OBITUARY:Andrew Bateson

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The Independent Online
Perhaps Andrew Bateson first realised that he was destined for big things at the Bar when, in the early 1960s, operatives from M15 arrived to instal a wall-safe in his rambling family home at Walton-on-Thames. The safe was to protect the secret documents he would be handling as a junior in the Vassall Inquiry.

It was as a junior too that his questioning reduced the opera singer Maria Callas to a pallor that matched the whiteness of her famous turban. The case between the two Greek shipping magnates, Vergottis v Onassis, was supposed to be over the ownership of a tanker though everyone knew that it was really over the past ownership of the diva herself. The case won by Bateson for Vergottis, hinged on a dinner conservation with Callas at the Ritz in Paris.

Like many of his profession, Andrew Bateson possessed a wide histrionic armoury. This ranged from icy charm to a whiplash retort. He was at his most dangerous when almost obsequiously leading a victim towards the hidden dead-fall. He possessed a razor-sharp mind that could slice any legal argument to its slimmest essentials or else demolish it altogether. These talents enabled him to win many famous courtroom victories for an extremely wide variety of clients that included Telly Savalas (accused of forgetting his lines by the Daily Mail), Gilbert O'Sullivan and Sting (after a larger share of the profits from their work), Private Eye (against Robert Maxwell), and Freddy Laker.

Perhaps the case that gave him most satisfaction was the total exoneration of Capt John Broome, wrongly accused of taking the destroyer escort away from a convoy of merchant ships taking supplies to Russia in 1942, and leaving it, out of cowardice, to its fate. The captain was awarded pounds 40,000 in damages.

He tended to chose friends who could give as good as they got in conversation and liked them even better if they could occasionally win a bout of verbal fisticuffs. But this apparently spiky exterior disguised a nature of extreme kindness. Bateson was the original hard chocolate with the soft centre.

This was apparent in his family life. In 1954 he married Jan Poupart, a member of the family of nurserymen and Covent Garden growers. Tragically she developed multiple sclerosis soon after the birth of their fourth child and died in 1970. While following his distinguished career at the Bar - he took Silk in 1971 - he devotedly looked after his wife and reared his three daughters and son after her death. Not surprisingly they all turned out to be highly individual and interesting people.

He may have had legal ambitions for his son, Angus, but accepted with total equanimity and support his son's declaration that he wanted instead to go into the meat trade. His support, however, temporarily waned one hot summer evening when he opened his greenhouse door to discover that his son had deposited there half a ton of steak, only too obviously past its prime.

Andrew Bateson was an excellent all-round angler. His quarry ranged from blue sharks to brown trout. He loved shooting, gun dogs, which he ruined with kindness, cats, and the odd cockatoo. He even loved Jack Russell terriers, a gift given only to a chosen few. He was a very knowledgeable gardener and it is typical of Andrew Bateson and his children that he was laid to rest in his truly dreadful gardening clothes.

Colin Willock

Andrew James Bateson, barrister: born London 29 June 1925, called to the Bar, Middle Temple 1951; Bencher 1977; married 1954 Janette Poupart (died 1970; one son, three daughters); died Cobham, Surrey 22 June 1995.

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