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Sir Frederick Horace Lawton (21 December 1911 – 3 February 2001) was a British judge who sat in the Court of Appeal.

Sir Frederick Lawton
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Lord Justice of Appeal
In office
11 January 1972 – 21 December 1986
Preceded byLord Justice Salmon
Justice of the High Court
In office
9 January 1961 – 11 January 1972
Personal details
Frederick Horace Lawson

(1911-12-21)21 December 1911
Camberwell, London
Died3 February 2001(2001-02-03) (aged 89)
Alma materCorpus Christi College, Cambridge


Early lifeEdit

Lawton was born in Wandsworth, London. His father was governor of Wandsworth Prison, the first prison governor to rise from the ranks.[1] He was educated at Battersea Grammar School and at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.[1]

In the 1930s he converted to Roman Catholicism, which became an important part of his life.[1]

In 1936 he was adopted as the British Union of Fascists' candidate for Hammersmith North, but there was no election before the Second World War.[2][3] He served briefly in the war in the London Irish Rifles but was invalidated out due to a training accident in 1941.[2] The war ended his association with the far right, and he later joined the Conservative Party.[3]

Legal careerEdit

He was called to the Bar as a member of Inner Temple in 1935, joining the chambers of Norman Birkett. In his early days he defended many Fascists charged under the Public Order Act 1936.

He took silk in 1957, and was appointed a Justice of the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, in 1961, receiving the customary knighthood. He was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1972, and was sworn of the Privy Council, and retired in 1986.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher served her period of pupillage at the English bar under Sir Frederick when he was still a junior barrister.


Sir Frederick was married in 1957, to Doreen Wilton; she predeceased him, dying in 1979. They had two sons.

Public commentsEdit

Sir Frederick made several comments during his judicial career which attracted scrutiny.

In 1957 he told Charlie Richardson from the bench, after sentencing him to serve 25 years at the end of the "Torture Trial", "One is ashamed to live in a society that contains men like you."

He also once controversially remarked that "Wife beating may be socially acceptable in Sheffield, but it is a different matter in Cheltenham."

In 1981, when a demonstration for nuclear disarmament got out of hand, he remarked that "a good South Devon bull might work wonders" (the demonstrations took place in Cornwall in the West Country).

In 1987, after he retired, he complained of the difficulty prosecuting "the gyppos and tinkers who invade a farmer's land".




  1. ^ a b c "Obituary: Sir Frederick Lawton". Daily Telegraph. 6 February 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b James Morton (5 February 2001). "Obituary: Lord Justice Lawton". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Chris Mullin (2009). A View from the Foothills : The Diaries of Chris Mullin. Profile Books. p. 169. ISBN 9781846682230.