Patrick Devlin (1950-1992)


Baron Patrick Arthur Devlin was born in Chislehurst, Kent in 1905. He was raised as a Catholic and attended Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Upon leaving he joined the Dominican order with hopes to join the priesthood, but after a year he left to take up a place at Christ’s College.

At Christ’s, Devlin read both history and law, and he graduated in 1927. He joined Gray's Inn after passing the bar exam in 1929. He worked as junior barrister for William Jowitt while Jowitt was Attorney-General, and by the late 1930s he had become a successful commercial lawyer. During WWII he served in the legal department of the Ministry of Supply and from 1942 to 1945 was Junior Counsel to the Ministries of War, Transport, Food and Supply. He took silk in 1945 and two years later was appointed Attorney General for the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1948 Jowitt who was by then Lord Chancellor, made Devlin a High Court judge.    At the age of 42, he the youngest High Court judge of the 20th century. Devlin was knighted later that same year and in 1960, Devlin was made a Lord Justice of Appeal. In 1961 he went on to become a Law Lord and life peer as Baron Devlin, of West Wick in the County of Wiltshire.

Amongst many commercial and criminal cases that Devlin tried, one of the most famous was the 1957 trial of John Bodkin Adams.

He retired in 1964, at the age of 58 to a mixed dairy and arable farm in Wiltshire which he had kept on since 1940s.

After retirement, Baron Devlin was a judge on the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation until 1986. He was also chairman of the Press Council from 1964 to 69, and High Steward of Cambridge University from 1966 until 1991. He also spent time writing about law and history, especially the interaction of law with moral philosophy, and the importance of juries.

He died aged 86 in Pewsey, Wiltshire.