Lord Silsoe

Leading counsel in public inquiries


David Malcolm Trustram Eve, barrister: born London 2 May 1930; called to the Bar, Inner Temple 1955, Bar Auditor 1965-70; QC 1972; succeeded 1976 as second Baron Silsoe; married 1963 Bridget Hart-Davis (one son, one daughter); died Reading 31 December 2005.

From the Windscale inquiry into the controversial Thorp reprocessing plant in 1977 to the Heathrow Fifth Terminal Inquiry in 1995-99, Lord Silsoe QC was renowned as an outstanding leading counsel for the promoters in major development inquiries - particularly those into airports and nuclear power projects.

Such inquiries, exploring in detail the wide range of topics relevant to the proposal, became of greater and greater length. Windscale had 100 hearing days. The Heathrow Fifth Terminal Inquiry, probably the last inquiry of this type that is likely to be held, lasted 525 days. Between these two, Silsoe had appeared for the promoters in a number of other such inquiries, including those into the Fourth Terminal at Heathrow and the North Terminal at Gatwick and the proposed nuclear power stations Sizewell B and Hinkley Point C.

Of great intellectual capacity and with unflagging powers of concentration, Silsoe was able to absorb technical detail and marshal it without ever losing perspective. His mastery of the subject matter was combined with a style of advocacy - fair, courteous, meticulously prepared - that made him formidable.

Because of his modest manner, many witnesses and advocates at first seriously underestimated him, but they always revised their assessments eventually (although sometimes only when it was too late). He was not the advocate for clients who wanted blood on the carpet, but, as the Central Electricity Generating Board were the first to discover when he was a junior in the 1960s, he was ideal for mighty organisations with projects that aroused passionate opposition.

David Silsoe was born in 1930, the elder twin son of Malcolm Trustram Eve QC (Chairman of the War Damage Commission and the Central Land Board and later First Church Estates Commissioner), who was created in 1943 a baronet and in 1963 the first Baron Silsoe.

After Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford, he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1955 and joined his father's old chambers at 2 Mitre Court Buildings at a time when their traditional local government and parliamentary work was being superseded by the growth in planning. Bespectacled and wiry, he was in his younger days an excellent skier and he got fit for each holiday by hopping upstairs, two at a time, to his room on the third floor of chambers, overtaking bemused clients on the way. He took silk in 1972 with a practice that consisted mainly of planning work in addition to rating and compensation cases in the Lands Tribunal.

There is a "team" in any public inquiry - counsel, solicitors, the experts and their assistants - and in the major public inquiries the promoter's team was expanded to include all the administrative staff needed to sustain the operation. Accommodated in the same hotel, this team became his weekday family, or, perhaps more accurately, his house at school. To many he gave nicknames and then referred to them only by these.

In the evenings he worked in the communal office-cum-workroom at the hotel rather than in his own room, his intense concentration punctuated frequently with the banter and laughter that were always a part of him. This was his Wykehamist mugging hall, the house study room. He was accessible to all. In the early hours of the morning cleaning staff would make a point of visiting him in order to be cheered up for the day. (On one occasion late one evening, when preparing an important cross-examination for the next day, he spent half an hour counselling the night caretaker on the psychological problems of his dog.)

Opinions and notes were written on the reverse side of used pieces of paper. The looping schoolboy hand covered every square millimetre of the page. There were no margins and there was no space for corrections - but corrections were never needed, even the most complex matters being expressed first time in English of unaffected clarity and correctness. He spurned the use of a calculator, and pages could be covered with a single long division sum to establish a particular statistical conclusion.

During a major inquiry he would work unceasingly (except at weekends, which he reserved for his family), in any location and in any position - cross-legged on the floor surrounded by mountains of paper, or screwed up in the back of a car, trying to focus on a document in the headlights of the car behind. Away from work, singing succeeded skiing as his main delight, both with local choirs and for over 30 years in the church at Peppard, near Henley, to which he rendered selfless service.

A man of extreme modesty, David Silsoe had a natural affection for the self-effacing, the lowly and the disadvantaged, and this was matched by a distaste for all that seemed pompous, pretentious, bullying and grand. He hated formal occasions. More significantly, he came to feel less and less at ease in the world of courts and judges and benchers. Due to the influence of his father, who was so unlike him in this respect, he became Bar Auditor of the Inner Temple and, through this, a bencher before he was 40. But the development of his practice in the field of major inquiries led him, to the regret of many, to distance himself from the courts and the inn also.

Had he not done so, he could have become an outstanding appellate judge. That, however, would have been at the expense of the work that he relished and the very substantial force for good, both in the public arena and at a personal level, that he became.

George Bartlett

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin