Tribute paid to Sir Henry Brooke, 1936–2018

Sir Henry Brooke, a tireless campaigner for access to justice and one of the country’s most respected and well-loved judges died at the age of 81, following cardiac surgery.

Sir Henry informed his almost 10,000 Twitter followers of his impending operation, and his son Nick broke the sad news two days later, writing: ‘I am sorry to have to tell you that @HenryBrooke1 didn’t make it. Barts staff have been wonderful, and did everything they possibly could, but the surgeon says my Dad’s heart was just too big: this won’t come as a surprise to anybody who knew him. Rest in peace, Dad.’

The son of a former Conservative Home Secretary, Sir Henry was educated at Marlborough College and Balliol College, Oxford. He was Called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1963 and practised from Fountain Court Chambers. He took Silk in 1981, became a Recorder in 1983 and was appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court in 1988.

Sir Henry chaired the Law Commission from 1993 to 1995 before being promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1996, and became Vice-President of the court’s Civil Division in 2003.

While at the Bar he worked tirelessly to improve race relations and advance the interests of ethnic minority lawyers in the UK and Commonwealth. He chaired the Bar’s Race Relations Committee for three years and was the first chair of the Ethnic Minorities Advisory Committee of the Judicial Studies Board.

An enthusiastic proponent of technological modernisation, in 1985 he chaired the Bar’s first committee on IT and worked ceaselessly on schemes for the introduction of IT into the court system. He was President of the Society of Computers and Law and continued his interest into his retirement, writing a popular blog and tweeting regularly.

He retired from the bench in 2006, but continued to work hard in the next 11 years, practising as a mediator and chairing the Civil Mediation Council between 2007 and 2011 and was the patron of numerous legal charities.

An indefatigable campaigner for access to justice, Sir Henry was Vice-Chair of the Bach Commission, which reported last year, and drafted much of its detailed appendices.

Bar Chair, Andrew Walker QC praised his ‘commitment to the rule of law and access to justice’ throughout his ‘long and distinguished’ career and his ‘selfless devotion’ to those causes throughout his retirement. ‘He cared; and it showed.’

Walker said that the spontaneous standing ovation Sir Henry received following his speech at the 2017 Bar Conference was ‘testament to his unique contribution, and a fitting recognition of both his commitment and his achievements.

‘He will be remembered with fondness across the Bar. Our thoughts are now with his family at such a difficult time.’