The QC, Lady Chatterley and nude Romans

From BBC - November 14, 2017

Jeremy Hutchinson, who has died aged 102, was one of the greatest advocates of the 20th century.

A poetry-loving socialite, he acted for a number of high profile clients in trials that both mirrored and questioned the changing attitudes in British society during the 1960s and 70s. A man of immense charm, and a great love of the underdog, he became the template for John Mortimer's famous creation, Rumpole of the Bailey. These are just three of the trials that made his name.

Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial

The six days of the Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial saw public attitudes to sex, class and the Establishment exposed to the limelight as never before. Jeremy Hutchinson was a junior barrister, part of the defence for Penguin Books which in August 1960 had published the first unexpurgated English edition edition of D H Lawrence's novel.

The case was seen as the first major test of the Obscene Publications Act which had reached the statute book just a year earlier. Hutchinson's main job was to make defence comments on jury selection. He decided that he wanted as many women as possible in the jury box because, as he later recalled, "I have always taken the view that women are so much more sensible about sex."

The trial came against a background of a growing social and sexual revolution in the UK and a post-war youth culture that was questioning many of the attitudes held by the Establishment. This view was underlined by leading counsel for the prosecution, Mervyn Griffiths-Jones who pompously asked the assembled jurors"Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?"

Hutchinson, whose privileged background made him part of the Establishment himself, had perfected the technique of gently but mockingly pricking the pomposity of buttoned up judges and opposing counsel and this trial was meat and drink to him.

In a BBC interview he recalled his most thrilling moment was calling one of the defence witnesses, the author, E M Forster. "And then through the door came this little man in a dirty mackintosh. And I was able to say after asking him his name and address, 'I think you have written some novels.'"

The jury deliberated for three hours and returned a verdict of not guilty. Sales of the novel soared as people, many of whom had probably ever heard of Lawrence, rushed out to buy it.

The theft of the Duke of Wellington

What became Hutchinson's favourite case began when a former bus driver, Kempton Bunton, walked into a London police station in July 1965 and confessed to stealing Goya's famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery.

The painting had disappeared in August 1961. Over the ensuing four years Bunton sent a series of notes to the baffled police demanding 140,000 be given, first to charity and, later, to pay for TV licences for old and poor people.

The painting was eventually recovered from a left luggage locker and Hutchinson was briefed to defend Bunton, who went on trial charged with five offences including the theft of the painting and its frame.

The case of The Romans in Britain


Continue reading at BBC »