Obituary: Brian Raymond
Thursday 03 June 1993
My first meeting with him was when I delivered at his cramped office a virtual pantechnicon of papers relating to the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano. Never in my life have I been told to keep my mouth shut, and not speak out of turn with such twinkling charm but steely firmness.
Three days later, when I returned to see him, I somehow imagined that I would be given a nice thank-you for being so helpful. Not one bit of it] Having hardly had time to draw breath, I found myself being drilled and interrogated by an immensely committed lawyer, who had prodigiously read through the documents, determined to winkle out every truth relevant to his case.
He was like the proverbial hawk and I will never forget his elation as he listened - he listened not politely but intently - to Richard Mottram, then Michael Heseltine's gifted private secretary, casually tell the Old Bailey from the witness box that the Commander-in-Chief Sir John Fieldhouse's report had been altered behind his back in relation to the crucial timing of the sighting by the submarine HMS Conqueror of the General Belgrano. No cat let out of any bag was ever so instantaneously fated as Raymond latched on to Mottram's insouciant revelation.
Raymond was also imaginative. To persuade the cautious Merlyn Rees, the former Home Secretary, after consultation with the even more cautious James Callaghan, as a witness for a particular aspect of the Clive Ponting case - Rees did not hide his disapproval of the fact Ponting as a civil servant had contacted me as a backbench MP anonymously - was very clever.
Even more inventive was Raymond's brainwave of inviting Sir William Wade to step into the witness box. The judge imperiously demanded at one point to know if this modest, precisely spoken man was trying to teach him his law. Such judicial aggression would have been uncalled for had the witness been some miscreant off the street. But since the witness had been professor of English Law for 15 years at Oxford and four years at Cambridge and was currently Master of Gonville and Caius, by common consent one of the most distinguished jurists of the century, most of the cognoscenti in court were appalled. If Wade had not taught Mr Justice McCowan, at least the judge ought to have read some of Wade's classic texts and articles. That was the moment when the jury resolved to defy the judge's stern directive, and acquit Ponting. Raymond knew that a historic victory was in his grasp.
Raymond was at the epicentre of many of the causes celebres which interested the House of Commons in the last two decades. The 'Persons Unknown' trial of 1977-79 when young anarchists were acquitted of insurrection. A cascade of cases involving civil rights and CND. The vindication of Professor Wendy Savage, the London obstetrician suspended on the grounds that she was 'a danger to her patients'.
Then there was the Zircon affair, when the police stampeded into the BBC's second biggest offices in Britain to take documents and tapes. This was the start of Raymond's professional relationship with the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell. For another investigative journalist, Ben Hamilton, Raymond acted with all the well-judged zeal that he devoted to issues of basic freedom, such as those thrown up by the Channel 4 programme on alleged RUC abuses in Northern Ireland.
Typically, at the time of his premature death he was acting for the New Statesman in the libel action brought against that journal by the Prime Minister; for the Cleveland paediatrician Marietta Higgs; and for the nursing officer Graham Pink, who was curtly dismissed by the health authority in Stockport for going to the press about his concerns over falling standards in the health service in the Greater Manchester area.
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