Report of General Monthly Meeting

A Life of Crime
A talk given by Guy Whitburn on 12th September 2017

After a long summer break Littleton Hall was full for an ‘in house’ talk by Guy Whitburn, husband of the speaker’s secretary! This was not a guide to Fagan’s young Oliver - ‘you’ve got to pick a pocket or two, boys’ - but rather a most entertaining journey beginning in 1960 with the study of law at King’s London and Cambridge, then proceeding to taking ‘silk’ in 1989 before becoming a Circuit Judge in 1997. Guy also spent much of his final years as a High Court Judge in the Sovereign Base area in Cyprus where the court always finished by 2 p.m. because of the heat!

His tales began with reflections on the old system which in the sixties had changed little for eight hundred years and then moved on to many of the cases still in our own minds - Timothy Evans, Craig and Bentley and of course the Christine Keeler case. In the context of homosexuality, we were told that as Queen Victoria believed no woman would do such a thing, Victorian law only applied to male relationships. In career terms Guy highlighted the role of clerks in Chambers as those who could make or break you, so that the portrayal of Chambers in Rumpole was relatively true to life. Most clerks seemed to have come from South London and were called P’ter. Later, one fond memory was defending a nice little-known chap called Paul Gascoigne on a speeding charge. When Paul was acquitted he thanked Mr Whitburn as he now could face the same charge in Newcastle with a clean slate. Lastly as Circuit Judge Guy stressed both how difficult it was at first not to be a John Deed and how invaluable the English Jury system is to justice.

And now the summing up. As Guy relished fraud trials, he finished by saying, ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’ and ‘never give your bank details over the phone’. No tips then on picking pockets but a most judicial yet amusing ‘Life of Crime’. The applause and the many questions afterwards were a fitting tribute.

Richard Costard