His Honour John Baker – obituary


His Honour John Baker, who has died aged 90, was a solicitor-turned-barrister who grew to become a decide finest identified for instances involving violence on the rugby discipline; he chaired the 1963 Liberal Meeting at which Jo Grimond pledged to “march our troops in the direction of the sound of gunfire”, and stood 3 times for Parliament, twice in his dwelling constituency of Richmond.

Baker stop politics on changing into a decide, however after Jeremy Thorpe’s acquittal in 1979 on costs of tried homicide he entertained Thorpe and his spouse to dinner. David Metal requested him to adjudicate in disputes with the SDP over the allocation of seats, however the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, informed him reluctantly {that a} decide couldn’t do that.

Baker pressed for trivial instances to be handled by magistrates after presiding on the Outdated Bailey over a trial for the theft of a can of shandy, as a result of the defendant insisted on being tried by jury. Once more on the Bailey, he needed to adjourn a vice case as a result of police proof on how they raided a brothel left the jury helpless with laughter. And when Group 4 have been in hassle for shedding prisoners, he wrote to The Occasions asking: “No matter occurred to Teams 1, 2 and three?”

He did his finest to dissuade defendants from representing themselves, however made an exception when the villain-turned-writer John McVicar appeared earlier than him charged with assaulting a neighbour. After McVicar’s acquittal Baker praised him for presenting his case “efficiently, with nice talent and skill”. Days later McVicar obtained a card from his outdated jail saying: “Sorry not to have the ability to welcome you again.”

Baker was not afraid to take up with ministers points that emerged in court docket. He as soon as informed the well being secretary, Virginia Bottomley, {that a} mentally impaired man in Wandsworth jail ought to actually be in hospital; a mattress was discovered for him.

One tragic case led him to induce the makers of rape alarms to present them a particular sound. “When this lady’s private alarm sounded, individuals thought it was a automotive alarm and did nothing,” Baker informed his court docket. “She might need been saved.”

His highest-profile instances concerned the premier sport of London’s south-western suburbs. The primary, in 1992, concerned Nottingham’s England worldwide Gary Rees, accused of grievous bodily hurt for breaking the jaw of London Irish’s Stefan Marty. Baker informed the jury: “The regulation of our nation doesn’t cease on the touchline.” They acquitted Rees, whose lawyer stated the cost ought to by no means have been introduced; Baker himself reckoned the case finely balanced.

A second, three years later, involved a participant for Gloucester seconds who punched Rosslyn Park’s captain James Cowie on the jaw when the ball was useless, fracturing it in two locations. The jury convicted him of GBH with intent; Baker gave him 9 months, and the Courtroom of Enchantment upheld conviction and sentence.

Rugby writers have been livid, and Baker unrepentant. There was an surprising sequel: Baker, who had watched rugby however seldom performed it, was requested by the Rugby Soccer Union to listen to disciplinary appeals.

John Arnold Baker was born in Calcutta on November 5 1925, the son of William Baker MC, a jute dealer, and the previous Hilda Swiss. His mom introduced him to England at six months; his father sought work in Canada and stayed – although he did attempt to contact John when he returned with the Canadian military throughout the warfare. His mother and father divorced, his mom remarrying.

John was educated at Hoe Grammar College, Plymouth School and Wellington College, Somerset. He joined the Royal Navy in 1943, however was discharged with ear hassle and went as much as Wadham School, Oxford, studying Regulation and becoming a member of the Liberals. He was Treasurer of the Union in 1948, defeated for the presidency by Edward Boyle.

Admitted solicitor in 1951, he grew to become a accomplice at Amery Parks the place he labored on a pioneering scheme to offer authorized companies for members of the AA. In 1957 he moved to Goodman Derrick, specialising in libel, copyright and the franchising of the early unbiased tv corporations.

Baker was instrumental in organising Tv Wales and West, going to Cardiff to allocate the yr’s Epilogues between the denominations (together with three branches of Methodism) and showing on a weekly present affairs panel. He additionally appeared earlier than the Willink Fee in Nigeria in 1957-58, representing chiefs who wished a separate Mid-West area.

The Labour MP Dingle Foot persuaded Baker to check for the Bar; he was known as in 1960, becoming a member of Foot’s chambers. Ready for his examination outcomes, he joined the Atlantic Convention of Younger Political Leaders in the USA. He, Shirley Williams and the long run Tory minister Nicholas Scott met Adlai Stevenson simply after Eleanor Roosevelt had urged him to face a 3rd time for the presidency. Stevenson requested what they thought; they suggested towards, he held again and the nomination went to John F Kennedy. Baker chaired the Younger Liberals in 1952-53, and have become closely concerned within the social gathering. Earlier than the 1959 election Laura Grimond, a neighbour, requested him to attempt for Richmond; he completed third, growing the Liberal vote by 2,000. He added 400 extra in 1964.

He joined the Liberal Government in 1959, chaired the social gathering’s 1963 meeting and in 1967 the Liberal Candidates’ Affiliation. When Jo Grimond retired as chief, Baker pressed for candidates, in addition to the social gathering’s 12 MPs, to have a say in selecting his successor. He was overruled, however was content material with the selection of Thorpe. He was social gathering vice-president in 1968-69 and chaired the chief the next yr, when he fought his last election, at Dorking.

Baker appeared in quite a few courts martial in Germany, and dealt with colonial appeals to the Privy Council. He was appointed a recorder in 1972 and a circuit decide the next yr, changing into resident decide at Kingston and a deputy Excessive Courtroom decide.

Courtroom house in Kingston was insufficient, and Baker, with the assist of the long run Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, secured a brand new one on a council automotive park – although the Lord Chancellor’s Division forgot to order any locations for customers of the court docket within the substitute multi-storey.

Baker was not allowed any enter to plans for the constructing, and by no means met the architect, who had not designed a court docket earlier than. Within the high-tech premises, opened in 1997, the judges’ rooms have been so far as attainable from the courtrooms, and the decide may solely see 10 of the jury. Nor was there a Royal coat of arms exterior; it took an attraction to the brand new Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine to have them erected.

He retired in 1998, however Irvine let him sit part-time, primarily at different courts, till 2000. That yr, he spent 5 weeks in Guyana advising on bettering the working of its courts.

In 2005 he revealed a memoir, Poll Field to Jury Field.

Baker was president of the Medico-Authorized Society from 1986 to 1988 and of Our Society (in any other case referred to as the Crimes Membership), and a trustee of the Apex Belief and the Nationwide Liberal Membership. He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Surrey in 1986.

John Baker married Pleasure Heward in 1954; she survives him with their two daughters.

His Honour John Baker, born November 5 1925, died June 13 2016


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here