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Lennie Hoffmann, Baron Hoffmann

Leonard Hubert "Lennie"[1][2][3] Hoffmann, Baron Hoffmann, PC, GBS (born 8 May 1934) is a retired senior South African–British judge. He served as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary from 1995 to 2009.

The Lord Hoffmann

Official portrait of Lord Hoffmann crop 2.jpg
Official parliamentary photo of Lord Hoffmann
Second Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
10 January 2007 – 21 April 2009
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byLord Nicholls of Birkenhead
Succeeded byLord Hope of Craighead
Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
21 February 1995 – 21 April 2009
Succeeded byLord Collins of Mapesbury
Personal details
Leonard Hubert Hoffmann

(1934-05-08) 8 May 1934 (age 85)
Cape Town, South Africa
Spouse(s)Gillian Hoffmann
Alma mater

Well known for his lively decisions and willingness to break with convention, he has had an especially large impact on the interpretation of contracts, shareholder actions in UK company law, in restricting tort liability for public authorities, human rights and intellectual property law, in particular patents. He is also a Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong.

Early lifeEdit

Born 8 May 1934 in Cape Town, Leonard Hubert Hoffmann was the son of a well-known solicitor who co-founded what has become Africa's largest law firm, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.


He was educated at the University of Cape Town and then attended The Queen's College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, where he studied for the BCL degree and won the Vinerian Scholarship.[citation needed]

Between 1961-73, he was Stowell Civil Law Fellow at University College, Oxford, where he is an Honorary Fellow.[citation needed]

Legal careerEdit

In 1963, he published the first edition of The South African Law of Evidence, a work which became the standard text and which has since been published in four editions. After being called to the Bar from Gray's Inn in 1964, Hoffmann became one of the most sought after and highly priced barristers of his generation and was quickly made a judge, having taken silk on 19 April 1977.[4]

Judicial careerEdit

He was appointed to the Courts of Appeal of Jersey and Guernsey on 20 November 1980[5] and stayed in office until 1985 and was appointed to the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division from 1985-92. On 23 July 1985, he was knighted upon his appointment, as is customary for High Court judges.[6]

He was subsequently appointed to be a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1 October 1992[7] and stayed in office until 1995. In 1995, Hoffmann was appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (more commonly known as a Law Lord) and thereby raised to the peerage as Baron Hoffmann, of Chedworth in the County of Gloucestershire.[2][8][9]

Twinsectra v Yardley (trust law) and MacNiven v Westmoreland (tax law) are prominent examples of his judicial positions. Both cases led to differences of view between him and Lord Millett. Hoffmann gave the leading judgment in Investors Compensation Scheme Ltd v West Bromwich Building Society, in which he set out five principles for interpreting contracts.

He retired as a Law Lord on 20 April 2009[10] and joined the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary, University of London, as Honorary Professor of Intellectual Property Law.[11]

Hong Kong Court of Final AppealEdit

Hoffmann has been a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal since 1998.[12]

In 2014 he was awarded the Gold Bauhinia Star by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.[13]

Links with Amnesty InternationalEdit

Hoffmann's failure to declare his links with Amnesty International before ruling on whether Augusto Pinochet was immune from prosecution led to the unprecedented setting aside of a House of Lords judgment. He later commented to the Daily Telegraph that "the fact is I'm not biased. I am a lawyer. I do things as a judge. The fact that my wife works as a secretary for Amnesty International is, as far as I am concerned, neither here nor there."[14]


Leonard and Gillian Hoffmann have two daughters and two grandchildren.[citation needed]

Opinions in terrorism casesEdit

Hoffmann was involved in three important judgments of the House of Lords concerning terrorism: Secretary of State for the Home Department v Rehman [2001] UKHL 47; A v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004] UKHL 56; and A v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] UKHL 71. In Rehman, at para 62, he wrote:

Postscript. I wrote this speech some three months before the recent events in New York and Washington. They are a reminder that in matters of national security, the cost of failure can be high. This seems to me to underline the need for the judicial arm of government to respect the decisions of ministers of the Crown on the question of whether support for terrorist activities in a foreign country constitutes a threat to national security. It is not only that the executive has access to special information and expertise in these matters. It is also that such decisions, with serious potential results for the community, require a legitimacy which can be conferred only by entrusting them to persons responsible to the community through the democratic process. If the people are to accept the consequences of such decisions, they must be made by persons whom the people have elected and whom they can remove.

It appeared that he was willing to defer to the executive in matters concerning national security in the fairly long tradition of English judges deferring to the executive in such matters, including Lord Denning in ex-parte Hosenball. However, in 2004, Hoffmann took a robust stand (joining the majority of judges in the decision) against the executive in the Belmarsh case, A v. SSHD [2004] UKHL 56. In this case Hoffmann wrote at para 97 that:

The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.

In A v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] UKHL 71, Hoffmann said:

The use of torture is dishonourable. It corrupts and degrades the state which uses it and the legal system which accepts it.



  1. ^ Sengupta, Kim (18 December 1998). "How Hoffmann's halo slipped". The Independent.
  2. ^ a b "Lord Hoffmann: A conservative liberal". BBC News. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Birthdays today". The Telegraph. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2014. Lord Hoffmann, a former Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, 79
  4. ^ "No. 47201". The London Gazette. 21 April 1977. p. 5339.
  5. ^ "No. 48384". The London Gazette. 28 November 1980. p. 16525.
  6. ^ "No. 50221". The London Gazette. 6 August 1985. p. 10815.
  7. ^ "No. 53070". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 October 1992. p. 16751.
  8. ^ "No. 53965". The London Gazette. 24 February 1995. p. 3079.
  9. ^ "No. 23737". The Edinburgh Gazette. 24 February 1995. p. 423.
  10. ^ Appointment of two Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 Archived 15 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Hoffmann". Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal - The Non-Permanent Judges - The Right Honourable The Lord HOFFMANN, GBS". Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Civil And Miscellaneous Lists : Recipients of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Honours and Awards Grand Bauhinia Medal (G.B.M.)". Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  14. ^ "A look at Lord Hoffmann". BBC News. 17 December 1998.

External linksEdit

Order of precedence
Patrick Chan
Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal
Hong Kong order of precedence
Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal
Succeeded by
Lord Millett
Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal