Geoffrey Lawrence, 1st Baron Oaksey

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Oaksey
DSO, TD, KC, PC
Lord-justice-lawrence-at-nuremberg-72-867.jpg
Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
1947–1957
Preceded by The Lord Macmillan
Succeeded by The Lord Denning
Personal details
Born Geoffrey Lawrence
2 December 1880
Died 28 August 1971(1971-08-28) (aged 90)
Citizenship United Kingdom
Other political
affiliations
Crossbencher
Alma mater New College, Oxford
Occupation Barrister, judge
Profession Law
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Unit Royal Artillery
Battles/wars World War I

Geoffrey Lawrence, 3rd Baron Trevethin, 1st Baron Oaksey, DSO, TD, KC, PC (2 December 1880 – 28 August 1971) was the main British Judge during the Nuremberg trials after World War II, and President of the Judicial group.

Early life[edit]

The Lawrence family came from Builth Wells in Radnorshire. Geoffrey Lawrence was the youngest son of Lord Trevethin, briefly Lord Chief Justice of England in 1921-22. He attended Haileybury (where Clement Attlee was his junior) and New College, Oxford.

Career[edit]

Lawrence was called to the Bar (Inner Temple) in 1906, and later joined the chambers of Robert Finlay. The chambers specialised in taking appeal cases to the highest courts—the House of Lords for domestic cases, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for appeals from the Dominions and Colonies. Finlay came to rely on Lawrence, although for cases from Canada, Lawrence acted as lead counsel with Finlay as junior.

During World War I he served in France with the Royal Artillery; he was mentioned in despatches twice and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918. After the end of the war he continued in membership of the Territorial Army until 1937.

On returning to the Bar Lawrence continued to take cases to the Privy Council. An interest in horses, inherited from his father, led to his appointment as Attorney for the Jockey Club from 1922. Soon after he was appointed as Recorder of Oxford, a part-time judicial job.

In 1927 Lawrence was made a King's Counsel and appointed Attorney General to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII). With this appointment came membership of the Council of the Duchy of Cornwall. Lawrence served in this capacity until, in 1932, he was appointed as a Judge of the King's Bench Division. With this appointment he became a knight bachelor.

As a Judge, Lawrence tended to keep out of the limelight by neither issuing sensational judgments nor drawing attention to himself personally. When Lord Goddard was chosen as a Law Lord, Lawrence succeeded him as a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1944.

He was chosen as an experienced Judge to be the lead to Norman Birkett in the British delegation to the Judicial group in the Nuremberg trials, though not (as some thought) arising out of his friendship with Attlee who was by then Prime Minister. He was then elected as President of all the Judges, more through the lack of enemies than any other factor. His conduct of the trials was praised by many of those involved who appreciated his striving to understand the relevance of each piece of evidence, and willingness to stop long-winded counsel.

Lawrence was not considered an exceptional legal talent but won acclaim for delivering a very clear Judgment (largely penned by Birkett) that expressed the moral sense of the Court's conclusions. After the conclusion of the trials, Lawrence was given a Peerage as Baron Oaksey on 13 January 1947 (he also inherited the Barony of Trevethin from his brother on 25 June 1959 but was always known as Lord Oaksey).

As a senior legal figure in the House of Lords, he served as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary from 1947 and on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council until he retired in 1957.

Personal life[edit]

Lawrence married Marjorie Robinson in 1921. She served in the ATS in World War II, gaining the OBE, and became a magistrate after the war. They had a country estate at Oaksey in Wiltshire where Lawrence bred championship Guernsey cattle. They had three daughters and a son. Their son John was a well known amateur jockey and horse racing journalist; he too only used the title Lord Oaksey.

References[edit]


Judges of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
United Kingdom Geoffrey Lawrence (president) Norman Birkett (alternative) United Kingdom
United States Francis Biddle (judge) John Parker (alternative) United States
France Henri de Vabres (judge) Robert Falco (alternative) France
Soviet Union Iona Nikitchenko (judge) Alexander Volchkov (alternative) Soviet Union
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Oaksey
1947–1971
Succeeded by
John Lawrence
Preceded by
Charles Lawrence
Baron Trevethin
1959–1971