Dilly Gask

Magistrate and charity worker who combined family life with public service
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The Independent Online

Dilly Gask was one of that diminishing band of talented women who made their mark through unpaid work, while also supporting her husband (a GP), children and friends. At the time of her death, aged 84, she was still active in Nacro (the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) and was working to complete an MA.

Daphne Irvine Prideaux Selby, magistrate and public servant: born Edinburgh 25 July 1920; OBE 1976; Vice-Chairman, Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees 1977-80; Chairman, Shropshire Probation and After-Care Committee 1978-80; member, Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure 1978-80; Assistant Secretary, International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates 1979-86, honorary member 1986-2004; member of council, Nacro 1982-2004; married 1945 John Gask (one son, one daughter); died Plymouth 18 November 2004.

Dilly Gask was one of that diminishing band of talented women who made their mark through unpaid work, while also supporting her husband (a GP), children and friends. At the time of her death, aged 84, she was still active in Nacro (the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) and was working to complete an MA.

She was born Daphne Selby in Edinburgh in 1920, but was always known as "Dilly". Schooled at St Trinnean's, Edinburgh, and in Switzerland, she later used her fluent French to enhance the work of the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates, where she was Assistant Secretary, 1979-86, and a member of the general committee from 1986 until her death.

Her early Second World War experience, as a Third Officer in the WRNS, where she oversaw the ship repairs going into Glasgow docks, made her a capable organiser and a reliable colleague: ready to listen but also to take decisions. Her WRNS commission also brought her the most important addition to her life when she met the naval surgeon Lt John Gask - they were married in 1945.

A magistrate from 1952, first in Shropshire and later in London, Dilly Gask served on the council of the Magistrates' Association from 1968 (and its executive from 1976) to 1980, was Chairman of the Shropshire Probation and After-Care Committee 1978-80 (and a member for 20 years) and was on the executive committee of the Probation and After-Care Committees, 1964-80 (with three years as its Vice-Chairman).

Through this work, Gask was appointed to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure in 1978 and was influential in its 1981 report which led to the setting up of the Crown Prosecution Service and the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Appointed OBE in 1976 for her international judicial work, she also found time to serve on the Shropshire County Council, 1965-77, and as Vice-Chairman of the West Midlands Regional Sports Council from 1970 until 1977; meanwhile, in 1979, she took an Open University BA.

After she and her husband moved to Cawsand in Cornwall in the 1980s, when she was already of normal retirement age, Dilly Gask effectively started a second career which included 23 years as a volunteer to the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Saltash (given up only two years ago when she embarked on an MA in naval history at Exeter University), chair of Anwyl Close (a residential sanctuary for ex- offenders) and, at the national level, on Nacro's council from 1982 until her death.

None of this describes Dilly Gask's other huge achievement - of being a "doer" in everything she tackled. With a young son and few toys available after the Second World War, she simply learnt woodwork and made him toys. Her love of plants and photography meshed beautifully in her artful photographs. She created - from a wilderness - a beautiful sea-sprayed garden at the happy home in which she and John welcomed friends from the UK and abroad.

Their golden wedding was celebrated in July 1995 on a boat on the Tamar filled to the gunwales with friends. Had she lived another year, their diamond anniversary would have been a fitting celebration of a truly remarkable partnership.

Dianne Hayter



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