Harry Woolf, Baron Woolf

Harry Woolf, Baron Woolf

name = Harry Woolf, Baron Woolf of Barnes

imagesize =
caption =
birth_date = birth date and age|1933|5|2|df=y
birth_place = Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
death_date =
death_place =
occupation = Lawyer,
Master of the Rolls (1996–2000),
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2000–2005)
known_for =
title = Lord
children = 3 Sons
spouse = Margaret
salary =
networth =
website =

Harry Kenneth Woolf, Baron Woolf of Barnes, PC, FBA (born 2 May 1933) was Master of the Rolls from 1996 until 2000 and Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2000 until 2005. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 made him the first Lord Chief Justice to be President of the Courts of England and Wales. He has been a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong since 2003.

Early life

Woolf was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England on 2 May 1933. His father had been a fine art dealer, but was persuaded to run his own building business instead by his wife. They had four children, but their first child died, and his mother was protective of the three surviving children. Woolf lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne until he was about five years old, when his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland. Woolf attended Clifton Hall School in Newbridge, followed by Fettes College, an Edinburgh public school, where he mostly enjoyed his time and had supportive friends; however, being the only Jewish pupil he was teased and occasionally bullied.

Woolf formed much of his sense justice and fairness from his experiences at Fettes College. On one occasion while combing his hair, Woolf leaned into a neighbouring dormitory cubicle to use the mirror. A prefect reported this as the school had strict rules about being in other pupils' cubicles, but Woolf felt that he had not broken the rules because he did not have his feet inside the cubicle at the time. He appealed for fairness, but his housemaster, who had been in the army, increased Woolf's punishment from six strikes of the cane to eight.

Woolf had read books about lawyers and wanted to be a barrister. His housemaster told him that this was not a suitable career-choice for him because he had a stutter, but this only made Woolf more determined in his vocation. His A level results gained him a place at the University of Cambridge; however, he studied law at University College London (UCL) instead as a consequence of his parents' move to London at about that time.cite episode |title=Desert Island Discs featuring Lord Woolf |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/desertislanddiscs_20080601.shtml
series=Desert Island Discs | serieslink=Desert Island Discs |network=BBC |station=Radio 4 |airdate=2008-06-01

Legal career

Woolf chose to be a barrister in 1955 and started working on the Oxford circuit. He became Junior Counsel to the Inland Revenue (Common Law) from 1973 to 1974, and was First Treasury Counsel (Common Law) from 1974 to 1979. In 1979, at the age of 45 years, he was appointed as a Queen's Bench Division High Court judge. He was promoted to Lord Justice of Appeal in 1986 and became a Law Lord in 1992, being created a life peer as Baron Woolf of Barnes in the London Borough of Richmond. He was Master of the Rolls from 1996 until 2000, when he succeeded Lord Bingham of Cornhill as Lord Chief Justice.

Woolf was outspoken in his final judicial post. In 2004, in a speech at the University of Cambridge, he spoke out against the Constitutional Reform Act that will create a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to replace the House of Lords as the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom; and severely questioned the Lord Chancellor's and the Government's handling of recent constitutional reform. He delayed his retirement as Lord Chief Justice until these issues had been resolved.

Woolf was also the head of the committee that reformed civil law and excised many of the remaining Latin terms from English law, in an attempt to make it more accessible (such as changing the ancient word 'plaintiff' to the 'claimant'). The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 are a direct result of his work. He is a supporter of prison reform.

Woolf joined Blackstone Chambers as a mediator and arbitrator on his retirement as Lord Chief Justice on 1 October 2005. From September to December 2005, he conducted a review of the working methods of the European Court of Human Rights, and he is chairman of the Bank of England Financial Markets Law Committee. He is Chairman of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and became Chairman of the Council of UCL in 2005. He is also a visiting Professor of Law at UCL, and a member of the House of Lords Constitution Committee.

On 25 February 2007, Woolf was inaugurated as the first President of the Qatar Financial Centre Civil and Commercial Court, in Doha Qatar, and on 15 June 2007, he was confirmed as the chair of an "Ethics Committee" set up by BAE Systems, the UK's largest arms company. The committee was formed by BAE in response to allegations of multimillion pound bribery in arms deals with Saudi Arabia. In 2007 he was named as co-chair, with Professor Kaufmann-Kohler, of the Commission on Settlement in International Arbitration, for the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution for which he also consults.

Famous judgments

*On 26 July 1983, Woolf's judgement in the high court, Gillick v West Norfolk & Wisbech AHA & DHSS [1983] 3 WLR (QBD), clarified the law under which doctors could prescribe contraception to minors. [cite web|url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/26/newsid_2499000/2499583.stm |title =1983: Mother loses contraception test case|publisher =BBC] [cite journal|url =http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/332/7545/807#REF3|title=Gillick or Fraser? A plea for consistency over competence in children |date = 2006-04-08 |journal = BMJ |first = Robert |last = Wheeler |doi =10.1136/bmj.332.7545.807|volume=332|pages=807|pmid=16601020]
*On 6 February 1997, three judges, lead by Woolf, Master of the Rolls, said that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had failed to exercise discretion when it denied Diane Blood the right to have her dead husband's child in March 1995. [cite web|url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/6/newsid_2536000/2536119.stm |title =1997: Widow allowed dead husband's baby| publisher = BBC] The decision allowed Blood to have a child using her former husband's sperm, which was obtained shortly before he died.
*"Pearce v United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust" [1999] PIQR 53.
*In October 2000, Woolf reduced the minimum sentence of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson for the murder of James Bulger by two years in recognition of their good behaviour and remorse shown while in detention, effectively restoring the original trial judge's eight-year recommended minimum sentence. [cite news|url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2157880.stm |title = Judge defends Bulger killers' rights| date = 2002-07-29| publisher = BBC]
*In July 2002, Woolf, together with Mr Justice Curtis and Mr Justice Henriques, refused Barry George's first appeal against his conviction for the murder of Jill Dando. [cite news | publisher= BBC News | url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2159320.stm | title= Appeal judges' verdict on Dando evidence| date= 29 July 2002 | accessdate= 2007-12-14] However, in November 2007, the next Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, in the light of further expert opinions of the forensic evidence, declared George's conviction "unsafe" and also ordered a retrial. [cite web |url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7095885.stm|title = Dando murder case set for retrial|date = 2007-11-15|publisher = BBC] George was held in custody pending retrial and following an eight week hearing he was acquitted on 1 August 2008. [cite news | url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7536815.stm | title= George not guilty of Dando murder | publisher= BBC News | date= 1 August 2008 | accessdate= 2008-08-01]

Personal life

Woolf, an Ashkenazi Jew, first met his wife Margaret, a Sephardi Jew, at a social event which was organised by a mutual friend at the National Liberal Club. They have three sons who have all entered the legal profession.


* [http://www.qfc.com.qa/press/downloads/press/Court%20Launch.pdf Press Release on QFC Court appointment]
* [http://www.blackstonechambers.com/document.rm?id=100 CV] from Blackstone Chambers. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
* [http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications_media/speeches/2007/lcj_220307.htm Speech by his successor]

NAME= Woolf, Harry, Baron Woolf
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Woolf, Harry Kenneth
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Lawyer, Master of the Rolls (1996–2000), Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2000–2005)
DATE OF BIRTH= 2 May 1933
PLACE OF BIRTH= Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

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