John Samson

Call date: 2001

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Areas of Practice



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

Experience & Expertise

John specialises in media, information and employment law and advises and represents both claimants and defendants. He has appeared in the High Court, Appeal Court and Privy Council, the Information Tribunal, Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

A former TV executive, John has a wide advocacy and advisory practice for high net worth individuals, publishers, film and TV production companies, local authorities, law firms, public authorities, charities, trade unions, private companies and public corporations. Among others he has acted for producers, directors, doctors, academics, brokers, chief executives, sports advisors, brand advisers, politicians and journalists.

Between 2002 and 2005 John was retained as in-house counsel for a niche firm of media law solicitors, gave pre-publication advice to tabloid and broadsheet newspapers and worked as an in-house lawyer for the Guardian Newspaper Group.

With an extensive background in media production, business and the arts before coming to the bar, including senior editorial stints in Current Affairs for the BBC and as head of his own award winning independent TV production company, John offers a unique perspective on media related cases and has hands-on knowledge of employment matters.

John is also legal adviser to well-known investigative journalist, John Pilger and is credited on his recent feature length documentaries War on Democracy and The War You Don’t See.

John’s knowledge of media and information law is often called upon in an employment context where he is engaged on extended hearings and more complex and interdisciplinary matters. He has considerable experience in cases where reputation and employment matters merge. He also provides strategic advice at partner level to two specialist employment law practices.

Current & Recent Work

Among others John is presently instructed in:

  • Abel v Canvey Island Town Council (for former Town Clerk in constructive dismissal and whistle blowing claim)
  • Ansari v Knowles and Manchester Metropolitan University (for claimant in libel, slander and unfair dismissal claims)
  • Boukemiche v various newspapers  (for claimant in defamation claims)
  • Desmond v Cheshire East and West (claims for libel, data protection and privacy following claimant’s dismissal for gross sexual misconduct)
  • Dunn-Smith v Enfield LBC (for respondent in unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and victimisation)
  • Eline v Credit Agricole (for claimant in high value bonus claim)
  • Flynn v A1 Bathrooms LLP et al (for claimant in TUPE claim)
  • Leedale v Goodwin (for respondent in libel and malicious falsehood claim)
  • Lewis v New College, Oxford (for respondent in remitted claims for unfair dismissal and race discrimination following EAT apparent bias hearing )
  • Masarati v Britvic (for shop steward claimant in interim relief hearing)
  • Power v Greater Manchester Police (for respondent in defamation claim)
  • Rea v Greyhound Racing Authority (for respondent in libel claim)
  • UCATT v  Southampton City Council (for claimants in mass ‘fire/rehire’ labour dispute)
  • Unite v G C Print (for multiple claimants in TUPE claims)

Recent defamation cases include:

  • Aurel BGC v Relan (representing successful international corporate claimant against a former employee) and Odone v Key Publishing Ltd (representing successful publisher defendant against an internet blogger).

Significant defamation trials include:

  • Mo George v News Group Newspapers (winning claimant) and Tiscali v BT [2008] EWHC 2927; [2008] EWHC 3129 (successful defendant).

Other notable cases include:

  • Allen v LB Southwark [2008] EWCA Civ 1478 (defending harassment claim, CA)
  • Wray v University of West Indies [2007] UKPC 14 (for claimant in libel and employment, PC)
  • Pell v Express Newspapers [2005] EWCA Civ 46 (for claimant, CA);
  • Maccaba v Lichtenstein (for defendant in six week slander trial) [2005] EMLR 6; [2005] EMLR 9
  • Wallis v Valentine [2003] EMLR 175 (for claimant, CA)
  • Charterhouse Research v Richmond Pharmacology [2003] EWHC 1099(for CFA defendant).
  • In El Guerbouzi John was instructed in claims against all the major UK newspapers achieving awards in excess of £300,000.

He has also advised FIFA President Sepp Blatter on UK defamation matters.

Other notable cases include:

  • Ritchie (UCATT) v Information Commissioner (secret blacklisting of building workers)
  • Redrow Homes v Buckborough [2009] IRLR 34 (for claimant/respondent establishing the principle of ‘two shams’ in employment contracts)
  • Wray v University of West Indies [2007] UKPC 14 (for the claimant/appellant on unfair dismissal and defamation, Privy Council)
  • Peninsula v Rees (for appellant on judicial apparent bias)
  • Lewis v New College, Oxford (for respondent on judicial apparent bias)

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.”
Recommended in Chambers UK 2014 for defamation/privacy
John Samson is “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
Recommended in Chambers UK 2013 for defamation/privacy
‘has a wealth of journalistic experience, which is a massive boon” in this market. “A keen and energetic practitioner’
Recommended in Chambers 2012 for defamation/privacy
“…‘probably the most energetic person at the defamation bar.  Hungry and hardworking’…‘’
Recommended in Chambers 2011 for defamation/privacy
 “…‘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‘’
Recommended in Chambers 2010 for defamation/privacy
‘Totally Dedicated’
Recommended in Legal 500, 2008 for defamation/privacy