Robert Goff, Baron Goff of Chieveley

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Goff of Chieveley
Robert Goff as an appellate judge.jpg
The Lord Goff of Chieveley when an appellate judge
Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
1 October 1996 – 30 September 1998
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by The Lord Keith of Kinkel
Succeeded by The Lord Browne-Wilkinson
Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
6 February 1986 – 30 September 1998
Succeeded by The Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough
Personal details
Born Robert Lionel Archibald Goff
(1926-11-12)12 November 1926
Kinloch, Perthshire, Scotland
Died 14 August 2016(2016-08-14) (aged 89)
Cambridge, England
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Oxford
Occupation Judge
Profession Barrister

Robert Lionel Archibald Goff, Baron Goff of Chieveley, PC, FBA (12 November 1926 – 14 August 2016) was a British judge and law lord.

In his obituary, The Telegraph referred to the "unbroken series of successes" in his "glittering legal career".[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Goff was born and raised in Perthshire. From an early age he had a love of Scottish reeling, for which his mother acquainted him with the local farmers. His father, an Army Officer, planned a military career for the young Robert but that was not ultimately to be.

Educated at St Aubyn's School, Rottingdean and Eton College, he left in 1944 to spend the next four years in his father's regiment, the Scots Guards, where he grew a trademark military moustache. He went up to New College, Oxford after the war, where he took a first class honours degree in Jurisprudence.[2]

In 1951 he was called to the Bar at Inner Temple, but remained at Oxford as a tutor and fellow for Lincoln College. He bought a typewriter and began recording his wartime experiences in legal terms. It was twenty years before The Law of Restitution, a massive tome, finally appeared in print in 1966. The analysis was a focus on repairing the damage of war in Europe through the philosophical metaphor of contract law. Making and breaking deals and bargains had brought Europe into conflicts of interest, collapsing the normal juridical process of trial and testing the validity of contracts and the remedies for restoring equity. The work broke new ground on the equitable doctrine of restitution and was widely used by City lawyers, judges and barristers alike. With Gareth Jones, a Cambridge law professor, they explored the doctrine of "unjust enrichment", greatly expanding the conceptual meaning of equity in civil cases to encompass rectification of wrongs done by commercial entreprises, profoundly impacting the expansion of city institutions, for it touched on areas like insurance, pensions and fiduciary duties. It also had impacts on the criminal law of fraud.

Goff began pupillage at 5 King's Bench walk, in Sir Ashton Roskill's chambers where he concentrated mainly on civil and commercial law, which ultimately became his speciality. He took silk in 1967, the same year his chambers amalgamated with that at No. 7.

Judicial career[edit]

Goff was appointed to the High Court (Queen's Bench Division) in 1975, and received the customary knighthood.[3] He held the office of Bencher of the Inner Temple and High Court Judge of the Queen's Bench between 1975-82. He was made a Lord Justice of Appeal and was sworn in as a Privy Councillor in 1982.

Goff was influential in the teaching of law. He was honorary professor of Legal Ethics at Birmingham University and Chairman of the Council of Legal Education. He also held many honorary degrees and fellowships. He was a Fellow of the British Academy. He served as President of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, and was a patron of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal,[4] From 1991 to 2001 he was High Steward of Oxford University.

Goff was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and a life peer on 6 February 1986, as Baron Goff of Chieveley, of Chieveley in the County of Berkshire.[5] He regularly sat in the House of Lords, and was an active participant in debates. On 1 October 1996, The Lord Keith of Kinkel retired as Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and Lord Goff succeeded him.[6] In 1999 he was awarded the Grand Cross (First Class) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his contribution to British awareness of German law. Lord Goff remained in the role until his own retirement.

Goff died in August 2016 at the age of 89.

Important judgments[edit]

Lord Goff gave many important judgments, including his judgments in the following cases:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lord Goff of Chieveley, Senior Law Lord – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 18 August 2016. 
  2. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Friday 19 August 2016
  3. ^ "No. 46775". The London Gazette. 30 December 1975. p. 16381. 
  4. ^ "Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal – Board of Patrons". Archived from the original on 6 February 2005. Retrieved 19 March 2009. 
  5. ^ "No. 50427". The London Gazette. 11 February 1986. p. 1981. 
  6. ^ "State Intelligence". London Gazette. 4 October 1996. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Virgo, Graham (1999). The Principles of the Law of Restitution. Clarendon Press. p. 158. ISBN 0-19-876377-8. 
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Lord Keith of Kinkel
Senior Law Lord
Succeeded by
The Lord Browne-Wilkinson