Fountain Court Chambers has a significant product liability caseload within its mainstream commercial practice.Legal 500, 2013
Fountain Court Chambers is considered by many to be ‘the go-to set’ for banking and finance litigation.Legal 500, 2013
Banking & finance
Fountain Court has a very fine professional negligence practice with a strong focus on claims relating to financial firms and legal practitioners. Its silks are especially renowned, and are amongst the most well-respected and high-profile barristers in the market.Chambers UK, 2014
As one of the leading commercial sets, Fountain Court Chambers has been well positioned to take advantage of an increase in disputes following the recent global economic downturn. As companies and individuals have alleged negligence on the part of their advisers, so professional disciplinary disputes have grown in number. Sources say: "They are excellent for complicated regulatory and disciplinary matters."Chambers UK, 2014
"at the forefront of wherever commercial activity takes the law."Chambers UK, 2014
"The set overall is a class act,"Chambers UK, 2014
Insurance and reinsurance
‘Very professional and easy to deal with’, Fountain Court Chambers provides ‘consistently good advice’.Legal 500, 2013
Fountain Court Chambers is 'really at the top of its game'; not only are the barristers incredibly bright, but they are also very commercially focused and hardworking.Legal 500, 2014
Charles Béar QC Call date: 1986 | Silk date: 2003
Charles Béar QC is considered one of the leading advocates of his generation. Specialising in:
Charles has put his skills to use in a wide variety of courts and tribunals over his 25 years of practice and 10 years as a QC. He is renowned for his exceptional cross-examination skills, attracting comments such as “probably the best cross-examination I’ve seen”. Much of Charles’ work is high-profile. He has appeared in numerous High Court trials, injunctions and other applications in the Commercial Court, Chancery Division, Queen’s Bench Division and Cayman Grand Court; regularly carries out appellate work in the Court of Appeal and House of Lords (now the Supreme Court); and has a wealth of judicial review experience. In addition Charles has appeared in other forums including disciplinary tribunals and employment tribunals, and has led a major internal inquiry for a central government department. His clients range from prominent Russian /CIS business leaders to financial institutions and government agencies.
Charles receives consistent praise from directories and clients, and in the words of Chambers UK “the judges just listen and respect him”. He is recommended in 5 different practice areas of the Chambers and Partners 2013 Bar guide:
- Commercial litigation
- Administrative and Public law
- Public procurement
- Local Government
Recent directory comments
"Fiercely intelligent and great with clients."
"An extremely clever and impressive advocate."
“An absolutely outstanding advocate, who is able to marshal massive sets of papers and isolate the issues in a case. His abilities are phenomonal.”
“Charles Béar QC of Fountain Court Chambers is ‘absolutely superb’ ... an impressive success rate.”
“A prominent name in public law circles.”
"He is a really effective courtroom performer - very bright and very robust."
"A brilliant advocate with a sharp mind and an excellent court manner."
(Chambers UK 2013 and 2014)
- 1st Class Honours in Jurisprudence at Magdalen College, Oxford 1982-85.
Appointments, memberships, prizes
- Member of COMBAR Executive
Administrative & public law
Charles’s advocacy skills stand him in equally good stead in public law work, attracting such comments as“overwhelmingly compelling submissions” (R (FCH) v Pembrokeshire (2011) 14 CCLR 103). His public law experience is extremely broad.
- He recently led for the Association of British Insurers in March 2013 successfully resisting a judicial review of the Government’s reforms to PI litigation  EWHC 1358 (Admin). The litigation resulted in a saving of £1m a day to the British public in claimant lawyer fees.
- He successfully represented the NHS in striking out a procurement challenge brought by the trade union Unison to a major outsourcing exercise: R (Unison) v NHS  ACD 84.
In procurement work he has been described by directories as “long been a force to be reckoned with” and “entrusted with extricating local authorities from legally difficult situations”.
- He successfully defended NICE against judicial review challenges to its national guidance: R (Bristol-Myers Squibb) v NICE  1 CMLR 31; R (Fraser) v NICE (2009) 107 BMLR 178.
- He acted for easyJet in its challenge to Gatwick passenger fees: R (easyJet) v Civil Aviation Authority  ACD 19.
Charles also has long experience of acting for local authorities in high profile litigation including unaccompanied asylum seekers, and attempted use of children’s legislation to obtain housing: R (A) v Lambeth  PTSR 1011 and R (G) v Barnet  2 AC 208.
Commercial dispute resolution
Charles Béar QC has recently scored a major victory in the Commercial Court against two divisions of one of the world’s largest conglomerates, General Electric (Alpstream AG v PK AirFinance and GECAS, 31 July 2013). After a 28-day hearing the Court ruled that GECAS and another subsidiary“had participated in a cover-up which continued through to the evidence”. Of the principal witness, the Judge concluded “He simply had no answer to Mr Béar’s cross-examination”. In a procedural ruling the Judge commented “I have grown familiar with the complete mastery of this case that Mr Béar has”. Damages of $10.1m were awarded for wilful misconduct as mortgagee, for conspiracy and knowingly inducing breach of contract. For press coverage, see Reuters and The Times.
Among other features of the trial, Charles obtained a rare procedural ruling that claims to legal privilege had been wrongly made by two prominent City law firms, the Judge holding that “I do not believe anyone who looked at it with a proper eye would have had difficulty in concluding that the privilege was not available”.
In other high-profile work, Charles has represented Kazakhstan banker and opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov in fraud claims totalling over US$5 billion. In an important ruling he obtained permission from the Court of Appeal to proceed with the case despite his client’s acknowledged contempt of court: JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov  EWCA Civ 639. Charles is currently instructed in an ongoing petition to the European Court of Human Rights against the Court of Appeal’s decision to strike out Mr Ablyazov’s defences for failure to disclose assets. Previous high-profile fraud work includes co-leading for the claimant in a £100m fraud claim arising out of the acquisition of a major property and construction group, AWG v Morrison  1 WLR 1163.
Charles has substantial experience in the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors. In 2010 he represented Baxter Healthcare, one of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies, in a Chancery Division dispute with a Swiss biotech business concerning a multi-hundred million dollar R&D collaboration agreement. In 2008 he represented the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine defending a landmark Commercial Court dispute arising out of an ongoing clinical trial. After one week of trial the claimant withdrew, paid the defendant’s costs, and submitted to judgment on its counterclaim. In 2006 he represented another leading UK university in disciplinary proceedings against a research doctor resulting in numerous findings of serious misconduct in drugs trials. He also regularly advises on procurement and public body vires issues in this area, and has successfully represented the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Charles also has extensive litigation experience outside commercial law. He originated the modern springboard injunction (Midas Group v Opus Group, Ch D, 21 December 1999) and has appeared or advised in over 100 contested post-termination disputes involving restrictive covenants, confidentiality claims, IP issues, asset and information tracing, and freezing and search orders and other pre-emptive strikes.