Alfred Denning, Baron Denning

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The Right Honourable Alfred Thompson Denning, Baron Denning, OM, PC (23 January 18995 March 1999), most commonly referred to as Lord Denning, was a British barrister from Hampshire who became Master of the Rolls (the senior civil judge in the Court of Appeal of England and Wales).

Quotes[edit]

  • We shouldn't have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they'd been hanged. They'd have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied... It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned.
  • As a result of these [trade union] disputes, many innocent persons are injured and many lose work and wages without any fault on their part. The whole community is struck at. It is all very well to talk of the right to strike, but I know of no law which gives any man, or group of men, the right to strike at the community at large. It is nothing more than a claim to the right to inflict suffering on innocent persons in order to achieve their own ends. That is the state of affairs which cannot be tolerated in any civilized community.
    • Speech to the annual conference of the Justices' Clerks Society in Richmond, Surrey (17 June 1955), quoted in The Times (18 June 1955), p. 4
  • Freedom of speech means not only freedom for the views with which you agree but also freedom for the views which you hate and deplore.
    • Speech to the Institute of Journalists in London (2 December 1968), quoted in The Times (3 December 1968), p. 3
  • I have always held that a case in a court of justice should be open for all and for newspapers to report.
    • Speech to the Law Society's annual conference in Bristol (24 September 1970), quoted in The Times (25 September 1970), p. 2
  • Our laws are being disregarded right and left. The mobs are out. The police are being subjected to violence. Intimidation and violence are contrary to the law of the land. It should be condemned by every responsible citizen. We have the finest police force in the world. It is under the Queen that they defend our laws, and it is under the Queen that we should support them.
    • Speech to Justice, London (28 June 1977), quoted in The Times (29 June 1977), p. 4
  • The perpetrators of the bombing at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, could be hanged for high treason. ... They are just as guilty as Guy Fawkes was 380 years ago.
    • Speech to a Foyles literary luncheon (17 October 1984), quoted in The Times (18 October 1984), p. 2
  • Fundamental to our constitution is the supremacy of the Queen in Parliament and that our laws should be enacted by Parliament, by its authority in regulations, or indeed by judges in declaring the common law. That is what I understand is meant by the supremacy and sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament. I hope to show you in the course of my observations that that sovereignty is being eroded and that we are coming under another sovereignty—that of Europe and of the Council of Ministers. That is the challenge we face today.
  • Denning said that while hanging was seen as uncivilized, he believed most people would like to see it restored for the premeditated, deliberate killing carried out by IRA bombers. He believed Parliament would never vote to bring it back.
  • The House of Commons starts its proceedings with a prayer. The chaplain looks at the assembled members with their varied intelligence and then prays for the country.
    • Daily Telegraph (12 October 1989)
  • People say I am eccentric and frail. Well, I may be frail in body and hearing, but I hope my state of mind is as alert as ever it was and I am going to speak my mind as freely as I have ever done. I am a common man and I speak for the common people of England and from the letters I receive, the great majority agree with me.
    • Remarks (16 August 1990), quoted in The Times (17 August 1990), p. 1
  • Our sovereignty has been taken away by the European Court of Justice...Our courts must no longer enforce our national laws. They must enforce Community law...No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now like a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls and flowing inland over our fields and houses—to the dismay of all.
    • Introduction to The European Court of Justice: Judges or Policy Makers? (London: Bruges Group, 1990)
  • [The European Court of Justice is impudent and] a French court, dominated by continental thinking. The judicial thinking in the European court is entirely contrary to the English system of justice. It was started by the French and the court thinks in continental ideas; the Germans are coming in too. It is dominated by continental thinking.
    • Speech (16 July 1990), quoted in The Times (17 July 1990), p. 4

Judgments[edit]

  • What is the argument on the other side? Only this, that no case has been found in which it has been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on; and that will be bad for both.
    • Packer v. Packer [1954] P. 15 at 22.
  • "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail—its roof may shake—the wind may blow through it—the storm may enter—the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter—all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement." So be it—unless he has justification by law.
  • Limitation is not a matter of justice. It is a rule of public policy which has its origin in history and its justification in convenience.
    • The Bramley Moore [1964] P 200 at 220, commenting on the limitation of liability in maritime claims.
  • Old Peter Beswick was a coal merchant in Eccles, Lancashire. He had no business premises. All he had was a lorry, scales, and weights. He used to take the lorry to the yard of the National Coal Board, where he bagged coal and took it round to his customers in the neighbourhood. His nephew, John Joseph Beswick, helped him in his business. In March 1962, old Peter Beswick and his wife were both over 70. He had had his leg amputated and was not in good health. The nephew was anxious to get hold of the business before the old man died. So they went to a solicitor, Mr. Ashcroft, who drew up an agreement for them.
    • Beswick v. Beswick [1966] Ch 538.
  • A fiduciary duty to one's brothers is not something that need bind the hand of any man if he can satisfy the Court on the balance of probabilities that, through his actions, he would get some.
    • Kerry v. Smith & Warden [1967] 1 QB 347.
  • There are many things in life more worth while than money. One of these things is to be brought up in this our England, which is still "the envy of less happier lands". I do not believe it is for the benefit of children to be uprooted from England and transported to another country simply to avoid tax... Many a child has been ruined by being given too much. The avoidance of tax may be lawful, but it is not yet a virtue.
    • Re Weston's Settlements, [1969] 1 Ch 223.
  • It happened on April 19, 1964. It was bluebell time in Kent.
    • Hinz v. Berry [1970] 2 QB 40 at 42.
  • In June 1970, a big earth-moving machine got stuck in the mud. It sank so far as to be out of sight. It cost much money to get it out. Who is to pay the cost?
    • British Crane Hire Corporation Ltd v. Ipswich Plant Hire Ltd [1970] 1 All ER 1059.
  • Mr Thornton was a freelance trumpeter of the highest quality.
    • Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd [1971] 2QB 163; 1 All ER 686.
  • The customer pays his money and gets a ticket. He cannot refuse it. He cannot get the money back. He may protest to the machine, even swear at it. But it will remain unmoved.
    • Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd [1971] 2QB 163; 1 All ER 686.
  • So there was Mr. Jarvis, in the second week, in this hotel with no house party at all, and no one could speak English, except himself. He was very disappointed, too, with the skiing. [...] There were no ordinary length skis. There were only mini-skis about 3 ft. long. So he did not get his skiing as he wanted to. [...] He did not have the nice Swiss cakes which he was hoping for. The only cakes for tea were potato crisps and little dry nut cakes. The yodler evening consisted of one man from the locality who came in his working clothes for a little while, and sang four or five songs very quickly. [...] Mr. Jarvis has only a fortnight's holiday in the year. He books it far ahead, and looks forward to it all that time. He ought to be compensated for the loss of it.
    • Jarvis v. Swans Tours Ltd. [1973] Q.B. 233 (C.A).
  • The Treaty [of Rome] does not touch any of the matters which concern solely England and the people in it. These are still governed by English law. They are not affected by the Treaty. But when we come to matters with a European element, the Treaty is like an incoming tide. It flows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back, Parliament has decreed that the Treaty is henceforward to be part of our law. It is equal in force to any statute.
    • H.P. Bulmer Ltd v J. Bollinger SA [1974] Ch 401 at 418.
  • In 1966 there was a Scripture Rally in Trafalgar Square. A widower, Mr. Honick, went to it. He was about 63. A widow, Mrs. Rawnsley, also went. She was about 60. He went up to her and introduced himself. He was not much to look at. "He looked like a tramp," she said. "He has been picking up fag ends." They got on well enough, however, to exchange addresses. His was 36 Queen's Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. Hers was 74 Downton Avenue, Streatham Hill, London, S.W.2. Next day he went to her house with a gift for her. It was a rose wrapped in a newspaper. Afterwards their friendship grew apace. She was sorry for him, she said. She smartened him up with better clothes. She had him to meals. She went to his house: he went to hers. They wrote to one another in terms of endearment. We were not shown the letters, but counsel described them as love letters.
    • Burgess v. Rawnsley (1975) 30 P. & C.R. 221.
  • To some this may appear to be a small matter, but to Mr. Harry Hook, it is very important. He is a street trader in the Barnsley Market. He has been trading there for some six years without any complaint being made against him; but, nevertheless, he has now been banned from trading in the market for life. All because of a trifling incident. On Wednesday, October 16, 1974, the market was closed at 5:30. So were all the lavatories, or 'toilets' as they are now called. They were locked up. Three quarters of an hour later, at 6:20, Harry Hook had an urgent call of nature. He wanted to relieve himself. He went into a side street near the market and there made water, or 'urinated' as it is now said. No one was about except one or two employees of the council, who were cleaning up. They rebuked him. He said: 'I can do it here if I like'. They reported him to a security officer who came up. The security officer reprimanded Harry Hook. We are not told the words used by the security officer. I expect they were in language which street traders understand. Harry Hook made an appropriate reply. Again, we are not told the actual words, but it is not difficult to guess. I expect it was an emphatic version of 'You be off'. At any rate, the security officer described them as words of abuse. Touchstone would say that the security officer gave the 'reproof valiant' and Harry Hook gave the 'counter-check quarrelsome'; As You Like It, Act V, Scene IV. On Thursday morning the security officer reported the incident. The market manager thought it was a serious matter. So he saw Mr. Hook the next day, Friday, October 18. Mr. Hook admitted it and said he was sorry for what had happened. The market manager was not satisfied to leave it there. He reported the incident to the chairman of the amenity services committee of the Council. He says that the chairman agreed that 'staff should be protected from such abuse'. That very day the market manager wrote a letter to Mr. Hook, banning him from trading in the market.
    • Ex Parte Hook [1976] 1 WLR 1052 at 1055.
  • In summertime village cricket is a delight to everyone. Nearly every village has its own cricket field where the young men play and the old men watch. In the village of Lintz in the County of Durham they have their own ground, where they have played these last 70 years. They tend it well. The wicket area is well rolled and mown. The outfield is kept short. It has a good clubhouse for the players and seats for the onlookers. The village team plays there on Saturdays and Sundays. They belong to a league, competing with the neighbouring villages. On other evenings they practice while the light lasts. Yet now after these 70 years a judge of the High Court has ordered that they must not play anymore. He has issued an injunction to stop them. He has done it at the instance of a newcomer who is no lover of cricket. This newcomer has built, or has had built for him, a house on the edge of the cricket ground which four years ago was a field where cattle grazed. The animals did not mind the cricket, but now this adjoining field has been turned into a housing estate. The newcomer bought one of the houses on the edge of the cricket field. No doubt the open space was a selling point. Now he complains that when a batsman hits a six the ball has been known to land in his garden or on or near his house. His wife has got so upset about it that they always go out at weekends. They do not go into the garden when cricket is being played. They say that this is intolerable. So they asked the judge to stop the cricket being played. And the judge, much against his will, has felt that he must order the cricket to be stopped: with the consequence, I suppose, that the Lintz Cricket Club will disappear. The cricket ground will be turned to some other use. I expect for houses or a factory. The young men will turn to other things instead of cricket. The whole village will be much poorer. And all this because of a newcomer who has just bought a house there next to the cricket ground.
    • Miller v. Jackson [1977] QB 966 at 976.
  • This is a case of a barmaid who was badly bitten by a big dog.
    • Cummings v. Granger [1977] 1 All ER 104 at 106.
  • The statute in section 3(1) contains a definition of a “racial group”. It means a “group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins.” That definition is very carefully framed. Most interesting is that it does not include religion or politics or culture. You can discriminate for or against Roman Catholics as much as you like without being in breach of the law. You can discriminate for or against Communists as much as you please, without being in breach of the law. You can discriminate for or against the “hippies” as much as you like, without being in breach of the law. But you must not discriminate against a man because of his colour or of his race or of his nationality, or of “his ethnic or national origins.” … You must remember that it is perfectly lawful to discriminate against groups of people to whom you object - so long as they are not a racial group. You can discriminate against the Moonies or the Skinheads or any other group which you dislike or to which you take objection. No matter whether your objection to them is reasonable or unreasonable, you can discriminate against them - without being in breach of the law.’}}
  • In 1977 the black-out was lifted. It was done by R.S.C., Ord. 53. The curtains were drawn back. The light was let in. Our administrative law became well-organised and comprehensive. It enabled the High Court to review the decisions of all inferior courts and tribunals and to quash them when they went wrong. And what is more, it enabled the High Court to award damages and grant declarations. No longer is it necessary to bring an ordinary action to obtain damages or declarations. It can all be done by judicial review. This new remedy (by judicial review) has made the old remedy (by action at law) superfluous.
    • O'Reilly v. Mackman, [1983] 2 A.C. 238.
  • At one time there was a black-out of any development of administrative law. The curtains were drawn across to prevent the light coming in. The remedy of certiorari was hedged about with all sorts of technical limitations. It did not give a remedy when inferior tribunals went wrong, but only when they went outside their jurisdiction altogether. The black-out started in 1841 with Reg. v. Bolton (1841) 1 Q.B. 66 and became darkest in 1922, Rex v. Nat Bell Liquors Ltd. [1922] 2 A.C. 128. It was not relieved until 1952, Rex v. Northumberland Compensation Appeal Tribunal, Ex parte Shaw [1952] 1 K.B. 338. Whilst the darkness still prevailed, we let in some light by means of a declaration. The most notable cases were Barnard v. National Dock Labour Board [1953] 2 Q.B. 18 and Anisminic Ltd. v. Foreign Compensation Commission [1969] 2 A.C. 147. I sat in the preliminary hearings of both of them. We allowed each of those cases to go forward. It was because otherwise persons would be without a remedy for an injustice: see Barnard v. National Dock Labour Board [1953] 2 Q.B. 18, 43 and the Anisminic case [1969] 2 A.C. 147, 231B-C In effect it was only by leave that the action for a declaration was allowed to proceed.
    • Judicial review.

Quotes about Denning[edit]

  • A St George of the law courts.
  • Our common law owes its strength to the creative genius of judges who, by obeying their own doctrines and principles, have generally proved more competent to untie the knots of human conflict than has Parliament. The greatest recent example of this creative genius – Lord Denning – did not read law at university, and displays in his judgments the broad education and culture which, by helping him to enter imaginatively into the conflict before him, have given substance and direction to his strikingly novel interpretations of the law.
    • Roger Scruton, 'Laying down the law', The Times (20 December 1983), p. 10
  • [Denning is] certainly the most interesting and possibly the most important English judge of the twentieth century.
    • Robert Stevens, Law and Politics: The House of Lords as a Judicial Body, 1800–1976 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979), p. 488
  • Lord Denning was probably the greatest English judge of modern times. He combined a love of liberty with a passion for justice. His life and work will provide inspiration for generations to come.

External links[edit]