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His Honour Keith Devlin PhD 1933-2012

Past Master His Honour Keith Devlin died on 4th. November 2012. Past Master John Ray remembers his friend.

I first met Keith Devlin in 1977 when we moved to our new home a short distance from the Devlin household.  Keith and Pamela had been entrusted with the keys by the vendors.  We called to collect them and, following a welcoming glass of something bubbly, a rapport was established, and so our friendship grew.

As Master Feltmaker with the Lord Mayor in 1998

When we first met, Keith was a reader in law at Brunel University, having recently returned from a period working in The Netherlands.  In addition, he also wrote several legal books and papers.  One such book was on sentencing which, I believe, was regarded by many as the “Bible” on the subject for several years.  He was also joint founder and editor of the Anglo-American Law Review.

Keith had been called to the Bar in 1964 but did not practice for very long.  Instead he followed an academic career.  Whilst at Brunel, he also held various appointments as a JP, deputy stipendiary magistrate and recorder.  He was appointed a circuit judge in 1984 and resident judge at Luton Crown Court in ‘91.  He was the first academic to be appointed a Judge.  The transfer to Aylesbury Crown Court was a welcome one – he had never enjoyed the journey to Luton – driving was not a favourite pastime!

The court room was his theatre and he presided over each case with great dedication to detail and fairness.  Each summing up had many hours of preparation and burning of midnight oil.

Keith Devlin in 1990

His considerable intellect and wonderful command of language made an afternoon spent sitting in the public gallery a fascinating experience.

He was greatly respected for his dedication to the upholding of the law and his understanding and knowledge of the psychology behind a crime.

It was said that, when sitting during the summer, he would have an ear piece hidden under his wig attached to a radio listening to Test Match Special.  This was something he would neither deny nor admit to!

In addition to his judicial duties, he found time to sit on various councils and committees.  He was Chairman of the Mental Health Review Tribunal and the Ethics Committee of the Institute of Cancer Research.

Keith eventually took early retirement from his judicial duties due to ill health, but continued to write on legal matters.

In Great Missenden, where we lived, there was a group of us who would regularly meet.  In summer we would spend many weekends playing cricket or croquet on our lawn.  On one occasion I seem to remember, Keith and our son Christopher had disappeared.  Long after everyone else had departed, they were found stretched out on a grassy bank putting the world to rights.  Keith was the most senior of our group of friends and was regarded as a father figure – someone you could always go to if advice was needed, his wise counsel greatly respected and warmly given.

Keith joined the Livery in 1989 and that June he invited several of us to the Ladies Banquet – my first encounter with The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers.  The following year he was my sponsoring Liveryman when I applied to join.  He was elected to the Court in ‘91 and became Master in October ‘98.  It was through his persuasiveness that I was invited to join the Court after his year as Master.  I shall for ever be grateful to him for the opportunities that that afforded me and for the tremendous year I enjoyed as Master.

Cartoon of Master Feltmaker Keith Devlin by David Langdon, Plough Monday 1999

Keith had several passions.  One was reading – his bookshelves packed from floor to ceiling.  Another was fly fishing – he enjoyed the solitude and quiet “thinking” time.  The other passion, to which I have already alluded, was cricket.  He was a member of MCC and Hampshire County Cricket Club, his home county.  I recall spending many hours at Lords with Keith over the years, but I don’t remember watching too much cricket!

Keith, as you know, was married to Pamela and they had three children – Stephen, Susan and Philip.  He was immensely proud of them all.

Keith will be greatly missed, not only by his family, but by all those who had the privilege and pleasure of knowing him.  I am pleased to be counted amongst that number and will certainly miss him, but, as I said at the beginning, there are many happy memories which remain.

John Ray

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