Tom has a busy and broad chancery practice, with a particular focus on insolvency (both personal and corporate), property (including landlord and tenant), and contentious probate. He regularly appears in the Chancery Division of the High Court and in the County Court, as well as before more specialist tribunals such as the Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal.
He is ranked in Tier 1 as a ‘Rising Star’ in Insolvency by the Legal 500 2024 Edition, which says “Thomas has a very clear, concise and focused style of advocacy. He is also a very able written advocate who produces high quality skeleton arguments.”
Tom was appointed to the Attorney General’s C Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown for a five-year term from September 2020, and acts in that capacity for a number of government departments and bodies.
Before coming to the Bar, Tom qualified and practised as a probation officer, working in a number of settings to provide rehabilitation, advocacy and support for ex-offenders. He also represented the probation service in the Old Bailey and the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. From these diverse experiences, Tom brings to his practice an ability to adapt his advocacy and advice to the needs of his lay client.
Tom’s insolvency practice encompasses both personal and corporate insolvency, and he acts for office-holders as well as individuals and directors. His experience includes:
- Applications to set aside antecedent transactions.
- Claims against directors for misfeasance, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duties
- Applications for validation orders.
- Applications for possession and sale of property falling within the bankruptcy estate.
- Applications to set aside statutory demands and for injunctions restraining the presentation of winding up petitions.
- Bankruptcy petitions.
- Winding up petitions.
- Annulment and rescission applications.
- Applications to extend the period of administration; and
- Director disqualification proceedings.
Tom acted for the local authority petitioning creditor in Lock v Aylesbury Vale DC  EWHC 2015 (Ch), which provides authority that a petitioning local authority has the burden of showing a prima facie case that the bankruptcy would serve some useful purpose where it has been suggested that the debtor has no assets.
Recent prominent cases include successfully setting aside an IVA in Huntley v Collier  EWHC 1091 (Ch), as well as setting aside a replacement IVA in the same proceedings in 2022, and recovering unlawfully paid dividends in Glam and Tan Limited, Barnett v Litras  EWHC 855 (Ch), in which Chief Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Briggs considered the extent of the court’s discretion under section 212(3) of the Insolvency Act 1986 to order repayment of sums paid out in breach of duty in circumstances where the payments were found to have been made as a result of her husband’s controlling and violent behaviour. He acted for the trustee in bankruptcy in Lord Magan’s unsuccessful application to annul his bankruptcy order in Magan v Wilton Management Ltd  EWHC 3393 (Ch).
Tom is frequently instructed by HMRC and the Official Receiver in insolvency cases, and by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in director disqualification proceedings.
Tom accepts instructions in all kinds of property disputes. He has represented landlords, tenants, mortgagees and mortgagors, and has experience of dilapidation claims, applications for the renewal of business leases, construction disputes, claims to recover deposits, boundary disputes and applications for injunctive relief.
His recent experience includes:
- Obtaining a declaration of beneficial ownership against the legal owner of a property in TOLATA proceedings in which the legal owner challenged the validity of a declaration of trust on the basis of duress and non est factum.
- Obtaining a vesting order for a company restored to the register in British Colombia after its property in England had escheated to the Crown upon its dissolution.
- Acting for a charge holder in possession proceedings defended on the basis of undue influence, duress and unconscionable bargain.
- Acting (led by Edward Denehan) for a tribunal appointed manager in litigation concerning the manager’s authority to disconnect several flats in a large block of flats from the block’s original heating and communal hot water system following a project to renew the system initiated by a Right to Manage Company that previously managed the block.
- Acting (unled) for the tribunal appointed manager in subsequent service charge disputes before the First Tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal.
- Successfully obtaining an interim injunction on an urgent basis requiring a landlord that had purported to exercise a right of re-entry immediately before the start of the academic term to restore possession of the property to a tenant that provided tutoring services.
- Successfully challenging a civil financial penalty imposed by a local authority on a landlord in relation to alleged failure to comply with licensing requirements for a house in multiple occupation.
- Obtaining possession orders against trespassers in commercial premises.
- Frequent appearances in residential possession hearings and commercial forfeiture proceedings.
Tom also has a broad advisory practice and has recently advised on matters including the existence and scope of easements, the enforceability of restrictive covenants, the validity of notices in leasehold enfranchisement proceedings, the beneficial ownership of properties, adverse possession, and nuisance.
Tom has a particular interest in public and local rights of access over land. He has written and lectured on the law of common land and rights of common, has experience of town and village green inquiries and advises public authorities, landowners and interest groups in relation to public rights of way.
Tom is frequently instructed to advise on issues arising from the administration of estates both in contentious and non-contentious contexts. He has experience of advising on claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and has also advised on the removal of personal representatives, claims disputing the validity of wills on the basis of lack of capacity, undue influence and want of knowledge and approval, and on the construction of wills.
Recent experience includes:
- Obtaining an order removing an executrix under section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985.
- Acting for the litigation friend of a child defendant to a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
- Acting for a professional executor in proceedings brought against his predecessor executor to account to the estate for sums received.
- Acting for an executor in proceedings challenging his exercise of a power of appointment.
- Drafting proceedings against an executor for devastavit.
- Advising on and appearing in infant settlement proceedings.
Tom also has experience of mediations concerning disputes relating to trusts and estates, and has assisted parties in reaching settlements.
Tom frequently acts in his own right in contractual disputes in the County Court and High Court. He has also assisted in several civil fraud claims and gained experience of obtaining injunctive relief in the course of commercial litigation, in particular freezing injunctions and anti-suit injunctions.
Recent experience includes:
- Acting for the victim of an online scam in proceedings to preserve and recover sums fraudulently procured from her.
- Drafting and acting in restitutionary claims.
- Successfully defending proceedings brought against a casino to recover sums paid pursuant to contracts purportedly avoided by mistake.
- Drafting and acting in debt claims.
- Acting in proceedings to enforce judgment debts.
Tom has experience of acting in mediations, both before proceedings have been issued and after.
Tom has acted in proceedings for the registration and enforcement of foreign judgments and in applications dealing with the adequacy of service out of the jurisdiction. He has advised on the court’s jurisdiction to determine proceedings concerning property located outside of the jurisdiction and is always interested to receive instructions with a multi-jurisdictional element.
Tom has delivered training to local authority staff on the law of common land, addressing topics including the system of registration, permissible works, the requirements for deregistration and compulsory acquisition, and adequacy of land to be provided in exchange for common land.
In the Legal 500 2024 Edition he is ranked in Tier 1 as a ‘Rising Star’ in Insolvency by, in which says “Thomas has a very clear, concise and focused style of advocacy. He is also a very able written advocate who produces high quality skeleton arguments.”
He is ranked as a ‘Rising Star’ in Insolvency by Legal 500 2023 Edition, in which he is described as “very focused and detailed with a good ability to absorb facts and get to the nub of the matter.”
BPTC (Outstanding) -BPP – 2015
GDL (Distinction) – BPP – 2014
BA (Hons) English Literature (2:1) – St John’s College, University of Durham – 2006
Scholarships & Awards
- Baron Dr Ver Heyden Prize for performance on the BPTC (Middle Temple)
- Cohen Scholarship to study the GDL and BPTC (BPP)
- Excellence Award to study the BPTC (BPP)
- Chancery Bar Association
- Property Bar Association
- Honourable Society of the Middle Temple
Thomas Cockburn is an independent self-employed barrister registered with the Bar Standards Board of England; whose practice is governed by the Code of Conduct of the Bar of England and Wales which code can be found at www.barstandardsboard.org.uk; has full professional liability insurance provided by the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited (ref BM 2930/074) (details of the world-wide cover are provided at www.barmutual.co.uk); is registered for VAT (reg. no. 277586642 ); and can be contacted during chambers opening hours by telephone at 02074045055 or by e-mail at email@example.com.