Norman Skelhorn

Last updated

Sir Norman John Skelhorn, KBE, QC (10 September 1909 – 28 May 1988) [1] [2] was an English barrister who was Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales from 1964 to 1977. [3]

Contents

Early life and education

Skelhorn was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, [4] the son of a clergyman. He was educated at Shrewsbury School. He was called to the Bar in 1931. [5]

Career

Appointed DPP in 1964, in 1965, Sir Norman presented a paper to the Commonwealth and Empire Law Conference in Sydney, titled "Crime and Punishment of Crime: Investigation of Offences and Trial of Accused Persons." In this paper, he set out his agenda. [6] These words came back negatively when, in Rupasinghe v. Attorney General the defence counsel in this case about violation of the right to silence, used the report in contrast to Sir Norman's 1972 role as a member of the eleventh Criminal Law Revision Committee.

One of the first cases Skelhorn dealt with was the August 1966 seizure by Scotland Yard's obscene publications squad of all copies of Aubrey Beardsley's erotic cards and posters they could find in a card shop on Regent Street. After Commissioner Sir Joseph Simpson went to the Victoria and Albert Museum to inspect the originals with pubic hair on display there, the Home Secretary Roy Jenkins had to spend time dealing with the media, while Sir Norman was so deeply unimpressed by the seized drawings that he promptly ordered the police to take them back to the shop. [7]

In 1972, Skelhorn gave bank robber Bertie Smalls, Britain's first true supergrass, immunity from prosecution in light of the amounts and detail of his Queen's evidence. [8] Although Smalls evidence and confession consequently convicted 21 associates for a total of 302 years, the Law Lords told Skelhorn that they found the arrangement with Smalls an "unholy deal." [9]

Skelhorn became entangled in the row that erupted around the use of torture in Northern Ireland. Edward Heath, Prime Minister since 1970, had banned sensory deprivation in light of the report by Sir Edmund Compton into internment and interrogation techniques used by the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. [10] In October 1973, being questioned at a meeting of the Harvard Law School Forum, Sir Norman did not deny that torture had taken place. On the contrary, he stated that "when dealing with "Irish terrorists" any methods were justified." [11]

On 9 April 1976, the leader of the Young Liberals Peter Hain was cleared of robbery at a branch of Barclays Bank. In the House of Commons that afternoon, six MPs led by Liberal David Steel, called for the resignation of Sir Norman Skelhorn, over the Hain case.

Retirement

Skelhorn retired from the post before the publication of the critical report by Lord Devlin published in 1977 recommended statutory prosecution safeguards, on which the Government took no action. [12]

Home Secretary Merlyn Rees appointed Sir Thomas Hetherington Director of Public Prosecutions on the retirement of Sir Norman, with a brief to reduce delays in the criminal legal system. [13] Skelhorn was an active freemason. [14]

Related Research Articles

Double jeopardy is a procedural defence that prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same charges following an acquittal in the same jurisdiction. A variation in civil law countries is the peremptory plea, which may take the specific forms of autrefois acquit or autrefois convict. These doctrines appear to have originated in ancient Roman law, in the broader principle non bis in idem.

In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general or attorney-general is the main legal advisor to the government. The plural is attorneys general. In some jurisdictions, attorneys general also have executive responsibility for law enforcement, prosecutions or even responsibility for legal affairs generally. In practice, the extent to which the attorney general personally provides legal advice to the government varies between jurisdictions, and even between individual office-holders within the same jurisdiction, often depending on the level and nature of the office-holder's prior legal experience.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is the office or official charged with the prosecution of criminal offences in several criminal jurisdictions around the world. The title is used mainly in jurisdictions that are or have been members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Michael Havers, Baron Havers

Robert Michael Oldfield Havers, Baron Havers, was a British barrister and Conservative politician. From his knighthood in 1972 until becoming a peer in 1987 he was known as Sir Michael Havers.

Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the principal public agency for conducting criminal prosecutions in England and Wales. It is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Attorney General for England and Wales Law officer of the Monarch of England and Wales

Her Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales, usually known as the Attorney General, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown. The Attorney General serves as the principal legal adviser to the Crown and the Government in England and Wales. The Attorney General maintains their own office and currently attends Cabinet. The office is also concurrently held with that of Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales, Northern Ireland and most Commonwealth and colonial governments, the chief law officer of the Crown is the Attorney General.

Obscene Publications Act 1959 United Kingdom legislation

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament that significantly reformed the law related to obscenity in England and Wales. Prior to the passage of the Act, the law on publishing obscene materials was governed by the common law case of R v Hicklin, which had no exceptions for artistic merit or the public good. During the 1950s, the Society of Authors formed a committee to recommend reform of the existing law, submitting a draft bill to the Home Office in February 1955. After several failed attempts to push a bill through Parliament, a committee finally succeeded in creating a viable bill, which was introduced to Parliament by Roy Jenkins and given the Royal Assent on 29 July 1959, coming into force on 29 August 1959 as the Obscene Publications Act 1959. With the committee consisting of both censors and reformers, the actual reform of the law was limited, with several extensions to police powers included in the final version.

Misprision of felony is a form of misprision, and an offence under the common law of England that is no longer active in many common law countries. Where it was or is active, it is classified as a misdemeanor. It consists of failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities. Exceptions were made for close family members of the felon and where the disclosure would tend to incriminate him of that offence or another.

In criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime at some time in the future. Criminal law in some countries or for some conspiracies may require that at least one overt act be undertaken in furtherance of that agreement, to constitute an offense. There is no limit on the number participating in the conspiracy and, in most countries, no requirement that any steps have been taken to put the plan into effect. For the purposes of concurrence, the actus reus is a continuing one and parties may join the plot later and incur joint liability and conspiracy can be charged where the co-conspirators have been acquitted or cannot be traced. Finally, repentance by one or more parties does not affect liability but may reduce their sentence.

Major Sir Thomas Chalmers Hetherington,, better known as Sir Tony Hetherington, was a British barrister. He was Director of Public Prosecutions of England and Wales from 1977 to 1987, and was the first head of the Crown Prosecution Service for the year after it was founded in 1986.

Kenneth Donald John Macdonald, Baron Macdonald of River Glaven, Kt, QC is a British lawyer and politician who served as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of England and Wales from 2003 to 2008. In that office he was head of the Crown Prosecution Service. He was previously a Recorder and defence barrister. He is currently Warden of Wadham College, Oxford and a life peer in the House of Lords, where he sits as a crossbencher and was previously a Liberal Democrat.

Kempton Bunton

Kempton Cannon Bunton was a disabled British pensioner who allegedly stole Francisco Goya's painting Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961. The theft of the painting was the subject of the October 2015 BBC Radio 4 drama Kempton and the Duke.

Derek Creighton "Bertie" Smalls was considered by many as Britain's first supergrass. Although there have been informers throughout history – the Kray twins were partly convicted two years before Smalls on evidence given by Leslie Payne – the Smalls case was significant for three reasons: the first informer to give the police volume names of his associates and provide the evidence that would send dozens of them to prison to serve long sentences; the first criminal informer to strike a written deal with the Director of Public Prosecutions; the only criminal informer to serve no time for his crime in return for providing Queen's evidence.

A private prosecution is a criminal proceeding initiated by an individual private citizen or private organisation instead of by a public prosecutor who represents the state. Private prosecutions are allowed in many jurisdictions under common law, but have become less frequent in modern times as most prosecutions are now handled by professional public prosecutors instead of private individuals who retain barristers.

Director of Public Prosecutions (England and Wales)

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is the third most senior public prosecutor in England and Wales. The DPP is the head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), with personal responsibility for its 7,000 staff and approximately 800,000 prosecutions undertaken by it every year. The holder of the role is appointed by the Attorney General on the recommendation of a panel that includes the First Civil Service Commissioner.

Myer Alan Barry King-Hamilton QC was a British barrister and judge who was best known for hearing numerous high-profile cases at the Old Bailey during the 1960s and 1970s. These included the trial of Janie Jones in 1974 and the 1977 blasphemous libel trial against Gay News and its editor, Denis Lemon, for publishing "The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name", a poem by James Kirkup.

The first signs of the modern distinction between criminal and civil proceedings were during the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The earliest criminal trials had very little, if any, settled law to apply. However, the civil delictual law was highly developed and consistent in its operation.

Peter Hain British Labour politician

Peter Gerald Hain, Baron Hain is a British politician who served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2007 to 2008 and twice as Secretary of State for Wales from 2002 to 2008 and from 2009 to 2010. A member of the Labour Party, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Neath between 1991 and 2015.

Sir Frederick Horace Lawton was a British barrister and judge who served as Lord Justice of appeal from 1972 to 1986.

References

Preceded by
Sir Theobald Mathew
Director of Public Prosecutions
1964–1977
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Hetherington