Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, 9th April 1937 - 7th July 2023

Lord Brown

It is with profound sadness that we share the news of the death of Simon Brown on Friday.

Simon joined these Chambers – then in Garden Court – shortly after pupillage. He spent the next twenty years here, sharing rooms with Bill (later Sir William) Macpherson.

His appointment as First Junior Treasury Counsel in 1979 was a significant juncture in his professional life and for these Chambers, whose continued commitment to public law is his legacy. He represented the Government in all the major public law cases of the day, including before the Strasbourg Court and the European Court of Justice. His final case at the Bar was CCSU v Minister for the Civil Service, a case which remains compulsory reading for students of public law and the foundation of the modern law of judicial review. He was followed in this role by another popular and much respected member of these Chambers, the late Sir John Laws.

His judicial career spanned 28 years, including appointments as President of the Security Service Tribunal, President of Intelligence Services Tribunal and Intelligence Services Commissioner. He was appointed as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and life peer in January 2004. With characteristic self-deprecation, he recalled (during a debate in the House of Lords) his proudest judicial achievement:

“I have few boasts to my name by way of legal achievement, few jewels in my judicial crown, but I can and do boast of being the first judge in this jurisdiction … to rule that a husband is not permitted in law to have intercourse with his wife quite simply whenever he chooses - in short that there is such an offence as marital rape. That decision was said at the time to fly in the face of centuries of established legal principle but in fact, happily, it was upheld by both the Court of Appeal and indeed the Appeal Committee in your Lordship’s House.”

He was referring to the case of R v C in which the House of Lords upheld his first instance decision that it is a crime, under English law, for a husband to rape his wife.

Since his retirement from the Bench he has been an active member of the House of Lords, sitting as a crossbench peer. His colleague both in the House and in these Chambers, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, recalls his many interventions in that House in which he spoke in defence of the vulnerable and of the rule of law. In April 2022, in a debate about an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill that would have made it subject to the Refugee Convention and judicial scrutiny, he made the following intervention:

“My Lords, I rise, I hope for the last time - a hope which will be shared by every Member of this House - to support this amendment. There are not many issues that it is worth going to the stake for, but surely the rule of law is one. I have spent 60 years of my life on it and do not propose to stop here. I suggest that your Lordships support this too.”

In his final years, he penned (or rather typed on his iPhone) no fewer than three volumes of memoirs: Playing Off the Roof & Other Stories, Second Helpings and Last Scrapings (so titled at the insistence of his wife, Jenny), containing an endless supply of memoirs written in his inimitable style: like his marvellous judgments – so easy to read and so hard to emulate. Chambers was delighted to have hosted the launches of these memoirs, the most recent only weeks ago.

In the penultimate chapter of the third instalment – ‘Life’s a Party’ – he offered a deeply moving contemplation on the end of life:

“Frankly, I have had my share of the canapés (indeed, rather more than my share). My glass has been filled quite often enough. My appetite for gossip is, of course, inexhaustible; but, that said, it is difficult to believe there remains much left that could still surprise, let alone shock, me.

And, altogether less inexhaustible, alas, are my energy levels: my ability to continue for long to stand and wander around, intermingling with others whom I can no longer always recognise and whose remarks nowadays I catch with only variable success …

It has all been the greatest fun. But, goodness me, after such a very protracted outing, how hugely appealing is now the prospect of home and a good long sleep. Thanks indeed to all my hosts and fellow guests. Fond farewells to each one of you. And, at long last, a heartfelt goodnight to everyone.”

Simon is remembered by colleagues in these Chambers for his wit, wisdom, humour and formidable powers of persuasion. But above all, he is remembered as a man of enormous humanity and for the unending kindness he showed to all. Lord Dyson speaks for us all by saying “above all he will be remembered as a warm generous human being who has a gift for friendship”.  As his late friend and colleague, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, said of his arrival in the highest Court:

            “He makes us all feel better; he cheers us up; he makes us better.”

Simon was a devoted family man. He leaves his beloved wife, Jenny (whom he first met when a fellow undergraduate at Oxford), three children (Abigail, Dan and Ben) and 5 grandchildren.

lord brown