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"A giant among lawyers"; "The greatest advocate of the century"; "One of the greatest criminal lawyers."
These are a few of the tributes paid to the late Lord Justice Birkett, the draper's son whose persistence, intellect and eloquence brought him such fame as an advocate that he could earn £30,000 a year and charge £1,000 for the simplest brief. Yet even in the heyday of his prosperity (he gave up most of this income to become a Judge), he would not refuse a Poor Person's Defence.
As Mr. Norman Birkett, K.C., he figured in many famous trials, includ¬ing Alfred Rouse of the "blazing car" murder, the Hatry case and the trial of Tony Mancini in the Brighton "trunk murder" case. Yet, though his work brought him constantly in touch with evil and cruelty in its most terrifying aspects, he never became hard and cynical. A lover of cricket, a witty after¬dinner speaker, President and loyal supporter of the National Book League, a vehement protector of the beauties of the countryside, he remained a humani¬tarian and a passionate advocate of justice and freedom.
During the war Birkett's broadcasts were an effective (although anonymous) answer to the ravings of Lord Haw-Haw; he was one of the judges at the Nuremburg Trials, while his legal brilliance and human sympathy made him one of the best of the Appeal Judges. His integrity and impartiality made him the obvious choice to head the phone-tapping investigation in 1957, and his patience and common-sense brought to a welcome end the printing strike of 1959.
In this biography the behind-the¬scenes drama of Lord Birkett's amazing career is revealed in all its many aspects.