Alfred Denning


Biography of Alfred Denning

Alfred Thompson "Tom" Denning, Baron Denning (23 January 1899 – 5 March 1999), commonly known as Lord Denning, was a British lawyer and judge. He gained degrees in mathematics and law at Oxford University, although his studies were disrupted by his service in the First World War. He then began his legal career, distinguishing himself as a barrister and becoming a King's Counsel in 1938.

Denning became a judge in 1944 with an appointment to the Family Division of the High Court of Justice and was made a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1948 after less than five years in the High Court. He became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1957 and after five years in the House of Lords returned to the Court of Appeal as Master of the Rolls in 1962, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement he wrote several books and continued to offer opinions on the state of the common law through his writing and his position in the House of Lords.

One of the most publicly known judges thanks to his report on the Profumo Affair, Denning was held in high regard by much of the judiciary, the Bar and the public, and was noted for his bold judgments running counter to the law at the time. During his 38-year career as a judge he made large changes to the common law, particularly while in the Court of Appeal, and although many of his decisions were overturned by the House of Lords several of them were confirmed by Parliament, which passed statutes in line with his judgments. Although appreciated for his role as 'the people's judge' and his support for the individual, Denning was also controversial for his campaign against the common law principle of precedent, for comments he made regarding the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and as Master of the Rolls for his conflict with the House of Lords.

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