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John Campbell SC

Highly regarded silk in South Africa, specialising in large commercial trials, competition proceedings, Judicial Review and actions and injunctions for defamation and privacy.

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John Campbell

John has extensive experience in these fields and has also written for academic journals – both in South Africa and internationally – in most of them.

In the last few years, he has acted for a large European bank in Competition Tribunal proceedings arising from the alleged fixing of currency exchange rates of emerging markets in New York; for an international commodities trading company in lifting a freezing order over a consignment of cobalt from the DRC; for South African Breweries in an arbitration dispute under Uncitral rules arising from a contract for the delivery of its product which necessitated a close knowledge of the logistics business; and in a Judicial Review arising from the award of a tender worth approximately half a billion rands per year.

His breadth of experience equips him to act across wide ranging commercial fields from banking and contract law to civil fraud, judicial review and negligence, and in commercial injunctions.

John has appeared in courts at all levels both in South Africa and the United Kingdom, including the South African Constitutional Court and the United Kingdom Supreme Court, as well as in arbitrations.

John's Experience

Called in 1989


Barristers in England and Wales are regulated by the Bar Standards Board

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Areas of Experience
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Judicial Review
  • Arbitration
  • Civil Fraud
  • Company and Partnership
  • Privacy, Media and IP
  • Regulatory
  • Defamation
  • Data Protection
  • Procurement
Case Profile

Most recently in the UK, John has appeared in Consumer Credit cases. These include Plevin v Paragon Personal
Finance Ltd and Anor at trial, in the Court of Appeal ([2013] EWCA Civ 1658 (16 December 2013); [2013] All ER (D)
152 (Dec)) and in the Supreme Court [2014] UKSC 61.

Defamation, privacy and data protection

For the better part of 15 years, John was extensively briefed on behalf of South Africa’s biggest circulation newspaper, The Sunday Times, in both privacy and defamation cases.  This included opposing, on public interest grounds, an attempt by a previous Minister of Health, controversial because of her approach to the treatment of AIDS, to suppress publication of her own hospital treatment;[1] opposing an order by a commission of inquiry that a journalist testify;[2] and successfully defended an action brought after allegations that a catering company had caused food poisoning at a public event.[3]  Other important reported decisions include successfully acting for the largest theme park in Johannesburg against a television company that had broadcast a defamatory programme alleging that some of its rides were unsafe;[4] and acting for various media companies in defamation actions brought against them by the previous State President of South Africa (the matter was withdrawn before trial); and for the publisher of a biography of a prominent member of Parliament critical of the government’s then AIDS policy, for revealing the HIV status of three persons.[5]

John has also written an article on the rules of pleading defamation in South Africa, in the South African Law Journal,[6] arguing for harmonisation with the UK and Australian rules; a comparative article on the new defence of responsible publication (arguing that it is really the reintroduction of fault as an element of the tort of defamation);[7] an analysis of what damages are designed to redress in defamation;[8] a short note arguing that damages for loss of profits ought not to be claimable in a defamation action;[9] and, finally, an article explaining the Roman Dutch common law action founded on human dignity.[10]  He regularly advises clients on all aspects of defamation, privacy and data protection.

Currently, John appears for the Freedom of Expression Institute in South Africa (a prominent NGO that, amongst other things, litigates freedom of expression issues with a constitutional aspect) in a case (both the civil trial and the injunction) that raises the question, amongst other issues, as to how far a freelance journalist may be held responsible for publication of an article in the media.

Competition law

John co-wrote (with four other authors) the leading academic work in South Africa on competition law[11] drawing heavily from comparative United States anti-trust law and European law to give flesh to the new South African statute.

In practice, he has been involved both in large mergers and, particularly, cartel cases, all involving the assessment and cross-examination of expert competition economic evidence.  These include acting for South Africa’s Competition Commission in a case against the General Council of the Bar as to whether or not certain Bar Council rules were anti-competitive;[12] for a media company in opposing a merger, by way of two judicial reviews taken to the Competition Appeal Court;[13] acting for a vehicle tracking company in a successful appeal to the Competition Appeal Court which established that industry standards did not necessarily (and did not, in this case) constitute an anti-competitive practice;[14] successfully arguing, in the Supreme Court of Appeal, that litigation privilege had been waived;[15] and assisting in the eventual settlement of a cartel case by showing, in cross-examination, the existence of a further cartel in the industry concerned that had not been identified by the Competition Commission.


Over recent years, John has practised extensively over the full range of commercial law including contracts, waivers, estoppel, company law, cession and damages. Recent cases include successfully defending SAB in an arbitration under Uncitral Rules against a claim by a logistics service-provider; acting successfully for a UK asset management company in obtaining an injunction against former employees from filching its trade secrets;[16] and setting aside, on behalf of a UK-based commodities trading company, an injunction essentially freezing a consignment of cobalt[17] which required argument on both the English law of specific performance, as well as aspects of both Roman Dutch law and of international arbitration procedure.

Judicial review

Before coming to the Bar, John acted as instructing attorney (solicitor) in the famous trio of Traub cases that established the doctrine of legitimate expectation in South Africa five years before the advent of democracy and the Constitution.[18]  Some years later, he wrote a substantial article illustrating how substantive legitimate expectations could be protected, and with reference to all comparative law in the Commonwealth.[19]  It has been widely cited in articles, books and case law in both the UK and South Africa. This was followed by a short article focussing on a decision by the Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal as an illustration of the approach that he had argued for.[20]  John also wrote a further article for the UK publication, Judicial Review, on the operation of the remedy of substitution in South Africa.[21]

Other important cases in this field include a case reviewing a Cabinet Minister’s decision not to pay subsidies available for the production of a film,[22] reviews of various decisions, both procedural and substantive, of the Competition Appeal Court,[23] and, recently, a review of the award of a large tender by the South African Police Service.

Privacy Policy

1. This is a privacy notice that describes how, why and for how long I will process or keep your personal data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’).
2. The GDPR governs how an individual’s personal data is used, and your rights in relation to that data.
3.  I, John Campbell SC, have been instructed by you or your litigation friend (usually a parent), through your solicitor or agent, or via the Bar Pro Bono Unit.
4.  It is necessary for me to process your personal data in order for me to provide you with legal services, for example:

  • Advise on the prospects of litigation;
  • Advise on the value of your claim;
  • Representation at a court hearing;
  • Representation at trial;
  • Advise, review or comment on legal issues or evidence.

5. Processing means anything done to data such as: recording, organising, adapting, altering, copying, consulting, transmitting, combining, erasing or storing it.

6.The processing for the purposes listed above will take place in accordance with either Article 6(1)(a) GDPR or Article 6(1)(b) GDPR, depending on how you instructed me.

7. If you have instructed me on a direct access basis, or engaged a solicitor (or legal agent), to assist you in bringing or defending a claim then the processing is necessary to perform a contract to which you are a party (Article 6(1)(b) GDPR). To give effect to that contract (i.e. to bring a claim) it is necessary for me to process your personal data for litigation purposes.

8. If I am assisting you on a pro bono basis, it will be necessary for me to seek your consent to be able to represent you (Article 6(1)(a) GDPR). In this scenario, you will be sent a consent form.

Recipients of your data

9.  I may also be required to share your data with others, depending on the nature of your case. This may include:

(i)  Courts and other tribunals to whom documents are presented;

(ii) Your solicitors, or agent representing you, through whom I have been instructed;

(iii) Potential witnesses, experts and other persons involved in the case;

(iv) Solicitors, barristers, or other legal representatives;

(v) Ombudsman and regulatory authorities;

(vi) Education and examining bodies; and

(vii) Current, past or prospective employers.

Special Categories of Data

10.  In some cases I will have been given your personal data that is within the ‘special categories’ of data described in GDPR Article 9(1). For example, personal data that reveals your race, ethnicity, sexual preferences, political or religious beliefs, trade union membership or health. There are also restrictions for processing information regarding criminal convictions.

11. This type of personal data will only be processed where it is necessary in order to represent you in your legal claim, or advise on the prospects of a legal claim.


12. I will retain your personal data for no longer than is necessary, and where it is possible, I will anonymise your data.

13. How long your personal data is kept will depend on a number of factors. The retention period will be reviewed when the service I am providing you with is complete. However in general, I am obliged by the Bar Code of Conduct to retain records of my cases, and by HM Revenue and Customs to retain records for 6 years.

14. Once your case has concluded and fees have been paid, I shall retain only the personal data necessary for the following purposes:

(i) The legal and professional obligation to retain information relating to my cases;

(ii) To check for any potential conflict of interests that may arise in the future when I am instructed on other cases;

(iii) For use in the defence of potential complaints, legal proceedings or fee disputes;

(iv) To refer back to in future cases which raise similar legal, factual, or procedural issues.

15. The processing for the purposes listed in paragraph 14 (ii), (iii), and (iv) above, will take place in accordance with Article 6(1)(f) GDPR. That is, for the purposes of legitimate interests that are not outweighed by your interests or fundamental rights and freedoms.

16. The processing for the purposes listed in paragraph 14(i) above, will take place in accordance with Article 6(1)(c) GDPR. That is, the processing is necessary for me to comply with a legal obligation. 

Your Rights

17. Where processing of your personal data was based on your consent (see paragraphs 6 and 8) you have the right to withdraw that consent at any time. This does not affect the lawfulness of the processing based on consent before its withdrawal.

18. Withdrawal of your consent to process such data will most likely mean that I am no longer able to provide you with the legal services you seek.

19. You may request confirmation that your personal data is being processed by me and details about the personal data, the source, the processing, the purposes of the processing, the recipients and the retention period.

20. You may request a copy of your personal data that is being processed by me. You may also request rectification (i.e. correction) where there are inaccuracies in the personal data.

21. You have the right to object, on grounds relating to your particular situation, at any time, to processing of your personal data in paragraph 14 of this privacy notice. Should you object, the processing will only continue where there are compelling legitimate grounds for the processing which override your fundamental rights, freedoms and interests. 

22. Where the processing or retention of your data is necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims, it will not be possible to object. 

23. You have the right to request that your personal data is erased where any of the following apply:

(i) The personal data are no longer necessary in relation to the purposes for which they were collected or otherwise processed;

(ii) You withdraw your consent where the basis of processing was based on consent and where there is no other ground for the processing;

(iii) Where your fundamental rights, freedoms and interests override the legitimate interests of processing in paragraph 14;

(iv) The personal data has been unlawfully processed; or

(v) The personal data have to be erased to comply with a legal obligation.

24. You have the right to request that your personal data is restricted from processing, so that it is simply stored, for the following reasons: as an alternative to deletion; so that it can be corrected; for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims; to verify if a legitimate ground exists (paragraph 14).

25. Where it is necessary to correct your personal data, or you have requested the restriction or erasure of your personal data, I shall endeavour to contact the recipients of the personal data, unless this involves disproportionate effort. 


26. I take appropriate physical and technical procedures to safeguard your personal data to prevent it from being accidentally lost, used or accessed in an unauthorised way. 

Complaints or Queries

27. If you have any questions regarding this privacy notice, or how I use your personal data please email me: mailto:, or my clerks: telephone 01823 247 247.

28. I shall aim to respond as soon as possible, and within 30 days.

29. You have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) if you believe I have not handled your request in an appropriate manner. For information on contacting the ICO please go to:

Latest articles from John

Damages for Injury to Feelings in Malicious Falsehood - The Argument is Not Over [George v Cannell and Ano [2024] UKSC 19]

The Supreme Court’s Judgment in George v Cannell on damages for distress in malicious falsehood is fascinating, but dense with legal history.
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