Lord du Parcq

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Lord du Parcq


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This article by Philip du Veulle was first published in the 1966 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise


A Jerseyman who makes a career outside his native island can seldom also render, simultaneously, outstanding services to fellow Channel Islanders. It was given to Lord du Parcq to do so.

Wartime leadership

While reaching the pinnacle of his profession he was actively concerned for over five years with the welfare of the 28,000 Channel Islanders who went to the United Kingdom in June 1940 just before the islands were occupied by the German armed forces. His leadership as chairman of the Channel Islands Refugees Committee and his continuous personal interest and efforts earned a ready acceptance of the committee's aims and work, won a ready response to its appeals for help, and made it a remarkably successful and effective body.

Herbert du Parcq was born in St Helier on 5 August 1880, and was the only child of Clement Pixley du Parcq and Sophia Thoreau. As the genealogical table shows, the du Parcq family were in the parish of Grouville at least as far back as 1488, while records in Jersey of the Thoreau family go back to the mid-17th century.

Clement du Parcq was a bookseller in St Helier and generally known as a scholarly and studious man. He eventually acquired the business of Chas Le Feuvre, his employer, but the financial burden that this entailed ultimately rendered the business unprofitable. He left Jersey and died some years later in Cheltenham in 1911.

Following his father and his uncle, Herbert du Parcq went to Victoria College, then under a remarkable headmaster, L V Lester-Garland. He showed early brilliance and gained the Classical and French medals, the Queen's history prize and Queen's exhibition. He won an open scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, took a first class in Classical Moderations in 1901, and a second in Lit. Hum. in 1903.

Senior scholarship

He was awarded a King Charles I senior scholarship at Jesus College, Oxford, and in 1905 took a further degree of Bachelor of Civil Law. He was secretary, treasurer, and in 1902, president of the Oxford Union. Later, he became an Hon. Fellow of Exeter and Jesus Colleges. In 1947 he was awarded the Hon LLD degree of Birmingham University. He joined the Societe Jersiaise in 1905 and was elected a vice-president in 1947.

Upon leaving Oxford, du Parcq was invited to join the office of P P Guiton, a leading solicitor in Jersey. He chose a wider field and became a pupil of John Simon, a leading barrister in London destined to become a leading political figure and Lord Chancellor. Du Parcq was called to the English Bar by the Middle Temple in 1906 and joined the Western Circuit. He was admitted to the Jersey Bar in September of that year.

As for many young barristers beginning their professional life, there was time in which to earn much-needed supplementary income by book-reviewing and journalistic activities. Thus it was that du Parcq accepted the considerable task of writing the first biography of David Lloyd George, the most striking political figure at that time.

The work was commissioned by the Caxton Publishing Co, of London, which had been founded in London in 1899 by a Jerseyman, Mr (later Sir) Hedley Le Bas. It was published in 1912 in four volumes. Du Parcq was greatly helped in the task of research by his wife, formerly Lucy Renouf, daughter of a well-known Jersey merchant, who had been working in London as a book illustrator. They were married in 1911. This article by P M de Veulle was published in the 1966 [[ABSJ|Annual bulle3tin of La Société Jersiaise

The Western Circuit provided him with a growing practice, but increasingly du Parcq became concerned with high-class commercial litigation in London. He became a King's Counsel in 1926, was Recorder of Portsmouth in 1928-29, Recorder of Bristol from 1929 to 1932, and in 1931 was Commissioner of Assize in the Northern Circuit. In 1928 he became a member of the General Council of the Bar and in 1931 was elected a Master of the Bench of the Middle Temple.

Famous cases

During his years as a barrister he appeared in many famous civil and criminal cases: in the extensive litigation that followed the great fire at Smyrna in 1922, in 1930 in the defence of Podmore, the Southampton murderer, and in 1931 for the prosecution at Bodmin Assizes at the trial of Mrs Hearn for alleged murder, to name only a few.

In the Hearn trial, the defence was led by another great advocate, Norman Birkett, who won the day and paid this tribute to du Parcq: "the case for the Crown has been presented by him with conspicuous fairness and in every part of it he has shewn himself to be in accord with those traditions at the Bar which made the prosecuting counsel truly a demonstrator of Justice."

In 1931 du Parcq was appointed a member of the Home Office Committee on Persistent Offenders and soon afterwards was appointed by the Home Secretary (Sir Herbert Samuel) to enquire into a serious outbreak of rioting at Dartmoor Prison. The disorders occurred during the weekend 22-24 January 1932, du Parcq was commissioned on the 25th, arrived at Dartmoor on the 26th, and submitted his 20,000 word reports on 3 February.

It was published in full four days later and was a model of clarity. In the House of Commons the Home Secretary said: "I feel sure the house will endorse the expression of appreciation which I have conveyed to Mr du Parcq for his prompt, complete and judicial survey of all the circumstances with this occurrence ..... I am certain that the House can rely upon Mr du Parcq having drawn his conclusions quite dearly upon the evidence placed before him."

To the satisfaction of all who knew him, very shortly afterwards du Parcq was appointed a Judge of the High Court, King's Bench Division. He was 51, which was then very young for a judge. His appointment did not fill a vacancy but was made in order to reduce the large number of cases in arrears.

Lord Mayor's welcome

When he presided for the first time at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) the Lord Mayor of London took the unusual course of publicly welcoming him. It is recorded that in a summing-up of three and a half hours after a 14 days hearing, du Parcq only referred to his notes twice. In 1938, though by no means a senior Judge, he was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal and a Privy Councillor.

Du Parcq spent the war years in much-bombed London. His devotion to the work of the Channel Islands Refugees Committee held him there while many of his professional colleagues were able to go out of London when the Courts were not sitting. When he did go out of London it was invariably to address groups of Channel Islanders scattered throughout the country.

His reputation in legal circles continued to grow and, when it was decided to set up the Nuremberg Tribunal with British, American, French and Russian judges, for the trial of German war criminals, du Parcq was asked by the Lord Chancellor to be the British judge who, undoubtedly would be the presiding judge. But the war years had wearied him, a long stay in Germany would be required, and as he was uncertain of his health he felt impelled to decline to conduct the greatest trial the world has known.

Appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary came in February 1946, an office that no Jerseyman had yet attained. It brought the bestowal of a life peerage and membership of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Du Parcq then undertook an important additional task: the chairmanship of the Royal Commission that was set up in June 1946, to survey the whole field of the selection, activities, law and practices of Justices of the Peace in Great Britain, and the appointment of stipendiary magistrates in England and Wales. The Commission reported in May 1948. Its conclusions were not unanimous but it dealt with this complicated subject with great clarity.

House of Lords

Du Parcq spoke in the Legislative sittings of the House of Lords on several occasions. In January 1948 he took part in an important debate on the Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Bill and was successful in amending proposals that had been put forward by the Lord Chancellor. As on other occasions his speech was enlivened by his graceful wit. "Since I have had the honour of sitting in your Lordships' House I have found when I have told my friends that they must no longer address me as LordJustice, but that the word ‘Justice' had disappeared from my title, that that statement has been received with every mark of respectful consideration. It has been only too clear that they felt that at last I must have been found out and that I had taken a step down."

He also spoke forcibly, in July 1948, against ill-digested amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill affecting the death sentence and various categories of murder. "I speak with a little sense of grievance here, because many years ago I was a humble member of the committee which recommended a great many of the reforms - good and valuable reforms, I think - which are to be carried out in the Bill. I think one is entitled to protest at having fastened on to the Bill, so as almost to swamp the reasonable and careful consideration by the people of the other provisions, first this highly controversial topic (putting murder into categories) and now this wholly fantastic clause (introduction of notions of express malice, systematic poisoning, etc)."

On one occasion he objected to, and secured the deletion of a reference in a government bill that seemed to apply to the Channel Islands as if they were colonies: "We (in the Channel Islands) have the greatest respect for the Colonies, but a colony is exactly what we are not. So far as colonisation was done, it was done by us - with, if I may say so, considerable success!"

Du Parcq's many activities included membership of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Vice-Chairman (1942-47) of the Council of Legal Education (in London) and then Chairman until his death, and Chairman of the Society of Comparative Legislation. In 1939-1940 he had been Chairman of the Enemy Exports Committee of the Ministry of Economic Warfare.

CI committee formed

At a meeting in London on 6 July 1940 the Channel Islands Refugees Committee was formed and du Parcq was elected chairman. He remained the very active chairman during the whole of the committee's five and a half years' existence. Another distinguished Jerseyman, Charles T Le Quesne, KC, was vice-chairman throughout, and Mr M E Weatherall of Guernsey was the committee's honorary director, also throughout its existence, carrying the ever-increasing burden of the day-to-day administration of the committee's many-sided work, from the raising of funds and giving financial relief, to the distribution of clothing, tracing relatives and giving guidance and help on a host of personal problems.

Channel Islands societies sprang up throughout the United Kingdom. The stresses of wartime existence as refugees, coupled with anxiety about relatives and friends in the islands under German occupation, brought many representations from these societies and from individuals for information, for relief supplies for the islands, and on a variety of matters.

At a meeting in London in July 1942, presided over by du Parcq, the main societies decided that the Refugees Committee should act as a central office. The UK government and many local authorities concerned with the welfare of the refugees thus looked upon the committee as a source of reference on all Channel Islands matters.

The committee's representations were not without effect in bringing about Red Cross food supplies to the islands at the end of 1944. Du Parcq became virtually an unofficial ambassador in London of the Channel Islands. He would have stoutly resisted this designation, but with his standing and reputation and his known devotion to the Channel Islands, he inevitably found himself regarded in that light both by the UK authorities and by the refugees.

His kindliness, modesty, understanding, and true concern, won the devotion and unstinted admiration of the committee's paid and voluntary helpers. Mr Weatherall, the honorary director, writes:

"I had an ever-increasing respect for his ability, and affection for him He gave unsparingly of the little leisure that his judicial duties allowed him. He took the greatest interest in all the Channel Islanders' problems and his deep humanity made him go into individual cases with great thoroughness. I have always feared that the exertions he made contributed to the weakness of the heart from which he died."

Weatherall also relates that du Parcq strongly disliked speaking into the microphone. But he allowed his protestations to be submerged and was a most successful broadcaster. His first appeal for funds for helping the Channel Islands refugees, made in September 1940 in the BBC's Sunday evening programme "The Week's Good Cause", brought in £7,286 which was then a record result on that programme. By arrangement with the UK authorities he broadcast to the people in the occupied Channel Islands in March 1945.

CI study group

He was never too busy to help where he could. For example, he arranged the accommodation for, and joined the deliberations of, the Channel Islands Study Group which met for a weekend at Jesus College, Oxford in 1943.

The group eventually produced the booklet" Nos lIes" making available reliable information about the Channel Islands. It became a handbook for those preparing for, and taking part in, the relief of the islands. Also he was a member of the Societe Jersiaise's Emergency Committee set up in London to ensure continuity of the supply of journals and information for the society's records.

On 2 November 1945 the States of Jersey thanked Lord du Parcq for his assistance whereby several boys belonging to Victoria College who were in England when Jersey was occupied by the Germans, were enabled to continue their education at Bedford School. On 5 February 1946 the Assembly congratulated him on his appointment as Lord of Appeal, and on 25 April 1946 it adopted the following resolution:

”The States have this day welcomed to the Assembly the Right Honourable Herbert Baron du Parcq, of Grouville, a Member of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, have renewed to him in person their congratulations upon his appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, and have expressed to him the heartfelt thanks of the People of Jersey for the great services which he, mindful of the ties which bind him to his native Island, rendered, in his capacity of Chairman of the Channel Islands Refugees Committee, to the Men, Women, and Children of Jersey who, leaving the Island at the time of its occupation by the enemy, found in the United Kingdom and in His Majesty's Dominions beyond the Seas new homes, new friends and unforgettable assistance in the darkest hours of our Insular History.

Lord du Parcq died in London unexpectedly of a heart attack on 27 April I949. He was sitting as a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council hearing an appeal from Australia. Two days earlier, Lord Uthwatt also hearing this appeal, had died.

Many tributes were paid to du Parcq by members of the legal profession and others, stressing his mental vigour, wisdom, common sense, modesty and humanity. Viscount Jowitt, the Lord Chancellor, speaking in the House of Lords said:

"Uthwatt and du Parcq, friends of life-long standing, who in their time made great contributions to the law ... Each of them demonstrated, if I may say so, how untrue it is to think of a lawyer as though he were a sort of living piece of parchment, dull, inhuman, possessed of no humanity at all. One cannot imagine two men more vital and more full of humanity. . .. Lord du Parcq has gone just before we shall be having a Bill which will carry out the recommendations of his Committee."

On the same occasion Viscount Simon said :"Each of them contributed in a striking degree to the administration of Justice and to improvement which comes from the just understanding of the law."

States tribute

On 25 May 1949 the States of Jersey passed an Act in the following terms:

”The States assembled for the first time since the death of the Right Honourable Herbert Baron du Parcq, of Grouville, member of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council and Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, have resolved to place on record their deep sense of grief at the passing of this great Jerseyman, whose distinguished career reflected so much honour on his native Island and who, in countless ways but more particularly in his capacity of Chairman of the Channel Islands Refugees Committee during the unhappy years of the German Occupation of the Island, rendered such great services to his fellow Islanders. And the President was requested to communicate a copy of this Act to the Lady du Parcq and to convey to her and to the members of her family the heart-felt sympathy of the Assembly.

The Guernsey States of Deliberation, on 6 May I949, placed on record their appreciation of du Parcq's services.

The following resolution was adopted:

”The President having referred briefly to the lamented death of Lord du Parcq, a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, and his Majesty's Procureur having paid a moving tribute to Lord du Parcq's work on behalf of Guernsey evacuees during the I939-45 War, the States resolved to place on record an expression of their sincere admiration of Lord du Parcq's life and work and of their deep gratitude for all that he did for Guernseymen and Guernseywomen evacuated to the United Kingdom during the Second World War and requested the President to communicate the same and their sincere sympathy to Lady du Parcq and her family.”

Jersey Society in London

An intimate tribute was paid at a meeting in May 1949 of The Jersey Society in London (of which du Parcq was a Vice-President) by the Chairman of the Council, Mr C T Le Quesne, from which the following is extracted :-

”He was courteous to all who appeared before him, not pontifical or remote in manner, but at the same time dignified and firm, never hasty or precipitate, and both skilful and kindly in exercising a proper control over the conduct of a case. Those who once practised before him looked forward with pleasurable anticipation to the renewal of that experience.
”From his fellow Judges we have read unanimous testimony to his excellent qualities as a colleague, to his readiness to consider a point of view that was not his own and to his scrupulous care in assessing the relative importance of the various elements in a case. He was loyal to established principles of law without becoming pedantic or over-rigid in the application of them.
”During the debates about the Criminal Justice Bill he used the words "whatever faults it may have, our English law is a valuable and a useful instrument of justice" and in that spirit he himself administered the law. His judgments are examples of clear reasoning and lucid expression, with an occasional sentence or two conceived in a lighter vein but never trivial or irrelevant. He was highly esteemed by the whole legal profession.
”But no account of Lord du Parcq would be complete if it did not refer to what he did as Chairman of the Channel Islands Refugees Committee between the years 1940 and 1945. The Committee had to raise large sums of money, for the needs of the refugees were very varied and very great. Many of them were almost penniless.
”The British public were most generous, but I detract in no way from that unforgettable generosity, if I say that the three persuasive and sympathetic appeals, which Lord du Parcq made in the broadcast known as the Week's Good Cause, helped directly to produce the munificent gifts, both of money and of other things, which the Committee received.
”At the request of one most generous friend of the Committee, who provided a special fund to meet special needs, which might not otherwise have been relieved, Lord du Parcq personally undertook the task of distributing that fund. He gave much time and thought to the negotiations for the despatch of a Red Cross vessel to the islands.
”He was a man of warm humanity and the refugees had in him an untiring champion of their cause, whose words carried weight in influential quarters. I need hardly add that his sympathy comprised all Channel Islanders without any distinction of Bailiwicks. He laboured for them all. It was a pleasure to work with him in that great enterprise and he endeared himself to every member of the Committee and of the staff.

Channel Islanders without any distinction of Bailiwicks. He laboured for them all. It was a pleasure to work with him in that great enterprise and he endeared himself to every member of the Committee and of the staff.He was a fine speaker, both at the Bar and on the public platform, with a gift of precise and felicitous phrasing and a very pleasant voice and delivery. His charm of manner impressed all who knew him and his conversation was lightened by an agreeable sense of humour. He combined strength of mind and character with modesty and good temper, manifesting to all men the same courtesy and patience and the same genial humanity and goodwill.

Channel Islanders without any distinction of Bailiwicks. He laboured for them all. It was a pleasure to work with him in that great enterprise and he endeared himself to every member of the Committee and of the staff.We desire to pay our tribute to one of the most distinguished of all Jersey men, indeed I may truly say one of the most distinguished of all Channel Islanders.” Soon after du Parcq's death, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies of the University of London established The du Parcq's Library of Channel Islands Law. Donors of volumes included the States of Jersey, the Law Society of Jersey and the Societe Jersiaise.

The will directed that the remains should be cremated and that no memorial service should be held.

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