Obituary: Judge Norman Brodrick

Norman John Lee Brodrick, judge, born 4 Feburary 1912, Member Western Circuit 1935, Recorder of Penzance 1957-59, of Bridgwater 1959-62, of Plymouth 1962-64, Portsmouth 1964-67, Chairman Departmental Committee on Death Certification and Coroners 1965-71, married 1940 Ruth Unwin (three sons, one daughter), died 27 June 1992.

THERE HE sat patiently, a great bear of a judge, curious, engaging, good-humoured and calm. Effortlessly in command of his court. Always interested, relaxed and full of common sense. Utterly fair. For many, Norman Brodrick was the best judge on the Western Circuit of his generation. For some of us, the best tribunal we have ever addressed.

Above all, Brodrick was a Western Circuiter. It was the centre of his professional life, so much so that he had made it a condition of his appointment as a Judge of the Central Criminal Court in 1967 that he could return. So, happily, his last 11 years as a judge were spent in Portsmouth, Winchester and the Isle of Wight. The Leader of the Circuit once said: 'If anyone wants to know how to do the job of a judge, until he retired, you had only to go into the court of His Honour Judge Norman Brodrick.'

It was in his blood. The son of a celebrated Metropolitan Magistrate, William Brodrick, he was educated at Charterhouse and Merton College, Oxford. He proudly told us at his 80th-birthday Circuit dinner that Brodricks had been in law and members of the Western Circuit for three generations and nearly a hundred years.

Lincoln's Inn called him to the Bar and 30 years later in 1965 elected him a Bencher. His pupil master was Joshua Caswell and he found his first Chambers in Mitre Court.

When war broke out he served in the Ministry of Economic Warfare and was concerned with the German Enigma Coding Machine, acquired secretly and used to decode the most crucial German intelligence. Later he joined the chambers of James McMillan, the happy stable of his professional career. There, with a brilliant blind clerk, Charles Humphreys, he prospered on his Circuit and also in London, where he made frequent visits to the General Medical Council.

Overlapping his practice and later sittings was the Brodrick Committee. In 1965, he began to chair the Departmental Committee on Coroners and Certification of Death. It was published in 1971: a landmark report, even if not implemented in full measure. It sought to abolish the somewhat arbitrary power of an inquest jury to name those it considered had carried out the gravest crimes. In some cases, it recommended that a jury should not be required at all. It is an enduring tribute to a deeply conscientious and careful man.

In chambers, his kindness and robust sense of humour made him highly popular. As a pupil, he contributed to the ultimate success of Woolmington - a young farm labourer convicted of murdering his wife - by raising several points that proved to be crucial. After the dismissal of Woolmington's appeal, the case went to the House of Lords, where a conviction for murder was finally overturned. In 1960 he took the silk and found himself in the Lords, seeking to overturn the conviction for murder of Arthur Albert Jones, who had lost the shield provided by the Criminal Evidence Act 1898. The appeal failed, but the case established Brodrick's reputation in legal circles.

There is no better indication of the humanity and common sense of Norman Brodrick than his opening at Salisbury before a packed court in 1966. A small group of well-intentioned young men had organised a protest against the filming of Doctor Dolittle in the beautiful village of Castle Combe, and the film company who sought to divert the river running through the village. The protesters had called out ambulances and fire engines and a tip-off to the police led to the discovery that they were in possession of explosives. But it was a madcap protest, which Brodrick described as 'gross thoughtlessness and irresponsibility rather than wickedness'. This was the language of moderation, which allowed proper mitigation to have its effect.

He served his profession with equal distinction on the Bar Council and the Senate of the Four Inns of Court.

Circuit appointments ran apace: Recorder of Penzance, Bridgwater, Plymouth and Portsmouth; Deputy Chairman of Hampshire Quarter Sessions and Chairman in the Isle of Wight. For seven years, from 1960, he was Chairman of the Wessex region Mental Health Tribunal. Then, to the surprise of many, he went to the Old Bailey. Hardnosed criminal practitioners there remember Brodrick with great affection as a fair and compassionate judge. But the Circuit drew him back to his own, where in time he had served as Wine Treasurer. He was home.

A devoted family man, Norman Brodrick married in 1940 Ruth Unwin, daughter of the publisher Sir Stanley Unwin. It was an idyllic marriage. They had three sons (including Judge Michael Brodrick, sitting now on the Circuit), as well as a daughter. In retirement, Norman and Ruth created a magnificent garden in Rogate. Always interested in the work of the Probation Service, his chairmanship of the Hampshire Care Trust continued and the Association of Parish Councils gained a valuable honorary legal adviser.

Days before his death, Norman Brodrick was enjoying champagne and smoked salmon. He left us in style, to the strains of Nimrod played by his grandson Robert at a magnificently conducted Thanksgiving Service. An English end to a great and lovable man.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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 People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before