearings, into the Crown Court and during their trials. I have represented clients in relation to interviews, proposed proceedings and negotiated settlement with the revenue and have been present arguing the case at all stages.


  • Taxi Licensing. It is not cost effective for individual taxi drivers to instruct me to represent them on either licensing applications or prosecutions for breaches of regulations. It is however extremely cost effective for operators and owners of large taxi firms.  I have successfully represented large taxi companies who allegedly have breached their licence conditions and who wished to have their licence conditions amended to reflect modern working practices. I have represented a number of clients in these situations such that in the leading text book on the subject my cases appear.


  • Liquor Licensing. I have a large following in the liquor licence trade. I represent clients both in relation to licensing applications and subsequent proceedings alleging breach of licenses or attempts to curtail licenses. Just as with taxi licensing, it is not cost effective for individual licensees to approach me to, for example, apply to transfer their licences but where large premises are seeking either unusual licenses or are being challenged by regulatory authorities in relation to their hours of opening etc then my involvement is essential.


  • Copyright and trademarks. I have represented and am experienced in representing complex copyright issues brought by regulatory authorities and trade organisations against business clients. This is a complex and developing area of law and no-one should tackle it unless they have experience in this field.


  • Expert Evidence. I have a register of experts who can assist me including DNA experts, telephone and cellsite analysts and telecommunications and computer technology experts. I am experienced in understanding and interpreting complex expert evidence. In a recent very serious case we were able to properly analyse and present the developing law and science relating to mixed low level DNA samples.


What clients say:

“Over the years John has helped me a number of times. I do not hesitate in recommending his services. John is easy to contact, in or out of office hours, (his mobile phone is always available, even when he was on holiday). During what was a very stressful time for me and my family, he proved to be a master at firstly calming our nerves and ultimately coordinating and organising all the aspects of my defence. His friendly manner and his perfect timing helped get the result we needed. Thanks again John.”

Simon Foster, Pout & Foster Ltd

Case relating to scrap metal business.


“Having contacted solicitors Tilly Bailey & Irvine regarding a legal case that I was being charged with, I was put in touch with solicitor Mr. Ellwood. Having spoken to Mr. Ellwood at this difficult time I can only say how grateful I was to be able to speak with him anytime day or night. Mr. Ellwood is easily approachable, friendly and very professional. He not only takes into account your case, but also really cares about your wellbeing and gives you faith in difficult situations and how best to proceed forward. After my long and complex case, I took his knowledgeable advice and feel the end result was satisfactory. I would like to say Mr. Ellwood is a credit to Tilly Bailey & Irvine.”

Malcolm Mayes

Case relating to digital satellite TV systems.


“When you find yourself in a situation where the status quo is thrown out of kilter through certain means, you search for solace in someone who gives guidance in a traumatic time. I acquired John's number through a then client of John's, in a similar situation. On telephoning John, I explained the predicament that myself and several colleagues were in, and within less than 2 hours, John arrived at my workplace to listen fully to the fact that our worlds had taken a violent shift. The reason not only that John had had prior experience in successful similar cases was reassuring. The fact that John evokes a compassionate, understanding and caring sense, gives reassurance in a time of need. Our case in question, seemed like it dragged on for far more than normal, but John was always there at the end of his mobile, at any time day, night, and even when on holiday. Having someone with an abundance of experience, as well as a patient demeanour, gives that calming sense that the journey you’re experiencing will be a less traumatic and stressful one. Many thanks John.”

Steve Blackburn


“Tilly, Bailey & Irvine, John Ellwood and his team have been my legal representatives for over twenty years. During this time I have been accused of a very serious charge and I was also accused of drink driving on private land. We have also had some 23 licensed premises over the years and our main company, CBL Cable Contractors Limited, makes in excess of £40 million per year and we have had many overdue debtors which need handling. The crime I was accused of along with the drink driving charge had a successful acquittal that was handled by Mr. Ellwood and I received my costs back which were in excess of £130,000. He and his team have also successfully completed all the premises and alcohol licences on the public houses we have owned. Mr. Ellwood is always available no matter what time of day or night you contact him and, in fact, I even rang him when he was away in Spain on holiday some three years ago and he offered to fly home immediately. In my opinion, you will not find a quicker and more positive response and success rate that with John Ellwood.”

Andrew Haygarth, Managing Director, CBL Cable Contractors Ltd


“I suffered legal problems of a criminal nature at the hands of an unbending bureaucracy with a malevolent investigator adding to my discomfort. I approached TBI initially and made an appointment, but John Ellwood called me directly to come into the office at short notice to get the ball rolling and to mount my defence. John made it plain, in no uncertain terms, that he would get me acquitted and he saw the injustice in the situation. John helped me with police interviews, court appearances, sourced the best possible barrister to argue my case, and saw the holes and lies in the CPS case, sufficient to get the case dropped and me acquitted. I cannot speak too highly of John Ellwood as a defence solicitor and have no hesitation in recommending him for all of your legal criminal problems. I will be forever in his debt and he was a great support and help in my darkest time.”

Steve Andelic

Case relating to forgery.



Professional Memberships:

Recognised experts under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 by being a member of POCLA being the Proceeds of Crime Lawyers Association.

Accredited with Higher Rights (enabling representation in all criminal courts as lower barrister) a membership of SAHCA (Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates).

Accredited to represent clients in interviews in police station or by Health & Safety Executive or Local Authority.

Legal 500/Chambers Mentions:

2016 – “John Ellwood is noted for his extensive experience in regulatory crime matters.”

2015 - "John Ellwood at Tilly Bailey & Irvine defends corporate clients involved in regulatory offences."

Specialist licencing solicitor (described as formidable)

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?


Why law as a career?

Enjoyed adversarial role

Describe an interesting fact about yourself

Golfer, locally successful

What one thing could you not live without?


Hobbies and interests 

Golf, horses, food