Roger was born on the 8th
September 1944, the youngest of his parent’s three children, and brought up in Morley. His father was an accountant and business man which perhaps explains some of the features of Roger’s personality. A comfortable childhood enabled him, at 13, to go to public school but there was nothing of the playing fields of Eton, or should I say Mill Hill, about Roger.
More – the Morley Sports and Social Club, the name given to his home, about 30 years ago in the course of a long trial at Wakefield where each Friday afternoon, the entire team of silks and juniors adjourned to swim, play snooker and relax in the warmth of his legendary hospitality. What an understanding wife.
After Mill Hill, in 1963 he went to St Andrew’s University. He read law as the first stage in his legal career, but rather more importantly, he met and fell in love with Diana Clark who was to become his devoted and adored wife of almost 44 years and the mother of their 3 children.
In 1968, Roger and Diana returned to Morley where they lived for many years and he began pupillage at 38 Park Square with Tony Richardson.
In his youth he had a passion for cars which included, at one time, the same kind of car that James Bond drove. As James Stewart said at Roger’s retirement, that was where the similarity ended. I don’t think Roger would have disagreed with that proposition.
Roger was not known for being suave or sophisticated. He had a wacky sense of dress, sometimes appearing in odd shoes, forgetting his bands in court and latterly for his dachshund tee shirts. On the golf course, his tartan hat and red clothes became known as the Morley body stocking.
But what he lacked in sartorial elegance was more than made up for by his other qualities.
He was clever with a phenomenal memory and a capacity for hard work.
He developed a busy practice and not surprisingly. Always well prepared and shrewd but never at the expense of fairness. He was the counsel of choice for many fraud cases. He had the ability to completely change tack according to the way the evidence unfolded and he rarely, if ever, caught unawares.
He could open and close many a long case without a note and his cross examination was to be feared. Peter Benson reminded us last week of his little black book of errant police officers and the one who collapsed in the witness box following Roger’s opening remark,
“Officer, we have met before haven’t we?”
Roger also had a huge sense of fun.
On a chambers trip many years ago a certain member (who shall remain nameless but who also has a passion for cars) hot footed to the Hotel Spa, on his arrival, for a luxury massage with a glamorous young therapist. Roger sneaked into the treatment room, whispered to the girl to step to one side and he took over. He said member of chambers was totally oblivious of this until Roger chose his moment and gave him an almighty whack accompanied by his signature cackle. The incident, as recounted by both participants, gave us much amusement over dinner that night as, I suspect it did, in the staff room of the hotel.
Unfortunately his sense of humour did not always serve him well in court. Peter reminded us of the Great Ming Vase case where Roger accidentally dropped one of the priceless exhibits. Quick as a flash he held up the other one and said “well this one is worth even more now!” On another occasion, when he tried in a jury speech, to tell the Inspector Clouseau story about “does your dog bite”
he got to the end only to realise he had already delivered the punch line – the only time I think his memory let him down.
In 1982, Roger was one of the driving forces behind the setting up our chambers at St Paul’s House – a brave thing to do in those days. None of us will forget that or the financial assistance given to us by way of interest free loans from Diana and Roger at that time.
In 1985, when Norman Jones took silk, Roger succeeded him and we braced ourselves for, shall we say, a different style of leadership.
Although we did not succumb to the recycled tea bags that some people forecast, we tightened our belts very considerably and the business genes, that were obviously deep within him, soon became apparent.
None of us will forget that first chambers meeting when he set out the new regime. We were told that we would have to sign for each stamp and envelope we used. We winced as he hauled the clerk in and cut his percentage and later when a local solicitor was summoned to attend with his cheque book to pay his debts.
But it worked and we all benefited.
But the tight ship he ran with chambers finances and I think his own – he always knew to the penny what he had in his pocket – was very different from the generosity he displayed personally.
How many newly elected Heads of Chambers would do as Roger did and entertain us all to lunch at the Sharrow Bay Hotel – not an isolated occurrence – and those of you who attended his retirement celebrations at the Bradford Club last October, will remember his wonderful hospitality that day. That retirement and all he hoped for has been sadly taken from him.
He looked after chambers in other ways too. When BT was privatised (and without our knowledge but to our obvious advantage) he registered all of us for shares.
Both in chambers, and later as a judge, he recognised the important role played by the office staff without whom our jobs would be very difficult to perform. It came as no surprise to hear from the usher at Bradford last week that they were gutted by the news. And whatever that state of our chambers finances, Roger decreed that our office staff would always receive a generous bonus at Christmas.
When our longest serving member of staff retired and he asked her for a few hints as to what she might like for a gift so we could choose something from it – not too expensive he cautioned her – she was astonished to receive every single item on the list and, I think, a few more together with a lavish party.
But Roger also had great generosity of spirit and was immensely kind. He was never too busy to help anyone in chambers.
His pupil, Andrew Lees, said this
“Roger taught me everything I know. He was the best pupil master I could have hoped for. He was a one off and very special to me.”
One of his judicial pupils, Richard Sheldon, said
“Roger was a clever, kind man with little time for himself, and always prepared to do his best for others. As a trainee Recorder he helped me find my feet in a brave new judicial world.
I also bought myself a dachshund as a direct consequence and he serves as a constant reminder of happier times; some relationships are for life not just for a week’s judicial pupillage.”
I know that the help he gave them continued long afterwards.
Roger’s generosity of spirit was shown in other ways. Many years ago in chambers, we took on a young girl, recently out of school, on a YTS placement. She had limited skills and many would have sent her on her way at the end of the scheme. Not Roger. He sent her on a short course to learn telephone skills. She never looked back. Someone put his trust in her and she went on to become our much loved and highly respected Junior Clerk.
Roger had the ability to be able to speak to people at whatever level in a way they could understand – something which I suspect the criminals who appeared before him at Bradford Crown Court will remember only too well. He would write down on a piece of paper the date defendants would next have to appear at court, and hand it to them personally, telling they would have no excuse if they failed to appear. He was firm too with other people in the court and woe betide anyone whose mobile phone went off in court. The phone would remanded in custody until the end of the day to be bailed only on the payment of £5 to charity.