Obituary: Sir Raymond Jennings

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The Independent Online
Sir Raymond Jennings QC was the Master of the Court of Protection between 1956 and 1970. Until 1947, the title of this office had been Master in Lunacy and it was a measure of Jennings's modernity that the old title would have been so inappropriate for him. This was shown in his work leading up to the Mental Health Act 1959, which many commentators have considered to be more significant and more liberal in its effects than the Mental Health Act 1983, and his contribution, once the Act had come into force, in applying provisions for the benefit of those it was designed to help.

To everything he did, Jennings brought an acute but kindly eye. He was invalided out of the Royal Fusiliers towards the end of the First World War, went up to Oriel College, Oxford, and was then called to the Bar. An active member of Lincoln's Inn, he became a bencher in 1951.

He was an advocate of distinction and charm as a junior at the Chancery Bar. In 1945 he took silk and was a most successful leader. Disappointed of a judgeship in the Chancery Division which could well have been his (vacancies were rarer in those days), he was offered the appointment as Master of the Court of Protection and devoted himself to the task with zeal and flair. In 1968, he was rewarded by a knighthood.

Raymond Jennings was an enthusiast for the complex cases which came before him. Many were in bulky dossiers, tied up with canvas straps, one if heavy, two if very heavy. He would rub his hands at the approach of a two-strap dossier and once said that every case which came on to his desk was a Christmas present for him, the larger the better. He felt privileged to be allowed to take such a part in many people's lives; every important financial decision needed his approval and many cases were steered by him throughout their stay under the jurisdiction.

Although he often appeared shy, and some of his staff were rather in awe of him, he was a man of many different interests and anyone who talked to him about fishing or tennis would soon be on easy terms; his tennis parties were famous. He was an early member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and he often said (perhaps rather wryly) that in life, as well as on the road, one must take care to be in the right lane at the right time.

His family life was of central importance in his life, first in Mickleham, where he was a pillar of the village and chaired the Management Committee of the Box Hill area for the National Trust; and later in Hove, where his sister Olivia looked after him devotedly after his wife's death.

He was sympathetic to younger people and is remembered as a distinguished Master of the Moots at Lincoln's Inn. Up to the end of the Second World War, no one under 21 was employed by the Court of Protection, because of the sensitive and confidential nature of the work, but the staff shortage after the war led to recruitment at 16, and Jennings was keen to help train this new group by attaching more experienced officers to each batch of youngsters. He made few allowances for ageing, however; when a middle- aged solicitor complained bitterly to Jennings about a lift out of action, he took pleasure in pointing out that he, at 72, had climbed the four flights to his chambers without difficulty.

A. B. Macfarlane

Raymond Winter Jennings, barrister: born 12 December 1897; QC 1945; Master of the Court of Protection 1956-70; Kt 1968; married 1930 Sheila Grant (died 1972; one son, one daughter); died 6 March 1995.

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