Obituary: Sir Joseph Cantley

Joseph Donaldson Cantley, lawyer, born 8 August 1910, called to the Bar Middle Temple 1933, OBE 1945, QC 1954, Bencher Middle Temple 1963, Kt 1965, Judge of the High Court of Justice Queen's Bench Division 1965-85, Treasurer Middle Temple 1981, married 1966 Hilda Gerrard, died 6 January 1993.

THE news of Joseph Cantley's death will have been learned with great sadness by his many friends and nowhere more than in Manchester and on the Northern

Circuit.

Joe Cantley was and remained all his life a Mancunian. His father was a Manchester general practitioner. Joe was educated at Manchester Grammar School, where he had a distinguished academic career. His sights were always on the Bar, and he read law at Manchester University. He joined the Middle Temple and was called by them to the Bar in 1933, having not only gained first-class honours in his Bar final but also won the Certificate of Honour, being placed first in that class.

It was always his intention to practise in Manchester and he became a pupil of Denis Gerrard, already a busy junior on the Northern Circuit. At that time work was less scarce in the provinces than in London and Cantley began to acquire a small but good practice. But, as with all his generation, his career was interrupted by the War. He served throughout first in the Royal Artillery and then on staff appointments. His service took him to North Africa and Italy and when the war ended he was a lieutenant-colonel.

On demobilisation he returned to rebuild the practice he had left. Unusually for a junior with a circuit practice he became expert in cases involving contract law. While he had his share of personal-injury work it was in the field of contract law that he made his reputation. In 1954 he took silk and became a most successful practitioner with a wide range of work on the circuit.

In 1960 he became Judge of the Salford Hundred Court of Record, a strange court of great antiquity with unusual jurisdiction. Its reputation had been rebuilt by his predecessors in their appointment and his knowledge of contract law served him well in disposing of the business disputes with which that court used to deal. He also held office as Judge of Appeal in the Isle of Man.

It came as no surprise to the profession when in 1965 he was appointed to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court. He proved an outstandingly successful trial judge, patient, courteous and decisive. It was rare indeed to fault a judgment or summing-up of his in the Court of Appeal.

In 1966 he, seemingly a lifelong bachelor, to the delight of his friends married Hilda Gerrard, the widow of his friend and former pupil master who had sadly died young after a very short career on the Bench. This marriage was one of great happiness. Cantley delighted in circuit work and was always happy going round the country with his wife, making new friends wherever they went.

He had a charming wit and a happy choice of language. But he never used that wit at the expense of a defendant or a witness. He could however use it quickly to deflate the pomposity of counsel. The Old Bailey was not his favourite court. On one occasion a barrister protested at what Cantley proposed to do: 'My Lord in all my experience I have never known such an order made in this building.' 'Well,' Cantley replied in a flash, 'you won't be able to say that again, now, will you?'

In 1970, when the new Courts Act was about to come into force, he was appointed Presiding Judge on the Northern Circuit. No better appointment could have been made to introduce all the proposed changes in Manchester and Liverpool. He held that appointment until 1974.

He eschewed publicity and was little known to the public before it fell to him to try the Jeremy Thorpe case. He was delighted when asked for a photograph to be told that no press agency had a photograph of him.

He had been made a Bencher of the Middle Temple in 1963 and in 1981 he served as Treasurer. He had been asked to accept appointment as Presiding Judge on the South-eastern Circuit in order to secure some much-needed reforms in the administration of criminal justice in the London area. But the two offices could not be held together and his loyalty to his Inn prevailed. He was an excellent professional. In his latter years he and his wife lived in the Temple and were strong supporters of the Temple church.

His final years were unhappily clouded by ill-health but he leaves a memory of a model trial judge and a delightful friend.

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

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?