Obituary: His Honour Francis Blennerhassett

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The Independent Online
Francis Alfred Blennerhassett, lawyer: born 7 July 1916; called to the Bar 1946; Bencher 1971; Deputy Chairman, Staffordshire Quarter Sessions 1963-71; Recorder of New Windsor 1965-71; QC 1965; a Recorder of the Crown Court 1972-78; Honorary Recorder of New Windsor 1972-76; Honorary Recorder of Windsor and Maidenhead 1976-89; Circuit Judge 1978-89; married Betty Bray (two daughters); died 13 June 1993.

FRANK BLENNERHASSETT first became a public figure in the Seventies when the government committee he chaired published its report on the law relating to drinking and driving - most of his recommendations have since been acted on.

The middle of three brothers, Frank Blennerhassett joined up for the Second World War on the same day as his younger brother. Switching from the Royal Artillery to the Royal Warwickshire Yeomanry he spent most of the war in East Africa. A stint in the Judge Advocate General's Department persuaded him to turn to the law.

Called to the Bar in 1946, Blennerhassett took silk in 1965. Appointed Recorder of Windsor in 1972, he was two years later invited to chair a committee set up to review the breathalyser laws. In a much praised report he recommended the closing of a number of technical loopholes which had not been anticipated by the drafters of the original Road Safety Act. Most of the recommendations of what became known as the Blennerhassett report were taken up, but up to his death he was still engaged in attempting to persuade the Ministry of Transport to strengthen the law against persistent drink drivers.

Blennerhassett became a circuit judge in 1978 and sat at Stafford, Warwick and Worcester Crown Courts until he retired in 1989. Retirement enabled him to spend more time at the bridge table and on the golf links with his devoted partner, Betty.

The bare record tells little of the man. He had an impish, mischievous sense of humour which he used to devastating effect. In court it was employed to prick the pompous and to undermine what appeared to him to be absurd arguments.

Unlike most advocates who reserve a harsher, louder voice for court, Frank Blennerhassett had only one voice. It was natural and warm to go with a fireside manner which was ideal for putting litigants at ease and for disarming his antagonists.

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