John Cyril Smith

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Sir John Cyril Smith, CBE QC FBA (15 January 1922 – 14 February 2003) was an authority on English criminal law and the philosophy of criminal liability. Together with Brian Hogan he was the author of Smith & Hogan's Criminal Law, a leading undergraduate text on English criminal law. The book is now in its fourteenth edition (2015) and has been used as persuasive authority in English Criminal courts [1] and elsewhere in the common law world. In 1998, Lord Bingham praised Smith; "whom most would gladly hail as the outstanding criminal lawyer of our time." Smith and Hogan's Criminal Law is now edited by Professor David Ormerod QC.

Although Smith earned a scholarship to Oxford University to read history he never took it up, choosing to work on the railway instead. Smith's initial interest in law was developed whilst he was serving in the Royal Artillery and subsequently he helped administer courts martial. After leaving military service he read law at Cambridge University and became a barrister in 1950.

For many years he was a professor of Law at University of Nottingham and was influential in making the university one of the premier institutions for legal education in England. He also spent a year at Harvard University.

During the 1960s Smith was a member of the Criminal Law Revision Committee. The resulting recommendations played an important part in the development of the Theft Acts of 1968 & 1978. Smith was an advocate for a criminal code of England and Wales, working on a draft criminal code in the early 1980s, which was adopted by the Law Commission in 1989. The code has not yet been adopted, which, during his lifetime, was to the great disappointment of Professor Smith.

Smith, who published prolifically as J.C. Smith, had a long association with the Criminal Law Review and wrote many case notes for that journal which were notable for their incisive, playful and amusing analysis.

Smith was a fellow of the British Academy. He was made QC in 1973 and knighted in 1993.


  1. ^ Lord Edmund-Davies, at p. 715, Abbott v The Queen [1977] A.C. 755