The Calcutt Report: QC shows his tough side: Profile

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HELL HATH no fury like a QC scorned, it appears. But the strident language used by Sir David Calcutt in yesterday's document should surprise nobody.

It is typical, a close friend said, for him to remind his readers that the 'way forward was clearly spelt out' in his earlier report, but had effectively been ignored; the time had self-evidently come to move on to the next stage.

As the tabloids might say, Sir David, a silk of 20 years' standing, is nobody's patsy. 'He did a proper job,' the friend said. 'People didn't pay attention. He thinks 'why didn't you listen?' and acts accordingly.'

Master of Magdalene College Cambridge since 1986, chairman of the Takeover Panel since 1989, and holder of numerous tribunal and arbitrating appointments, Sir David, 62, is one of those who play the roles in the body politic that government cannot fill.

His interest in party politics is virtually nil. As he once said: 'The moment you are seen to be merely producing the sort of answer the Government hoped for, you're busted.'

His strong-mindedness has managed to annoy most media correspondents, some of whom accused him of pique yesterday. This report, like the last, landed in reporters' laps with no press conference or briefing. That, and the absence of confidential 'chats' with correspondents, was deliberate policy, borne from a mixture of Sir David the lawyer and Sir David the man.

Sir David the lawyer has combined practice as a commercial barrister with assessments for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. He steered clear of the burden of a High Court judgeship following his chairmanship of the Bar but his ability and industry ensured a stream of high-profile engagements. He assessed compensation for the Guildford Four and inquired into whether Colin Wallace, a former Army press officer, had been given a fair hearing. He inquired into the collapse of Cornhill Consolidated in the 1970s property crash and produced a report attacking RAF Police interrogation methods after servicemen in Cyprus were cleared of secrets charges in 1985.

Sir David the man is described by his friends as approachable, even fun, though with a private, reserved, centre. He and his wife Barbara, a psychiatric social worker and JP, have created a relaxed and popular regime during his mastership of Magdalene, which finally extracted a decision to admit women. Vacations are spent at their homes at Exmoor or Winchester.

Music has also played a crucial part. His BMus and LLB at King's College Cambridge were preceded by the music scholarships that helped buy him a public school education, ensuring that while not of the Establishment (he was the son of a Marlow pharmacist) he would become a part of it.

(Photograph omitted)