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Serena Gates

Serena Gates

Call: 2001

T: 020 7520 6000    E: clerks@18rlc.co.uk

Serena was appointed as a Treasury Counsel Monitoree in September 2021 and was ranked in the Legal 500 2020 and 2021 under fraud and general crime respectively, Serena Gates is a skilled and respected advocate with a sharp mind and broad range of both national and international experience. Her criminal practice, both prosecuting and defending, focuses on terrorism, serious and organised crime, drugs conspiracies, fraud, and serious sexual offences. She is also frequently instructed in regulatory cases, particularly those relating to proceedings brought on behalf of the GDC.

Serena also has extensive experience advising, training and mentoring prosecutors in foreign jurisdictions in the prosecution of terrorism offences.  She is also well versed in investigating, documenting and analysing evidence relating to war crimes and human rights abuses by both terrorist organisation and Government forces and their affiliates.

Serena is a Grade 4 advocate on the General CPS panel and a Grade 4 on the specialist panels for Terrorism, Fraud, Organised Crime, Rape and Serious Sexual Offences. She has also been instructed in numerous Courts Martials.

Serena has particular experience in a number of specialist areas including:

  • Legal arguments in terrorism cases including on closed proceedings;
  • Legal arguments on abuse of process; autrefois convict; PII; bad character; human rights, interpretation of human trafficking provisions.
  • Advising on unduly lenient sentences in her capacity as a Treasury Counsel Monitoree.
  • Dealing with intermediaries for young and vulnerable witnesses.
  • Advising on drafting of Letters of Requests from foreign jurisdictions and utilising evidence obtained pursuant to such LORs.
  • Forensic and expert evidence including cell site analysis and call data; hand writing analysis; blood distribution and splatter evidence, expert psychiatric evidence, footwear tread pattern; ballistics.
  • Significant experience of international and cross border money laundering networks including the use of the hawala and international third party payment systems.
  • Admissibility of cell site and secure phone data including Encrochat used by organised crime syndicates.
  • Extensive knowledge of firearms related issues.

Serena prosecutes and defends across a broad range of complex criminal cases including terrorism, murder, fraud, drugs importations, county lines drugs conspiracies and human trafficking, and serious sexual offences. Many of the cases in which Serena has been instructed have multi-jurisdictional aspects to them. She is well versed in the presentation of complex cases as well as sensitive disclosure matters and dealing with vulnerable defendants and witnesses.

Homicide and Violent CrimeSerious and Organised CrimeFraudSexual Offences

  • R v B & S (2022) Serena is currently instructed as junior counsel, led by Pavlos Panayi QC, in a two handed gang related murder of a young male stabbed to death in in Southall.
  • R v M (2022) Serena is instructed as junior counsel, led by Crispin Aylett QC, in the prosecution of a 14 year old defendant for the murder of a 45 year old male.
  • R v AR (2022) Serena was instructed as a junior alone to prosecute the attempted murder of two individuals by a single defendant who was deemed fit to plead but who had been suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of the alleged incidents.
  • R v S & F (2021) Serena was instructed as junior counsel, led by Michelle Nelson QC, in a two defendant murder arising from an inter-familial feud. There were no eye witnesses to the incident itself and the prosecution case was built around the build up to the incident, communications data showing a long running and escalating conflict between the parties and the evidence of the pathologist demonstrating the use of severe force and angles of attack. The first defendant was successfully convicted of murder and the second defendant of manslaughter.

  • R v H & others (2020) – Serena is currently instructed as lead counsel to prosecute 8 defendants in a large scale drugs importation and international money laundering case. The evidence is one of the early prosecutions centred on the admissibility of data from the secure phone system ‘Encrochat’.
  • R v JR & others (2020) – Serena was instructed for a vulnerable defendant in a multi handed conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition. The prosecution case focused on DNA, phone data, CCTV and surveillance evidence.
  • R v O & others (2020) – Following on from the prosecution of earlier county lines conspiracies involving the trafficking of children for the purposes of exploitation by drugs gangs, Serena was instructed as lead counsel in the prosecution of another county lines network where modern slavery defences were raised by some of the younger defendants following positive NRM referrals. In a linked case, the Court of Appeal ruled the prosecution was not an abuse of process and could proceed.
  • R v B, K & S (2019) – Serena is currently instructed to prosecute a county lines drugs conspiracy involving the trafficking of children to the Kent area for exploitation by the drugs gang.
  • R v R & Others (2019) – Serena was instructed by the South East Complex Casework Unit to prosecute, as leading junior, an organised crime gang involved in a high value, high-end car ringing operation. The case involved expert evidence relating to the manipulation of the insurance industry and vehicle salvage experts. The main conspirators were successfully convicted.
  • R v A, B & Others (2018) – Serena successfully prosecuted a 5 handed drugs conspiracy operating in the London and Kent area. The proceeds of the conspiracy were laundered through the bank accounts of a third party. Serena successfully resisted abuse of process arguments and half time submissions. All defendants were convicted and sentenced to lengthy custodial terms.
  • R v M and others (2017) – Serena was instructed to prosecute an organized criminal network operating in the South East of England who were responsible for smelting over £1.4 million of scrap gold, stolen in a large number of domestic burglaries, and laundering the proceeds through the family jewellery business. All defendants were convicted and sentenced to significant custodial terms. [PRESS REPORTS [DAILYMAIL]]
  • Operation Bypass (2014) – Serena was instructed mid trial to address various disclosure challenges that were mounted by the defendants in this multi handed drug and cigarette importation trial. As a result of her work, the trial survived various challenges mounted by the defence teams prior to half time.

  • Operation MODCONS (2020) – Serena was instructed to pursue the £4 million confiscation in the case against an Ex Revenue officer accused of concealing hidden assets. Judgement has been reserved.
  • R v S & Others (2018) – Serena was instructed, as a led junior, to prosecute a $20 million money laundering operation involving hawala payments, money service bureaus and complex third party payment systems routed via China to the Middle East and Asia. Complex disclosure issues were carefully navigated and all defendants were successfully convicted.
  • Operation MODCONS (2018) – Serena was instructed as a led junior to prosecute an ex Revenue officers who was charged with conspiracy to cheat the public revenue of over £7 million after orchestrating a complex payroll fraud. The case involved the electronic presentation of evidence and complex international financial audit trails with funds being laundered through a series of shell companies and offshore accounts. The defendant was successfully convicted.
  • R v S, S, H and C (2015) – Serena was instructed as junior counsel in a £14 million money laundering prosecution and presented much of the evidence in the case. The defence case was that the funds were the legitimate proceeds of trade in under bond alcohol. Serena was involved in the case from the PCMH and the prosecution team successfully defeated a dismissal application and various disclosure challenges.
  • Operation TANGELO II (2010) – Serena was an integral member of the disclosure team devising strategy and reviewing HMRC material in relation to a multi-million pound Excise and VAT Fraud.
  • R v N (2009) – Serena was instructed as junior defence counsel in £8.25 million fraud. The defendant was accused of defrauding a variety of corporate institutions by assuming the identity of different corporate clients. Extensive expert evidence was called relating to the defendant’s psychiatric

  • R v CP (2022) Serena was instructed as leading counsel to represent a defendant accused of the historical rape of multiple child complainants over several years. The defendant was a teenager and young adult at the time of the alleged incidents and both the complainants and defendant suffer from a variety of mental health conditions.
  • R v JL (2021) Serena successfully prosecuted a defendant on a 22 count indictment which included multiple counts of rape of children under 13. The case involved the historical rape by the defendant of his young brothers and cousins.
  • R v H (2019) – Successful prosecution of elderly defendant for historical rape and sexual abuse of his daughter and step daughter spanning several years. Complex issues of third party disclosure. Defendant pleaded to the totality of offending at the beginning of the trial.
  • R v R (2019) – Prosecution of brother on brother rape and sexual abuse. Both the defendant and victim were vulnerable and suffered from varying degrees of autism and other difficulties.
  • R v R (2017) – Serena represented a defendant charged with the rape of his ex-girlfriend who had suffered significant injuries in a separate but related domestic incident between the couple. The photographs and details of the complainant’s injuries were successfully excluded from the trial.
  • R v T (2015) – Serena successfully prosecuted a defendant accused of rape and repeated sexual assault of a woman with learning difficulties. Following advice from counsel, the victim was assisted by the use of an intermediary.
  • R v M (2011) – Serena successfully prosecuted a defendant accused of historical and recent familial sexual abuse spanning over a 20 year period. As with many of the rape and sexual offences cases Serena has prosecuted, there was extensive third party material to be dealt with. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 19 years.


Serena has experience of conducting terrorism cases, including those involving sensitive and complex legal issues of admissibility and disclosure including applications for closed proceedings and notification hearings.

She has also undertaken extensive work for the FCO and other HMG departments in relation to capacity building within the rule of law sphere of counter terrorism networks abroad. Her experience working in the Middle East and South Asia, both for the United Nations and previously the UK military in Afghanistan provides her with an in depth insight into understanding foreign terror networks.

In the UK she is a Grade 4 on the CPS specialist panel for Counter Terrorism.

  • R v RS (2021) Serena was instructed as a junior alone in the successful prosecution of an individual alleged to have been radicalised online during the Covid pandemic. The individual was accused of disseminating graphic terrorist publications which provided support for Islamic extremist groups.
  • R v AK (2020/2021) Serena, led by Treasury Counsel Alison Morgan QC, was instructed to prosecute an individual accused of disseminating terrorist publications (s.2) and possession of a copy of the Anarchists cookbook (s.58). The case involved complex legal arguments on disclosure, an application for part of the proceedings to be held in camera and an alleged abuse of process.
  • R v N & W (2019) – Serena appeared for the prosecution at Liverpool Crown Court in the sentence of N & W, two females convicted of funding Islamic terrorism. Press link: [SkyNews]
  • R v S (2016) – Serena was instructed as junior alone on behalf of a defendant charged with multiple counts of Making or Having an Explosive Substance in addition to Possession of a Document for Terrorist Purposes. The defendant was found in possession of a large number of chemicals including controlled substances and 2kg of gunpowder in addition to other items that were alleged to be right wing paraphernalia. He was also found to have a copy of the Anarchists’ Cookbook. A robust defence was advanced as the defendant had a explanation for the legitimate use of each of the items found.

Courts' Martial

Serena has represented soldiers of varying ranks accused of a variety of offences ranging from sexual assault to attempted murder. Her previous military experience gives her a strong advantage in understanding both the workings of the military and the client’s perspective during proceedings.

  • R v S (2016) – Serena was instructed as the leading junior representing a soldier accused of the attempted murder of a fellow soldier in Cyprus. The victim was left severely brain damaged in the incident. Serena mounted a number of successful challenges to aspects of the prosecution evidence, much of which was obtained from abroad. As a result of the revised evidential position, the prosecution eventually accepted a plea to a lesser offence.
  • R v H (2016) – Serena successfully represented a Flight Sergeant accused of sexual touching.


Serena has extensive international advisory experience, particularly in a conflict or post conflict context relating to terrorism, crimes against humanity, war crimes, human rights abuses including unlawful detention and sexual and gender based violence.

Serena is a member of the Justice Rapid Response/ UN Women roster of experts for investigating crimes against humanity, war crimes and human rights abuses with a focus on sexual and gender based violence. She has advised Ugandan prosecutors on the preparation and prosecution of historic war crimes before a specialist domestic tribunal, conducted in parallel to proceedings at the International Criminal Court.

In 2020, Serena was deployed as an investigator by Justice Rapid Response in relation to allegations of genocide that form the basis of the International Court of Justice Case between the Gambia and Myanmar.

Between 2016 and 2018, Serena worked for the United Nations Syrian Commission of Inquiry. Her role included conducting field investigations into war crimes and human rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict, including ISIS. She was responsible for compiling and analysing evidence and producing the first report of the Commission focusing on the use of sexual and gender based violence in the conflict, entitled ‘I lost my Dignity: Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the Syrian Arab Republic.’ (See link to Serena chairing UN launch: [FACEBOOK]

Serena is also a Senior Civilian Expert for the UK Stabilisation Unit, a cross HMG unit based in the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office but conducting work for a range of Government departments including the NCA and HO. In this role she has frequently provided advice and technical expertise in developing and assessing security and justice capacity building programmes around the world.

She has also undertaken projects on behalf of the Home Office to assess the threat to UK interests from Serious and Organised Crime and UK policy responses to the same relating to different regions around the world including South Asia and the Caribbean.

Serena is also recognised as an expert on sexual and gender based violence crimes by the UK Government which has appointed her as a member of its team of independent experts on preventing sexual violence in conflict (PSVI).

Serena has been asked to present on sexual and gender based violence at UN events in New York [PRESS REPORTS[UNWOMAN]] and at other international events such as the End SGBV Oslo event in May 2019.

Serena is also a member of the International Advisory Committee for the NGO, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW). (See web link to their work here. Her work on behalf of LAW has included training senior prosecutors in Sri Lanka in the prosecution of sexual violence under domestic and international criminal law.

This builds on other training and mentoring experience Serena has gained over the years including training Supreme Court Justice in Nigeria in the prosecution of terrorism cases and mentoring of the Afghan judiciary and terrorism prosecutors in Helmand Province on behalf of the UK FCO.

Regulatory & Professional Discipline

Serena has frequently been instructed by the General Dental Council to appear in cases before the PCC, and IOC. Serena is adept at getting to grips with complex expert reports and issues within a short time frame in order to cross-examine on complex and novel issues.

She is familiar with the law and practice of regulatory tribunals and happy to accept instructions from professionals and regulatory bodies alike.

Inquiries, Judicial review and civil work

Serena worked for the United Nations Syrian Commission of Inquiry between 2016 and 2018. Her role included conducting field investigations into war crimes and human rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict. She was responsible for compiling and analysing evidence and producing the first report of the Commission focusing on the use of sexual and gender based violence in the conflict, entitled ‘I lost my Dignity: Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the Syrian Arab Republic.’

Serena has advised in judicial review proceedings including cases involving the successful challenge of a refusal to implement a parole board recommendation for a prisoner serving a life sentence and cases relating to the re-categorisation of serving prisoners. Whilst working for the FCO as a criminal justice advisor in Afghanistan, Serena was also involved, from an HMG perspective, in judicial reviews brought against the UK Government challenging the transfer of UK captured prisoners to Afghan custody.

Serena’s wider experience working for UK Government departments and in foreign jurisdictions gives her a competitive edge when it comes to understanding the policy and practical workings of public bodies.

In wider civil work, Serena has advised in personal injury matters and has undertaken fast track trials in relation to industrial injuries.

Publications, Lecture and Training

Serena has extensive experience of training and mentoring in an international context having mentored prosecutors and the judiciary in Afghanistan, Supreme Court Justices in Nigeria and prosecutors in Sri Lanka and Uganda. Her in depth experience at the criminal bar in the UK, combined with her international experience makes her well qualified to deliver training and mentoring in an international context, navigating diplomatic sensitivities but ensuring results are delivered.


“As well as an impressive forensic approach she also has an effective and persuasive style of advocacy. This combined with an entirely sensible and reasonable approach makes her an extremely effective advocate and a formidable prosecutor.” Legal 500 2021

“She is clever, hardworking, and has excellent judgement. She also gets on well with clients, opponents, and judges.” Legal 500 2020


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MA (Cantab)


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Criminal Bar Association

South Eastern Circuit

Middle Temple

Women in Criminal Law

Association of Regulatory and Disciplinary Lawyers

Professional Appointments

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Treasury Counsel Monitoree (Appointed September 2021)

CPS specialist panels for Fraud, Organised Crime and Counter-terrorism (Grade 4)

CPS grade 4 panel for general crime

Member of International Advisory Committee for Legal Action Worldwide

Senior Civilian Expert for UK HMG Stabilisation Unit (A cross Whitehall unit providing specialist advice to HMG departments including FCO, NCA, HO and others.)


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Halsbury Rule of Law Award (Lexis Nexis) 2019

Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service, Operational Honours List 2008

Middle Temple Diplock Scholarship 2000

Leading individual in the Legal 500 directory (see Recommendations).


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