Obituary: Richard Du Cann
Monday 08 August 1994
JUDGE Parry, in his 'Seven Lamps of Advocacy' listed among the qualities of the great advocate honesty, courage, industry, wit and judgement. It has been said that to these Lord Birkett would have added presence, and Sir Edward Marshall Hall humanity. Richard Du Cann was one of those rare advocates who possessed all of these. They were the hallmark of his reputation and he passed them on to generations of students in his lectures and in his writing.
Du Cann was born in 1929. The son of a barrister, he was educated at Steyning Grammar School and at Clare College, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in 1953.
He joined the chambers of RE Seaton, an established 'criminal set', as pupil to James Burge. His industry earned him a busy practice. Clarity of thought and the ability at an early stage to grasp the essence of the most complicated case marked him out among his contemporaries. He became successively junior and then senior Treasury Counsel at the Central Criminal Court, taking Silk in 1975. He was elected Master of the Bench of Gray's Inn in 1979 and appointed a Recorder in 1982.
As an advocate he was formidable. He demanded of himself, his pupils and others only the highest standards. Lean and spare in appearance, he commanded the attention of the court. He presented his cases, whether for the prosecution or the defence, fearlessly and with penetrating logic and persuasion. His workload was prodigious and there were many causes celebres in which he was briefed, both as a junior and in Silk. The indictment of DH Lawrence's book Lady Chatterley's Lover, the Calvi Inquest and the Blue Arrow fraud case are indicative of the range of his practice and the reputation he possessed among his clients, lay and professional.
Du Cann made a significant contribution to his profession. What he took from it he repaid in full measure. Few gave more of their own time and energy to the resolution of issues affecting the workings of the criminal justice system. He served as Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association between 1977 and 1980 and as Chairman of the Bar from 1980 to 1981. No Royal Commission which affected the Bar (and there were four of them during his years as Treasury Counsel and as Silk) was complete without a contribution from him, and his opinions were always trenchant and perceptive.
It was not only the institutions of the Bar to which he sacrificed his time. Dick Du Cann was the first port of call to those of his colleagues who needed wise counsel, whether on questions of law or ethics. Although he became sometimes impatient with ignorance and stupidity, he was always sensitive to the requests of those who came to him for advice. The mere appearance of anxiety in his caller would immediately expose his humanity, evoke his sympathy and understanding and usually lead to a solution of the problem.
Dick Du Cann and his wife Marley were married in 1955. They had four children including Christian who followed his father and grandfather into the law. It is a profound sadness to Dick's family and friends that he was only allowed to share with them a year of his retirement before his death.
His most significant memorial will perhaps be his work for the students of his profession. His book The Art of the Advocate, first published in 1964 and revised only last year, has given pleasure and instruction to countless young barristers. For the last 17 years he gave an annual lecture at the Council of Legal Education. During these talks he attempted to instil the standards he had vigorously striven to uphold during his working life into the young men and women about to embark on a career at the Bar. The legacy he would wish to leave is the maintenance of those standards within the profession, so that it might be said of him as of Sir Christopher Wren at the entrance to St Paul's Cathedral, 'if you seek his monument, look around'.
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