Barrister and judge in notable cases, who jailed top jockey




26-2-1928 21-8-2011

SIR Donald Farquharson, who as a barrister prosecuted the celebrated "Streatham madam" Cynthia Payne, and later as a judge jailed the famous jockey and trainer, Lester Piggott, for tax fraud, has died in Suffolk, England. He was 83.

Among his more publicised cases on the bench was the 1987 trial at the Old Bailey of a man who confessed to having killed his brother in a scuffle but denied murder. When Farquharson instructed the jury to find the man not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, they repeatedly found the defendant not guilty on either charge thought to have been the first time since 1670 that there had been such defiance of a judge's ruling. On their third return from the jury room, Farquharson told them: "As a matter of law, there is no defence. I quite understand the strength of feeling you have, but I cannot accept your verdict of not guilty." He then discharged them from giving any verdict.

The defendant's counsel later reiterated the man's plea of guilty to manslaughter, saying that he did not wish to go through a retrial, whereupon Farquharson sentenced him to two years' jail, all suspended.

As an advocate, he acted mostly for the Crown, and Payne was among those he prosecuted. Her colourful life and "disorderly house" in suburban Streatham later featured in her book, Entertaining at Home, and in the films, Wish You Were Here and Personal Services (both 1987), based loosely on her memoirs. At Payne's sentencing in 1980, Farquharson told the judge how a succession of respectable men including a peer, an Irish MP, barristers, solicitors and "several vicars" had beaten a path to her door.

Farquharson described how customers were treated to an all-in "luncheon voucher", which entitled them to eat and drink, watch a live sex show and films and have sex with one of the girls.

In mitigation, Payne's counsel pleaded that she was "no grande madame" but had merely provided "a market place, a forum" where middle-aged and otherwise respectable men could go for sex. The judge sentenced her to 18 months' jail, reduced to six months and a fine on appeal.

On the bench, Farquharson exhibited much the same demeanour as he had as counsel no fuss, efficient and eminently even-handed. The esteem in which he was held led to his appointment to chair the committee that drew up, in 1986, the clearly articulated "Farquharson Guidelines" on the role and responsibilities of prosecution advocates, which were immediately incorporated into Archbold, the criminal law practitioner's bible for 180 years.

After his elevation to the Court of Appeal in 1989, colleagues confidently predicted that he would go on to become a law lord, and quite possibly Lord Chief Justice. However, after the onset of Parkinson's disease in 1995 he took early retirement.

Farquharson was born at Dumfries, the younger son of a civil engineer who died when the boy was 18 months old. His mother then moved to east London. He was sent as a border to Royal Commercial Travellers School at Hatch End during World War II, then went up to Keble College, Oxford, to read law, and was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1952.

Farquharson did some general common law but his practice was mainly crime, with a bias towards prosecution work. He took silk in 1972, served as a recorder of the Crown Court from 1972, and in 1981 was appointed a High Court judge.

In 1987, Farquharson again attracted controversy when he jailed Piggott after the jockey-trainer admitted a #3 million tax fraud. The severity of the sentence jailed for three years, he served 366 days and was stripped of his OBE shocked many in the racing world, but Farquharson explained that he could not "pass over" the scale of Piggott's tax evasion without giving an invitation to others tempted to cheat. (Piggott, considered the greatest British flats jockey of his generation if not all time rode 4493 winners in Britain, including winning the Derby nine times between 1954 and 1983. He also won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe three times, and became a trainer in 1990.)

During his time at the Court of Appeal, Farquharson sat on a number of other high-profile cases, including those that resulted in the quashing of the convictions of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. He also presided at the hearing that formally quashed the convictions of the three men jailed for life for the murder of police constable Keith Blakelock during the Broadwater Farm riots in 1985 after new evidence had come to light that the police had fabricated admissions in an interview with one of the accused.

He married Mary Simpson in 1960. She died in 2008 having devotedly nursed him during his long illness. They had a daughter, who died soon after birth, and three sons.

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