Leslie Scarman, Baron Scarman

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The Lord Scarman

Leslie George Scarman

(1911-07-29)29 July 1911
Died8 December 2004(2004-12-08) (aged 93)
Westgate-on-Sea Kent, England
Resting placeSt Mary Magdeline Church, Monkton, Kent, England
Alma materBrasenose College, Oxford
  • Judge
  • barrister
TitleLord of Appeal in Ordinary
Ruth Wright
(m. 1947)

Leslie George Scarman, Baron Scarman, OBE, PC (29 July 1911 – 8 December 2004) was an English judge and barrister, who served as a Law Lord until his retirement in 1986.

Early life and education[edit]

Scarman was born in Streatham but grew up on the border of Sussex and Surrey. He won scholarships to Radley College and then Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read Classics, graduating in 1932 with a First.

Legal career[edit]

He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1936. He remained briefless until World War II, which he spent in the Royal Air Force as a staff officer in England, North Africa, and then continental Europe. He was present with Arthur Tedder when Alfred Jodl surrendered at Reims. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1944. He returned to law in 1945, practising from chambers at 2, Crown Office Row, known since the 1970s as Fountain Court Chambers, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s he started to build the chambers' reputation for commercial litigation, together with Alan Orr and Melford Stevenson, supported by a notable clerk, Cyril Batchelor.[1] He became a Queen's Counsel in 1957.

Scarman was appointed a High Court judge in 1961, assigned to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, transferring to the Family Division when the latter was created in 1971. On his appointment he received the customary knighthood.[2] He joined the Court of Appeal in 1973, and was sworn of the Privy Council. On 30 September 1977, Scarman was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, becoming Baron Scarman, of Quatt in the County of Salop.[3] He served in the Lords until his retirement in 1986.

He was appointed head of the Law Commission from 1965 to 1973, during which time 27 Commission-inspired statutes were made law. As a judge, Scarman's career had some controversial decisions. Although widely regarded as a liberal, he upheld the blasphemy conviction of Gay News (1979), punctured the GLC's Fares Fair low-cost public transport policy (1981), and supported the banning of trade unions at GCHQ (1985).

He is best known for chairing the public inquiry on the causes of the race riots in Brixton in 1981. He also chaired inquiries into the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969 (1969–1972), the Red Lion Square disorders (1975) and the Grunwick dispute (1977).[4][citation needed]

Later life[edit]

After entering the House of Lords the more liberal aspects of his character dominated – he was chancellor of the University of Warwick and president of the British Institute of Human Rights, and worked on behalf of the Prince's Trust, the Birmingham Six, and Charter 88 among many other projects. Scarman was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1983.[5] In 1991 he set up the Scarman Trust.[citation needed]

He married Ruth Wright in 1947, with whom he had one son. He died in 2004 at his home in Westgate-on-Sea.[6]

Notable judgments[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Scarman appeared in the final episode of series one of the BBC1 drama Ashes to Ashes, played by Geoffrey Palmer.[citation needed]


  1. ^ History at fountaincourt.co.uk, retrieved 8 March 2019
  2. ^ "No. 42285". The London Gazette. 21 February 1961. p. 1359.
  3. ^ "No. 47342". The London Gazette. 4 October 1977. p. 12509.
  4. ^ Lewis, Helen, 1983- (2020). Difficult women : a history of feminism in 11 fights. London. ISBN 978-1-78733-128-0. OCLC 1129661369.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  6. ^ Announcement of his death at the House of Lords House of Lords minutes of proceedings, 13 December 2004.
  7. ^ Lawindexpro: case report

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Warwick
Succeeded by