The Viscount Sankey
|Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain|
7 June 1929 – 7 June 1935
|Prime Minister||Ramsay MacDonald|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Hailsham|
|Succeeded by||The Viscount Hailsham|
|Born||26 October 1866|
|Died||6 February 1948(aged 81)|
|Alma mater||Jesus College, Oxford|
John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey, Labour politician and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, famous for many of his judgments in the House of Lords. He gave his name to the Sankey Declaration of the Rights of Man (1940).(26 October 1866 – 6 February 1948) was a British lawyer, judge,
Background and education
He was the son of Thomas Sankey, a grocer of Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, by his second wife Catalina (née Dewsbury). Sankey's father died when he was 8 years old, when the family moved to Castle Road (now City Road) in Roath, Cardiff. Sankey was educated at a local Anglican school, and with the financial support of an Anglican clergyman he attended Lancing College, a public school in Sussex. He studied at Jesus College, Oxford, graduating with a second-class BA in Modern History in 1889, and a third-class Bachelor of Civil Law degree in 1891. He was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1892.
Political and legal career
Sankey became a judge of the High Court, King's Bench Division, in 1914. In 1919, Prime Minister David Lloyd George appointed him to chair the Sankey Commission into the coal industry, which recommended a seven-hour day for miners and the nationalisation of the industry. He was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1928.
On Labour's victory in the 1929 general election, Sankey was appointed Lord Chancellor by Ramsay MacDonald, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Sankey, of Moreton in the County of Gloucester. He was one of the few Labour politicians to follow MacDonald into the National Government in 1931, and served as Lord Chancellor until 1935, when Stanley Baldwin re-entered office. In 1932 he was created Viscount Sankey, of Moreton in the County of Gloucester.
Several of his judgments in the House of Lords have become landmark statements of law. Sankey's judgment in Woolmington v DPP  AC 462 is famous for iterating the duty inherent on the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In pertinent part, his judgment stated:
Throughout the web of the English criminal law one golden thread is always to be seen – that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt subject to what I have already said as to the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception...
This judgment is usually referred to as the "golden thread".
Sitting in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Lord Sankey gave decisions in significant Canadian constitutional law cases. Of particular note is Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General) (often referred to as the Persons Case). In his decision, Sankey affirmed that women are eligible to be appointed to the Senate of Canada. In his analysis, he set out the living tree doctrine of constitutional interpretation that has become a foundation of Canadian constitutional law. In another significant decision, the Aeronautics Reference, Sankey held that the federal government had exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over aeronautics.
Sankey's name was associated with the Sankey Declaration of the Rights of Man, the product of the Sankey Committee, which was set up in 1940 by the Daily Herald and the National Peace Council, and which Sankey chaired. The most active member of the committee was H.G. Wells, who prepared the draft that the Declaration was based on. It identified eleven fundamental human rights:
- right to life
- protection of minors
- duty to the community
- right to knowledge
- freedom of thought and worship
- right to work
- right to personal property
- freedom of movement
- personal liberty
- freedom from violence
- right of law-making.
The Sankey Declaration was widely publicised by its sponsors at the time, but has since been largely forgotten, having been overtaken by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Sankey played a key role in establishing the legal framework of the newly disestablished Church in Wales.
Sankey never married. He died in London on 6 February 1948, aged 81, when the peerage became extinct. He is buried in The Lower Cemetery of Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire. A house at his former school Lancing College is named after him.
- Coal Industry Commission Act 1919
- Lord Sankey's lower court judgments
- Lord Sankey's JCPC judgments
- List of Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cases
- List of Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cases originating in Canada
- Stevens, Robert (2004). "Sankey, John, Viscount Sankey (1866–1948)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35942. Retrieved 28 March 2007. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- "Viscount John Sankey, Lord Chancellor – Roath's top brief". Roath Local History Society. 23 September 2020. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
- "No. 28255". The London Gazette. 28 May 1909. p. 4060.
- "The Cabinet Paters – Labour legislation". The National Archives. Retrieved 27 October 2022.
- Thorpe, Andrew (1997), "The Surge to Second-Party Status, 1914–22", A History of the British Labour Party, London: Macmillan Education UK, pp. 48–49, doi:10.1007/978-1-349-25305-0_3, ISBN 978-0-333-56081-5, retrieved 16 June 2022
- "No. 33356". The London Gazette. 14 February 1928. p. 1044.
- "No. 33508". The London Gazette. 21 June 1929. p. 4118.
- "No. 33795". The London Gazette. 2 February 1932. p. 703.
- "A Declaration of the Rights of Man; A charter prepared in 1940, under the Chairmanship of Lord Sankey, and originally drafted for discussion by H. G. Wells". Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Sankey's | Lancing College | Independent Senior School & Sixth Form | Woodard | West Sussex | South of London". www.lancingcollege.co.uk. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
- Debrett's Peerage. 1936.