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John McGhee QC

Call 1984
Silk 2003


John maintains a wide and varied practice in the fields of modern commercial Chancery Work. He has particular expertise in property related work but his practice equally encompasses company, insolvency and partnership disputes, problems involving trusts and civil fraud, and banking and professional negligence claims.  He also advises in non-litigious matters such as the trusts and property aspects of proposed investment and tax schemes.

John is well known as much for his acute intellectual analysis of problems and mastery of the detailed facts of a case as for his robust, practical and commercially realistic advice.  His court room presence marries an easy rapport with the court or tribunal, robust and incisive cross-examination and a lightning fast response to new points as they arise in the case.

John believes that his profession is first and foremost a service industry and he aims to be as accessible as possible and to provide speedy, pertinent and readily intelligible advice tailored to the needs of both his lay and professional clients.

Commercial and Commercial Chancery Litigation

John has been involved in some of the largest pieces of litigation in the country including the Grupo Torras litigation (a civil fraud claim arising out of the activities of the Kuwait Investment Office after the first Gulf War); and the Buncefield litigation (where he represented both the owner of one of the largest commercial buildings in the vicinity of the oil depot explosion and the residential occupiers of neighbouring properties). He has been involved in a number of cases overseas including Esquire v. Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in the Court of Appeal in Hong Kong (in which he led a team of three silks and two juniors in a high profile claim alleging undue influence, economic duress and breach of fiduciary duty against the bank) and more recently at home in Menolly v. Cerep Sarl which concerned a £150m development contract.

Company and Insolvency Disputes

John’s deep understanding of the underlying principles of company and insolvency law has led to him being involved in a number of important recent cases including:

Progress Property Co LtdMoorgarth Group Ltd in which he successfully resisted a claim made at first instance, in the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court that a transaction between a company and its shareholders at a negligent undervalue was ultra vires;
Sunberry PropertiesInnovate Logistics concerning the grounds upon which leave should be granted to commence proceedings against a company in administration; and
Amble AssetsLongbenton Foods which concerned a proprietary claim for the return of an unreasonably high deposit paid to a company in administration, the scope of the rule in ex parte James and the effect of Schedule B1 paragraph 99 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Property Disputes

John is frequently asked to advise and represent parties to disputes about major commercial developments but his practice extends to all areas of real property law.  Recent cases have included:

Scottish Widows Fund & Life Assurance SocietyBGC Internationalconcerning the construction and claim for rectification of a rent review provision in a lease;
Re Thames Valley Holdings Ltd in which a preliminary issue was determined in an important case in which the National Trust seeks to prevent modification of a restrictive covenant
Mourant Property Trust LtdFusion Electronics Ltd which concerned whether a break clause in a lease had been validly exercised and
CarpenterCalico Quays in which the court determined the extent of a right of way

Professional Negligence

John is frequently involved in advising on professional negligence claims against valuers, solicitors, barristers and other professionals arising out of his main areas of practice.  He accepts instructions both for claimants and defendants in such claims.

Books, articles, lectures and seminars

John has always had a keen interest in the underlying framework of principles which underpin court decisions. This interest has been developed through his editorship since 1999 of Snell’s Equity and through the many articles he has written including The Nature of the Enrichment Inquiry in Degeling & Edelman eds., Unjust Enrichment in Commercial Law and his review of Boundaries of Personal Property: Shares and Sub-Shares by Pretto-Sakmann in (2006) Vol 122 Law Quarterly Review 533.  He is also in demand for seminars in particular on the application of equitable principles in modern commercial contexts.

Scholar at University College Oxford
BA (Oxon) First Class Honours
Hardwicke, Wolfson and Denning Scholar at Lincolns Inn

Snell's Equity (33rd Edition), General Editor

Chancery Bar Association
Commercial Bar Association
Property Bar Association

The clerks are happy to discuss the basis on which John will act in any given matter. In the absence of express written agreement otherwise, the terms under which John accepts instructions are The Standard Contractual Terms for the Supply of Legal Services By Barristers to Authorised Persons 2012 (as updated from time to time) referred to in the BSB Handbook.

Notable Cases

EMI v Prudential (2020)

89 Holland Park Management Ltd v Sophie Louise Hicks (2020)

Wirsol Energy Ltd v Toucan Energy Holdings Ltd (2018)

Generator Developments Ltd v Lidl UK GMBH (2018)

Metropolitan Housing v RMC FH Co Ltd (2017)

Burrows Investments v Ward Homes (2017)

Canary Wharf Finance II plc v Deutsche Trustee Company Limited (2016)

Burrow Investments v Ward Homes (2015)

Chelsfield Advisers LLP v Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co (2015)

UK Leasing Brighton Ltd & Ors v Topland Neptune Ltd & Ors (2015)

Tindall Cobham 1 Ltd & 21 Ors v Adda Hotels (An Unlimited Company) & 11 Ors (2014) (CoA)

Tindall Cobham 1 Ltd & 21 Ors v Adda Hotels (An Unlimited Company) & 11 Ors (2014)

Pillar Denton Ltd v GAME Retail Ltd (2014)

Adams & Ors v Allen & Overy & Ors (2013)

In The Matter of Games Station Ltd & Ors (2013)

HFI Farnborough LLP & Ors v Park Garage Group PLC & Ors (2012)

Lord Spencer-Churchill v Faggionato Fine Arts Ltd (2012)

Toplain Ltd v Orange Retail Ltd (2012)

Greene King PLC v Quisine Restaurants Ltd (2012)

Scottish Widows Fund & Life Assurance Society v BGC International (2012)

CIP Property (AIPT) Ltd v Transport for London, London Undergoround Ltd, Derwent Valley Central Ltd

Persimmon Homes Ltd v Woodford Land Ltd (2011)

Re Thames Valley Holdings Ltd (2011)

Amble Assets v Longbenton Foods (2011)

Nigel Alliance, Cringle Corporation Ltd v Yousef Tishbi, Realty Estates Ltd (2011)

Woodford Land Ltd v Persimmon Homes Ltd (2011)

Scottish Widows Fund & Life Assurance Society v BGC International (2011)

Tradegro (UK) Ltd & Wigmore Street Investments Ltd v Charles Price (2011)

Progress Property Co Ltd v Moorgrath Group Ltd (2010)

Tradegro (UK) Ltd v Wigmore Street Investments Ltd (2010)

Aviva Life & Pensions UK Ltd v Strand Street Properties Ltd (2010)

UK Housing Alliance (North West) Ltd v Francis (2010)

City & General (Investment) Ltd v Razama (2009)

Mourant Property Trust Ltd v Fusion Electronic (UK) Ltd (2009)

London Development Agency v Mehmet Nidai (2009)

Progress Property Co Ltd v Moorgarth Group Ltd (2009)

Colour Quest v Total Downstream [2009]

Menolly v Cerep Sarl (2009)

J Alston & Sons v BOCM Pauls Ltd (2008)

Progress Property Co Ltd v Tradegro (UK) Ltd (2008)

Progress Property Co Ltd v Cornus Moore (2008)

Sunberry Properties Ltd v Innovate Logistics Ltd (In Administration) & 5 Ors (2008)

Alan Coleman v Ibstock Brick Ltd (2008)

Barclays Bank PLC v Trevor Guy (2008)

Patel v Patel (2007)

Coors Holdings Ltd v Dow Properties Ltd (2007)

Kilmartin SCI (Hulton House) Ltd v Safeway Stores (2006)

Clear Channel UK Ltd v Manchester City Council (2005)

Midtown Ltd v City Of London Real Property Co Ltd (2005)

Clear Channel UK Ltd v Manchester City Council (2004)

Wilkinson v West Bromwich Building Society (2004)

Jack Pennington & Ors v Harold Crampton Senior & Ors (2004)

Pennington v Crampton (2004)

Burford UK Properties Ltd v Forte Hotels (UK) Ltd (2003)

Tiffany Investments Ltd v Bircham & Co Nominees (No.2) Ltd

Dryblend Ltd v Tesco Stores Ltd (2003)

Pennington v Harold Crampton & Ors (2003)

Pennington v Waine (No.2) (2003)

Actionstrength Ltd v International Glass Engineering SpA (2003)

Tiffany Investments Ltd, Coral Chantry v Bircham & Co Nominees (No 2) Ltd & Ors (2003)

North East Lincolnshire BC v Millenium Park (Grimsby) Ltd (2002)

Bryant Homes Northern Ltd v David Thompson (2002)

Hurst v Crampton Bros (Coopers) Ltd (2002)

Millhouse Gloucester Ltd v Millhouse Land Developments Ltd (2002)

Jack Pennington v Philip Waine (2002)

Mobil Oil Co Ltd v Birmingham City Council (2001)

Jack Midwood v Anthony & Vanessa Morgan (2001)

Actionstrength Ltd v International Glass Engineering, Saint-Gobain Glass UK Ltd (2001)

Robert Barrett & Ors v Robert Morgan (2000)

Grupo Torras SA v Sheikh Fahad Mohammed Al-Sabah

Next PLC v National Farmers Union (1997)

Riddington v Electricity Association (1997)

Legal & General Mortgages Services Ltd v HPC Professional Services (1997)

Bankers Trust Company v Amir Namdar & Ors (1997)

Charterhouse Bank Ltd v Rose & Ors (1995)

Escalus Properties Ltd v Robinson

Luttenberger v North Thoresby Farms Ltd (1992)

Clifford Chance v Silver (1992)

Halifax Building Society & Ors v Edell & Ors (1992)

Luttenberger v North Thoresby Farms Ltd (Preliminary Issue) (1991)

What the directories say

John is noted as a leading silk in

Chambers UK 2021 (Real Estate Litigation)
Legal 500 2021 (Property Litigation)

    Chambers UK says of him that:

    "A client favourite. Cuts through the issues with impressive ease, providing clear, commercial advice, particularly on rights of light." "A superb mind with a very client-friendly manner. He instils confidence, gives clear advice and is a pleasure to work with." (2021)
    "Incredibly bright and provides good commercial advice." "Combines a great breadth of knowledge and an unerring ability to find commercial solutions." (2020)
    "He is always available, instils confidence, gives clear advice and is a pleasure to work with." "Cuts through the issues with impressive ease, providing clear and commercial advice." "The go-to guru on rights to light." (2019)
    "He has a razor-sharp intellect and is able to relay complex arguments in an accessible manner." "Exceptionally user-friendly." (2018)
    "A first choice for rights of light." "He is technically very strong and, importantly, fits in well and works well with our clients." (2017)

    "He provides clear and practical advice on difficult landlord and tenant issues." "He's a very impressive chap because he's incredibly client-friendly. He is also quite creative so he will come up with solutions for a problem." (2016)

    "Attracts praise from peers and instructing parties alike for his intellectual ability and clear, commercial advice."; "Hugely impressive. He has incredible gravitas and can crunch through volumes of material with great speed and clarity of thought."; "A fantastic lawyer who is very clever, very sensible and very quick."; "Combines a pedigree in property law with extensive experience of broader chancery disputes."; "He is regarded as a perfect practitioner for any large, complicated dispute with a property angle to it."; "He has a formidable grasp of the most complex cases, and is an advocate par excellence."; "He is very, very user-friendly, and very pragmatic in his advice." (2015)

    "Maintains a leading reputation in real estate litigation"; "Very bright and charming to work with. Turns around work very quickly."; "'Lightning McGhee' - he works at great speed in great detail and with great accuracy." "An outstanding property litigator"; He is particularly lauded for his advisory work on complex rights of light"; "He knows every detail of the law."; "He works at great speed in great detail with great accuracy. A solution finder, he's one for the most difficult cases." (2014)

    Has "excellent technical abilities"; "dependable, client-friendly and technically excellent"; "probably the cleverest man you will ever meet"; "a real heavyweight when it comes to tricky contract or equitable issues." (2013)

    Clients receive “instant accessibility and decisiveness”; he is “very creative”, “tough and straight-talking” with “great presence and excellent instincts.” (2012)

    He has “obvious confidence and expertise” and is “admired for his extremely reliable, very persuasive style” and “knows every line of every documents and is a terrific all-rounder.” (2011)

    He “works all the bases beautifully and is a man with a very keen commercial sense”; and is “a superb and easily accessible team player whose carefully tailored advice is always clear and concise.” (2010)

    He is “a favoured silk on cases that need particularly innovative thinking”; and he displays a “willingness to express a robust view as to the chances of success.” (2009)

    He “understands clients’ commercial imperatives better than most barristers” and “roots that pragmatism in a deep understanding of legal nuance”; he “approaches cases from a commercial angle and is creative and inventive”; that “solicitors queued up to extol his virtues including his robust advice and clear thinking”; that he “has a feel for the judges and the arguments they want to hear”; and that “he was especially in demand … for making new law.” (2008)

    He is a “brilliant lateral thinker” with “a terrier-like approach.” (2007)

    He has “undoubted knowledge” and “a demeanour in conferences that impresses the most demanding of clients.” (2006)

    He gives “incredibly clear, accessible and, most importantly, practical advice” and is “well attuned to the courts’ way of thinking.” (2005)

    Legal 500 says that he is:

    "Excels in respect of major development disputes." (2021)
    "Absolutely at the top of his game." (2020)
    "He is extremely user friendly and clients love him." (2018/19)
    "He is at the height of his powers and sits astride the property Bar." (2017);
    "Very highly regarded in the field." (2015);
    "A leading QC for a reason; he has a calm and reassuring presence and cuts through the issues." (2014);
    "At the top of his game." (2013);
    "Straight-talking." (2012);
    “Outstanding”, “a joy to watch in action” and “fast on his feet and phenomenal at cross-examination.” (2011)
    “Perfect for cases with an added commercial dimension.” (2010)
    “Good with clients.” (2009)
    “The man to go to in a crisis.” (2008)
    “Highly commercial, highly intelligent and a tenacious fighter.” (2007)
    “Versatile” (2006)
    “Particularly good for unusual or complex cases requiring intellectual analysis.” (2005)