Lord Denning was the most well-known English Judge of the postwar era. His books and lectures on the law are read for their clarity of thought and simplicity of language, even today. He was appointed at a time when judges could decide their own ages of retirement. He was 83, when in 1982, he published a book titled – ‘What Next in the law?
Among the most controversial passages was the assertion that two leaders of the riots that broke out the previous summer, in the port city of Bristol, were not convicted because the defendants used their right to three pre-emptive challenges to determine the nature of the jury, which subsequently split along racial lines. “They are white and black, colored and brown,” the 83-year-old judge wrote. ”Some of them come from countries where bribery and graft are accepted and where stealing is a virtue so long as you are not found out. They no longer share the same code of morals or religious beliefs.”
Denning was denounced as a racist and despite his protestations of innocent intent, he had to choose to retire. He was given the customary honours due to his great service to the law, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attending his retirement dinner. However, even today, no assessment of his many and magnificent contributions to the law is complete without recounting the manner of his exit.