Lord Brown’s second volume of autobiography is divided into 26 short and free-standing chapters, which makes it both easy and a pleasure to dip into. It begins with a picture of a vanished world. Of his National Service he remembers going up to London for grand parties. During the Suez crisis, his job as a young subaltern was to censor the mail of his men. He thus discovered that their experiences of life were then a good deal rawer than his own. There was Oxford, where sport took up at least as much if not more time than work. Travelling across Europe on a shoestring to Turkey where he swam the Bosphorus.

But then we get to his early life at the Bar and his time as a judge. The various challenges which can arise on the bench are related in the context of his own cases, eg how he came to re-think and reduce the sentence of a would-be armed robber who was too incompetent to present a long-term danger. He learned the hard way that: ‘It is a mistake to describe the activities of middle class protestors as “mob rule”. It is at least if one is concerned to avoid a postbag of outraged invective.’ This concerned his judgment about public authorities banning the lawful export of livestock in order to avoid the disruption of unlawful protests by animal rights campaigners. The ‘offensive’ words were: ‘It is indeed remarkable and regrettable that a city council are asking the court to order their own port authority in effect to surrender to mob rule.’

During his career he mastered the art of the opening line of a judgment, which needs to be the introduction to the ‘essential problem in the case’. His last Privy Council judgment thus began: ‘Is there a mango tree in the respondent’s backyard at No. 303 Nelson Mandela Avenue, Quatre Bornes?’

Having dealt with the various changes to the legal system during his time he concludes by reproducing the talk he gave at Oxford about the jury system. ‘My experience is that all too often even the patently guilty go free.’ His less than starry-eyed approach might reflect his experience of presiding over the libel trial brought by Robert Maxwell when Private Eye accused him of trying to bribe Neil Kinnock into giving him a peerage. It was not until day four that the jury sent in a note: ‘What is a peerage?’

Who was the greatest advocate of Lord Brown’s generation? The late Lord [Robert] Alexander QC. ‘He seemed... to be somehow cloaked with moral authority. Invariably he took the strength of the opposing case at its highest, patiently then explaining why nevertheless it should not prevail. Invariably he put the argument at the right level for whatever tribunal he was addressing... Clone Bob and you could do away with Bar schools entirely.’

Old values are still worth living up to.