Thomas Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill

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"Lord Bingham" redirects here. For the son of the fugitive Earl of Lucan, see George Bingham, Lord Bingham.
The Right Honourable
The Lord Bingham of Cornhill
KG PC QC
Bingham of Cornhill.jpg
Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
6 June 2000 – 30 September 2008
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by The Lord Browne-Wilkinson
Succeeded by The Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
In office
4 June 1996 – 6 June 2000
Preceded by The Lord Taylor of Gosforth
Succeeded by The Lord Woolf
Master of the Rolls
In office
1 October 1992 – 4 June 1996
Preceded by The Lord Donaldson of Lymington
Succeeded by The Lord Woolf
Personal details
Born (1933-10-13)13 October 1933
Marylebone, United Kingdom
Died 11 September 2010(2010-09-11) (aged 76)
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Loxley
Children Katie
Harry
Kit
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Religion Church of England

Thomas Henry Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill, KG PC QC FBA (13 October 1933 – 11 September 2010), was a British judge and jurist. He served in the highest judicial offices of the United Kingdom as Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and as Senior Law Lord.

After his retirement in 2008, he focused his work as a teacher and lecturer in human rights law. His book on the The Rule of Law was published in 2010 and won the 2011 Orwell Prize for literature. The British Institute of International and Comparative Law named the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law in his honour in 2010.

Early life[edit]

Bingham was born in Marylebone, London. His parents. Thomas Henry Bingham (1901-1980) and Catherine (née Watterson) (1902–1989) practised as doctors in Reigate, Surrey. His father was an Ulster Presbyterian born in Belfast; his mother was born in California and raised on the Isle of Man.

He was educated at The Hawthorns prep school in Bletchingley, Surrey, where he was head boy, and then from 1947 the Cumbrian public school Sedbergh School (Winder House), where he was described as the "brightest boy in a hundred years". He enjoyed history, took up fell walking, and developed a strong attachment to the Church of England. He was a head of house and a school prefect. He won an open scholarship to study at Balliol College, Oxford, but first did national service as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1952 to 1954, spending time in Hong Kong. He enjoyed his service in the army, and considered a military career.

He went up to Oxford in 1954 and initially studied philosophy, politics, and economics, but after two terms switched to history. He won a Coolidge Pathfinder award and spent the summer of 1955 in the US. He joined Gray's Inn during his second year at Oxford, with a view to becoming a barrister. He was elected president of the Balliol junior common room in his third year, standing as an independent without the endorsement of a political party. He won the Gibbs prize for modern history in 1957, and was awarded first-class honours in his finals. One minor blemish was his failure to win a prize fellowship at All Souls College. After graduation, he read for the bar as Eldon Law Scholar and came top of bar finals in 1959.

He married Elizabeth Loxley in 1963; they had one daughter Catherine Elizabeth (Kate, born 1965) and two sons Thomas Henry (Harry, born 1967) and Christopher Toby (Kit, born 1969).[1] They acquired a delapidated cottage at Cornhill, near Boughrood in Powys, in 1965, where they spent many weekends and holidays. Kate Bingham married Jesse Norman in 1992.[2]

Early career[edit]

Bingham was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn, and was a pupil barrister under Owen Stable at the chambers of Leslie Scarman at 2 Crown Office Row, which later moved to Fountain Court Chambers. Within a few months, he was invited to become a tenant at the chambers.

He took silk in 1972, becoming a Queen's Counsel aged just 38, the youngest that year, having been standing junior counsel to the Department of Employment for four years from 1968. He was counsel to the judicial inquiry into an explosion at a chemical plant at Flixborough in 1974 which killed 28 people. In 1977, when still at the Bar, he rose to public attention when he was appointed by then Foreign Secretary David Owen to head a public inquiry into alleged breaches of United Nations sanctions by oil companies in Southern Rhodesia

He was appointed a Recorder in 1975, and became a bencher at Gray's Inn in 1978. He became a High Court judge in the Queen’s Bench Division in April 1980, aged 46; he was assigned to the Commercial Court, and received the customary knighthood. He was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1986, joining the Privy Council. In 1991 he led a high profile inquiry into the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).[3]

Senior judicial career[edit]

Bingham succeeded Lord Donaldson as Master of the Rolls in 1992 and initiated significant reforms, including a move towards the replacement of certain oral hearings in major civil cases and he was one of the first senior judges to give public support to incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into English law, which ultimately came about with the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998. Despite his lack of experience in criminal law, Bingham was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales in 1996, following Lord Taylor of Gosforth. In England and Wales, he was the highest-ranking judge in regular courtroom service; he was personally responsible for adding "and Wales" to the office's title.

He was created a life peer as Baron Bingham of Cornhill, of Boughrood in the County of Powys, on 4 June 1996,[4] making him eligible to serve on the judicial committee of the House of Lords. He continued as Lord Chief Justice until 2000, when was the appointed Senior Law Lord. Previously, the position had been held by the longest-serving law lord, but Lord Irvine decided that a more dynamic leader was required. Bingham was succeeded as Lord Chief Justice by Lord Woolf, who had likewise had succeeded Bingham in 1996 as Master of the Rolls.

Bingham was a strong advocate for divorcing the judicial branch of the House of Lords from its legislative functions by setting up a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which was accomplished under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The title of the office he then held has become "the President of the Supreme Court" since that court came into operation in October 2009, but Bingham retired in July 2008. He said that he was "very sorry" not to become the first President.[5]

He oversaw an increasing workload of constitutional matters after the Scottish devolution, and human rights matters after the Human Rights Act came into force, and assembled the first nine-judge panels for important cases since 1910, including the Belmarsh case in December 2004 which reviewed the regime for indefinite detention of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism who could not be deported due to the risk of torture in their home countries, holding that the regime breached the Human Rights Act. He was one of two law lords to dissent against the decision to overturn High Court and the Court of Appeal decisions to quash an order in council, which sought to remove the right of the Chagos Islanders to return home. He also presided in a series of decisions of the judicial committee of the privy council which held that death penalties in Belize, St Lucia, St Kitts and the Bahamas were unconstitutional.

Honours[edit]

He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Common Law by Oxford University in 1994. From 2001 to 2008, Bingham held the office of High Steward of the University of Oxford, the second highest office in the academic hierarchy, and in 2003 he came second to Chris Patten in the election of the Chancellor. Bingham was also the Visitor of Balliol College, Oxford from 1986 to 2010.

Bingham served on the Advisory Council on Public Records, the Magna Carta Trust, and the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. He was a trustee of the Pilgrim Trust for 15 years. He became an honorary Fellow of the British Academy in 2003.

In 2005, he was appointed a Knight of the Garter,[6] an honour in the personal gift of the Queen and one only rarely conferred on judges (Sir Ninian Stephen – a current holder – was previously a Justice of the High Court of Australia and Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone, Lord Chancellor in the periods 1970–74 and 1979–87, was a previous holder). He received the title along with Lady Soames and John Major. Additionally, he was the President and Chairman of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, which established the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law in his honour in 2010.

On Thursday 16 November 2006, Bingham delivered the sixth annual Sir David Williams lecture hosted by the Centre for Public Law[7] at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. The Lecture was entitled "The Rule of Law".[8]

On 17 January 2008, Bingham presented the annual Hansard Lecture at the University of Southampton.

On 14 March 2008, Bingham received the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree honoris causa from the University of Rome III, delivering a Lectio Magistralis at the Faculty of Law entitled "The Rule of Law".[9]

In 2009, Bingham was involved with the UK Charity, Reprieve.[10]

In 2009 he delivered the annual Jan Grodecki lecture at the University of Leicester entitled 'The House of Lords: Its Future'[11]

Retirement[edit]

Bingham remained active in retirement. On 17 November 2008, in his first major speech since his retirement as the senior law lord, Bingham, addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, disputed the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK and other countries. He said that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was "a serious violation of international law", and he accused Britain and the US of acting like a "world vigilante".

In June 2009, Bingham was interviewed by legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg on the subject of the rule of law in international affairs. The interview was conducted to raise awareness of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. Bingham's thoughts on this subject, in particular the banning of certain weapons in international conflict, were covered by newspapers The Independent (Top judge: 'use of drones intolerable')[12] and the Daily Telegraph (Unmanned drones could be banned, says senior judge ).[13] Bingham gave another interview on the Rule of Law and matters pertaining to the British constitution with the charity, the Constitution Society.

His book, The Rule of Law, was published by Allen Lane in 2010. It won the 2011 Orwell Prize for literature.[14]

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, and died the following year. He was buried at St Cynog's Church in Boughrood. A memorial service at Westminster Abbey on 25 May 2011 was ended by the Adamant New Orleans Marching Band playing When the Saints Go Marching In.

Judgments[edit]

High Court
Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal (as the Master of the Rolls)
House of Lords

Legacy[edit]

In 2010, shortly before he died, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law founded The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, a body solely dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of the rule of law worldwide.

In 2013, the barristers chambers Thomas Bingham Chambers (Mr Mohammed Khamisa, QC, and Constance Whippman) was named in his honour.

In an interview on 7.2.14, Lord Phillips, who succeeded Lord Bingham as Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, remarked that '…Tom Bingham was the most wonderful man, he was head and shoulders above everybody else in the law in my view…yes just outstanding…his clarity of thought, his academic knowledge. I think almost everyone would say that he was, you know, the great lawyer of his generation.’[15]

See also[edit]

Arms[edit]

Arms of Thomas Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill
Adopted
2006
Coronet
Coronet of a Baron
Crest
A Griffin sejant erect Vert beaked and holding with both forefeet a Key wards upwards and outwards Or
Escutcheon
Per pale Or and Vert per chevron three Ears of Corn slipped and leaved all counterchanged
Supporters
On either side a Running Duck that on the dexter Vert beaked and legged Or and that on the sinister Or beaked and legged Vert
Motto
PRO TANTO QUID RETRISUAMUS
Symbolism
The Arms are a pun on Cornhill, the per chevron formation suggesting a hill. The griffin is taken from the Arms used by Gray's Inn and is depicted

holding a key as a punning allusion to his wife's surname of Loxley. Lord Bingham of Cornhill and his family breed running ducks.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.thepeerage.com/p14224.htm#i142238
  2. ^ Intelligent Life, March/April 2012
  3. ^ Sands, Philippe (11 September 2010). "Lord Bingham of Cornhill obituary". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 54419. p. 7803. 7 June 1996.
  5. ^ Gibb, Frances (20 November 2007). "Human rights in the bus queue". The Times (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 57622. p. 5363. 25 April 2005.
  7. ^ http://cpl.law.cam.ac.uk/
  8. ^ http://cpl.law.cam.ac.uk/past_activities/the_rt_hon_lord_bingham_the_rule_of_law.php
  9. ^ http://www.uniroma3.it/news.php?news=896
  10. ^ http://www.reprieve.org.uk/2008_11_14LordBinghamReprievesnewchair
  11. ^ http://www2.le.ac.uk/ebulletin/events/2000-2009/2009/oct/npevent.2009-09-23.5399888252?searchterm=bingham
  12. ^ Verkaik, Robert; Editor, Legal (6 July 2009). "Top judge: 'use of drones intolerable'". The Independent (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  13. ^ Wardrop, Murray (6 July 2009). "Unmanned drones could be banned, says senior judge". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  14. ^ Flood, Alison (17 May 2011). "Orwell Prize goes to Tom Bingham". The Guardian Blogs (London). Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  15. ^ An Interview with Lord Nicholas Phillips - 2014, 7.2.14: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhWAZZWkOGQ

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Lord Donaldson of Lymington
Master of the Rolls
1992–1996
Succeeded by
Lord Woolf
Preceded by
Lord Taylor of Gosforth
Lord Chief Justice
1996–2000
Succeeded by
Lord Woolf
Preceded by
Lord Browne-Wilkinson
Senior Law Lord
2000–2008
Succeeded by
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers