ATKIN, JAMES RICHARD, Baron Atkin, life peer (1867 - 1944), judge

Name: James Richard Atkin
Date of birth: 1867
Date of death: 1944
Spouse: Lucy Elizabeth Atkins (née Hemmant)
Parent: Robert Travers Atkin
Gender: Male
Occupation: judge
Area of activity: Law
Author: Thomas Arthur Levi

Born 28 November 1867, in Brisbane, Australia, eldest son of Robert Travers Atkin of Fernhill, co. Cork, a member of the Queensland senate. He was educated at Christ College, Brecon, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was made hon. Fellow in 1924. He was called to the Bar in Grays Inn, 1891, becoming a Bencher in 1906, and K.C. serving on the South Wales and Chester circuit, and building up a successful practice in common law and commercial actions; he was judge of the King's Bench division of the High Court with a knighthood in 1913, and a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1919. He served on many important bodies in connection with World War I (see Who was Who, 1941-50). He was chairman of the Irish Deportees Compensation Tribunal and of the Committee on Crime and Insanity, 1924; and president of the Medico-legal Society, 1923-27.

He was a member of the councils of Christ College, Brecon and the University College of Wales, where he served as chairman of the Law department. He was also chairman of the Council of Legal Education.

Lawyers had a high opinion of his legal judgements, e.g. his judgement in the House of Lords in Liversidge v. Anderson defending subjects' rights in the face of official intervention, but his greatest service was his strong advocacy of making the teaching of law a part of the general scheme of education. To this end he delivered many lectures on law to schools. He favoured holding classes in universities to give education in law to lay students who did not intend to become lawyers, and with that in mind he wrote a Foreword to Edward Jenks, Book of English Law (1928), and was involved in its composition.

He was chairman of the group appointed by the Lord Chancellor to examine the position of legal education. He held that there was no reason why law should not have the same importance in general education as it had in the times of Fortescue, Locke and Blackstone. As a result of his efforts to extend legal education, the Legal Aid Act to give legal assistance to those who had not sufficient means was passed; it is to him that we owe the general sympathy which this movement received.

He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1919, and created baron in 1928; he was elected F.B.A. in 1938. He married Lucy Elizabeth (died 1939), the eldest daughter of William Hemmant, Bulimba, Sevenoaks, formerly colonial treasurer, Queensland. Atkin lived for many years at Craig-y-don, Aberdyfi. He died 25 June 1944.


Published date: 2001

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