Thomas Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Bingham of Cornhill
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
Died 11 September 2010(2010-09-11) (aged 76)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Loxley
Children Christopher; 1 other son; 1 daughter
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford

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 before his retirement, when he focused his work as a teacher and lecturer in human rights law. Lord Bingham died of cancer at the age of 76.

Early life and career[edit]

Tom Bingham was born in London on 13 October 1933. His parents practised as doctors in Reigate, Surrey. His father was an Ulster Presbyterian. Tom Bingham was educated at the Cumbrian public school Sedbergh School (Winder House), where he was described as the "brightest boy in a hundred years". He did national service as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1952 to 1954. He was awarded a Gibbs scholarship to read modern history at Balliol College, Oxford where he graduated with a First. After graduation he read for the bar as Eldon Law Scholar and came top of bar finals in 1959. He was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn and was taken on as a barrister at the chambers of Leslie Scarman at 2 Crown Office Row, which later moved to Fountain Court Chambers. He married Elizabeth Loxley in 1963; they had one daughter and two sons.

Bingham took silk, becoming a Queen's Counsel in 1972 aged just 38, having been standing junior counsel to the Department of Employment for four years from 1968. In 1977, when still at the Bar, he rose to public attention when he was appointed by then Foreign Secretary David Owen to head an inquiry into alleged breaches of UN sanctions by Oil Companies in Southern Rhodesia. He was appointed a Recorder in 1975 and as a High Court judge in the Queen’s Bench Division in 1980; he was assigned to the Commercial Court.

He was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1986 and in 1991 led a high profile inquiry into the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).[1]

Senior judicial career[edit]

Bingham became Master of the Rolls in 1992 initiating significant reforms, including a move towards the replacement of certain oral hearings in major civil cases and he was the first senior judge to back incorporation into English law of the European Convention on Human Rights – which came about with the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998. Bingham was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales in 1996. 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,[2] when he moved to the House of Lords. He was succeeded as Lord Chief Justice by Lord Woolf in 2000, who had likewise succeeded him in 1996 as Master of the Rolls. In this year, he was the appointed Senior Law Lord.

He was a strong advocate for divorcing the judicial branch of the House of Lords from Parliament[citation needed] 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.[3]


In 2005, he was appointed a Knight of the Garter,[4] 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[5] at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. The Lecture was entitled "The Rule of Law".[6]

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".[7]

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.

In 2009, Bingham was involved with the UK Charity, Reprieve.[8]

In 2009 he delivered the annual Jan Grodecki lecture at the University of Leicester entitled 'The House of Lords: Its Future' [9]

Views on the legality of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US and the UK[edit]

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".

Interview on the Rule of Law[edit]

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')[10] and the Daily Telegraph (Unmanned drones could be banned, says senior judge ).[11] 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.[12]


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


In 2010, shortly before he died, the British Institute for 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 established in his name.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Sands, Philippe (11 September 2010). "Lord Bingham of Cornhill obituary". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 54419. p. 7803. 7 June 1996.
  3. ^ Gibb, Frances (20 November 2007). "Human rights in the bus queue". The Times (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 57622. p. 5363. 25 April 2005.
  5. ^
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  10. ^ Verkaik, Robert; Editor, Legal (6 July 2009). "Top judge: 'use of drones intolerable'". The Independent (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Wardrop, Murray (6 July 2009). "Unmanned drones could be banned, says senior judge". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Flood, Alison (17 May 2011). "Orwell Prize goes to Tom Bingham". The Guardian Blogs (London). Retrieved 18 May 2011. 


External links[edit]

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