James was called to the Bar in 2003 as a Benefactors Scholar. Since 2013 James has practiced in family law, having until then also practiced in crime. James can accept instructions directly from members of the public.
James is instructed to represent parties in care and other public law applications. The clients he represents often include those with mental health difficulties (including those represented by the Official Solicitor), those who lack confidence in “the system”, or are children themselves (either as a parent or with the capacity to instruct directly).
The types of cases James deals with include those involving serious allegations of harm against children (including extreme violence and/or sexual abuse) complex factual issues (such as multiple parties or allegations) and difficult/novel legal points, including those with no established precedent or where there are international jurisdictional issues.
James has been instructed in cases involving judicial review. As a former criminal practitioner he is also instructed in cases where there is a ‘cross over’ between criminal and family law, either because of parallel proceedings or other issues.
James is instructed on behalf of parents, children and other family members in private law applications. He is often instructed for clients who are either vulnerable or exasperated by the legal process.
James’ cases often involve serious allegations against the other parent or family members (including murder, rape, or involvement in terrorism) and/or sensitive issues such as who a child should live with when both parents have died or whether a parent should be allowed to move abroad with a child.
James represents parties in matrimonial finance and related applications. He is regularly instructed in cases involving serious conduct allegations (such as fraud, covert surveillance and blackmail), where assets are alleged to have been concealed or where assets form part of the proceeds of crime (including dealing with the interplay between the criminal process and family jurisdiction).
James is also experienced in dealing with cases where assets are held abroad or other international issues arise, such as the enforcement of child maintenance orders.
James is instructed in applications for protective orders. These cases can involve serious allegations (rape, kidnap, being forced to smuggle drugs into the country) or difficult family relationships, such as parents seeking an order against a child.
Re A, B, C, D and E (2018): Represented a grandmother and argued that four siblings should not be placed separately. The court agreed and the local authority changed their care plans to reflect this. The case is reported as Re A, B, C, D and E (Children: Placement Orders: Separating Siblings)
Re H (Care Order: Designated Local Authority) (2016) EWFC 39: Represented a local authority arguing that it should not be designated under a care order for five Slovakian Roma children living with their learning disabled mother.
Re C (Children) (2015) (AC9401860): Represented a mother (suffering with psychiatric difficulties) who concealed her relationship with a man with a conviction for the manslaughter of his young child. Appeal on whether a Judge had placed undue weight on the need to keep the three children together, in refusing the grant a placement order.
High Court (Hull District Registry) (2013): Represented a mother accused of the chronic neglect of her children. During the course of the proceedings the local authority removed the children from the care of the grandparents without reference back to the Court. Prepared application for Judicial Review of the local authority’s actions (Reported as R (on the application of H) v Kingston Upon Hull City Council, KS, AS, SS and FS  1 FLR 1094).
Re A (Interim Contact:Observations on Parents)  EWHC 4273 (FAM): Represented the children in an application for the interim contact by their father, who had a conviction for rape. Issues around the safety of the children seeing their father without an assessment of his possible risk (later appealed in Re A (A Child)  EWCA Civ 543.
Leicester Family Court (2015): Represented the wife of a hospital consultant. Allegations of concealed assets and the ‘sham’ transfer of property to third parties (necessitating orders for the production of third party information and the freezing of assets). Also issues around property held in Pakistan and maintenance for the disabled child of the marriage.
Stafford Family Court (2015): Represented a wife alleging that her husband had concealed his business assets and fraud in the preparation of company documents. Allegations that following separation, the husband had placed a tracking device on the wife’s car and listening devices in the former matrimonial home.
Coventry Family Court (2015): Represented a woman seeking a non-molestation order against her former boyfriend, having alleged that he had raped her and sexually abused their young daughter.
Other reported cases: R v Boyes  EWCA Crim 441 (led by Queens Counsel); R v Cosgrove  EWCA Crim 764 (Courts Martial appeal to allow client to be released from military prison to deploy to Afghanistan); R v Johnson  EWCA Crim 2833(appeal against a life sentence); Robbie the Pict v Crown Prosecution Service  EWHC B10 (Admin).
2018 Forced Marriage Case at High Court
James Cleary represented a local authority at the High Court in London in an application for a forced marriage protection order. The victim had been taken out of the country to marry a relative. Following orders obtaining the return of the victim to this country, the High Court heard argument on the need for an FMPO and agreed that this was necessary. The Judge commended the approach taken by James and the local authority.
Re A and others (Children) (Care Orders: Care Plans) –  All ER (D) 41 (Sep)
James opposed placement orders for four of his client’s grandchildren. The Judge agreed that the local authority evidence was inadequate and that further assessment was required.
Re H (Care Order: Designated Local Authority)  1 F.C.R. 389
James successfully opposed designation of his client local authority under a care order for four Slovakian children. The decision broke new ground on the law on designation.
Re C (Children)  EWCA Civ 1634
James represented a mother in the Court of Appeal who was refusing to leave her partner despite his conviction for the manslaughter of a child.
2015 Court of Appeal
Represented a mother suffering with psychiatric difficulties who concleaed her relationship with a man with a conviction for the manslaughter of his young child.
2015 Leicester Family Court
Allegations of concealed assets and the ‘sham’ transfer of property to third parties (necessitating orders for the production of third party information and the freezing of assets).
2015 Coventry Family Court
Represented a woman seeking a non-molestation order against her former boyfriend, having alleged that he had raped her and sexually abused their young daughter.