[NI03245] ref: Burke's Peerage; Kt. Bach (1964), Barrister-at-law, Middle Temple 1937, Bencher 1959, Chancellor of the Diocese of Ripon 1954-58, Recorder of Doncaster 1957-58, Recorder of York 1958-61, Junior Counsel to H. M. Treasury (Common Law) 1959-64, Judge of High Court of Justice (Probate, Admiralty and Divorce) from1964, Lt.-Col late R.A., served in WWII 1939-45 (1, Mulberry Walk, SW3); educ Shrewsbury, and Magdalene Coll. Camb. (B.A.) ref: The Guardian (,3604,332155,00.html) Sir Roualeyn Cumming-Bruce Intuitive and sympathetic judge promoted to the appeal court despite a drink-driving conviction Philip Eade Thursday June 15, 2000 The Guardian Sir Roualeyn Cumming-Bruce, a former Lord Justice of Appeal, who has died aged 88, was a realistic and intuitive judge, renowned for his sympathetic divorce and custody decisions, and vivid turn of phrase. One of his first divorce cases on the bench involved a wife who "put golf before her home duties and any attempt to give any companionship to her husband". Advised by doctors to take up the game following a nervous breakdown, the woman had soon achieved a handicap of 11, but refused to play with her husband; Cumming-Bruce granted him a decree nisi on the ground of desertion. Cumming-Bruce also granted divorces to the wife of Tony Hancock because of cruelty and adultery; the wife of an architect who hid her engagement ring on his toe to teach her not to lose it; and a retired Royal Naval captain who kept a log of his wife's behaviour and a graph of her gin consumption. But Cumming-Bruce did not dish out divorces willy-nilly. Among the disappointed petitioners that came before him was a wife whose laughter in the cinema had caused her husband to twist her arm and kick her ankle, and a couple whose marriage he admitted was "as dead as a doornail". It was a reflection of the high esteem in which Cumming-Bruce was held that he was promoted to the Court of Appeal just 18 months after pleading guilty to drunken driving. "I think I have had an unwise number of gin and tonics," he told the policeman who arrested him in the Mall. A younger twin (the third son of the Rev Lord Thurlow, 6th Baron), he was educated at Shrewsbury, and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he took a first in classics. For a time at Cambridge, he dallied with communism, but during the holidays he put his convictions to one side and enjoyed his hunting. In 1937 he was called to the Bar by Middle Temple as a Harmsworth scholar, but with the outbreak of war went to serve in the Royal Artillery in North Africa and the Middle East, rising to lieutenant colonel. He was somewhat surprised to be posted to a senior staff job in Cairo - the War Office later admitted they had meant to send his brother, Harry, a regular soldier. In Egypt, he had the job of showing Mme Chiang around Luxor while her husband Chiang Kai-Shek attended the 1943 Cairo conference. To keep her from disrupting the discussions in Cairo, their plane suffered three days of "engine trouble" at Luxor. Cumming-Bruce did a variety of work in his early years at the Bar, including crime, libel and personal injury, much of it on the Northern Circuit. But it was his accomplished performances for bodies such as the Law Society - prosecuting, among others, people for pretending to be solicitors - and the Registrar of Restrictive Practices that marked him as a potential junior counsel to the Treasury (common law), which he became in 1959. Senior counsel for the Crown in civil matters are the attorney-general and solicitor-general, but due to their extensive political responsibilities, most of the burden falls on the juniors, who by convention were rewarded with a High Court judgeship after five years without having taken Silk. The positions are thus some of the plum offerings of the profession, and zealously sought-after. Cumming-Bruce played a prominent part in the contempt proceedings against the silent journalists at the Vassall tribunal - set up to inquire into how John Vassall's spying had led to Russian spy-trawlers turning up at Nato exercises - and in 1964 was duly made a High Court judge, assigned to what was then the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (later the Family Division). Notwithstanding his earlier Treasury role, Cumming-Bruce became something of a champion of individual rights against those of the executive. In 1967, he strongly criticised the refusal to provide information concerning an injured RAF pilot's promotion prospects (to assess damages). "The minister of defence, I understand," he said, "has as usual insisted that the court shall be denied the opportunity of doing justice with the knowledge of relevant facts." And in 1969, Cumming-Bruce described a House of Lords decision to allow for the production of a policeman's records in an action for malicious prosecution as "a step forward for liberty against the executive". Following his promotion to the Court of Appeal in 1977, Cumming-Bruce had to make some particularly tough access and custody decisions. In 1983, for example, he ordered a young stepmother to give up the boy she had cherished for eight years, even though, as he admitted: "Her heart is locked round him and to a great degree his heart is locked to hers. She is devoted to the boy and has brought him up quite beautifully." He decided, however, that now she and the boy's father had split up, it was best for the 10-year-old to return to his natural mother, who had remarried. Cases not involving children no doubt came as light relief, and when sitting with Lord Denning, as he often did, they could also be entertaining. In 1977 he sided with Denning in the 2:1 decision that Lintz cricket club in Durham could carry on playing despite the complaints of a couple who objected to sixes falling on their house just over the boundary fence. And in 1979, he and Denning prevented Auberon Waugh from publishing his proposed "Dog Lovers" general election address for fear of prejudicing Jeremy Thorpe's trial - Cumming-Bruce remarking that it would be "naive" of the court to accept Waugh's offer of an undertaking to limit publication as far as possible to North Devon. Cumming-Bruce was knighted in 1964 and made a Privy Councillor in 1971. His wife, Lady Sarah Savile, an accomplished pianist, died in 1991. Their two sons and a daughter survive him

[NI03246] ref: Burke's Peerage, 1st dau. of 6th Earl of Mexborough

[NI03247] ref: Burke's Peerage

[NI03248] ref: Burke's Peerage

[NI03249] ref: Burke's Peerage

[NI03250] ref: Burke's Peerage; OBE (1960), Colonial Admin. Service 1946-61, Palestine, Zanzibar, Aden, Home C.S. from 1961, Colonial (now Foreign and Commonwealth) Office, Min. of Defence from 1968 (Little House, Dedham, Essex); educ Shrewsbury

[NI03251] ref: Burke's Peerage; dau. of Rev. Hamilton Blackwood, of Scalby, Yorks

[NI03252] ref: Burke's Peerage

[NI03253] ref: Burke's Peerage; 1st son of Nicholas E. Yannoulopoulos of Athens, Greece

[NI03254] ref: Burke's Peerage, educ. Gordonstoun


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