Richard Wilberforce, Baron Wilberforce
|The Right Honourable|
The Lord Wilberforce
CMG, OBE, PC
|Lord of Appeal in Ordinary|
|Born||11 March 1907|
|Died||15 February 2003 (aged 95)|
|Alma mater||New College, Oxford|
Early life and careerEdit
Born in Jullundur, India, Wilberforce was the son of Samuel Wilberforce, ICS, later a judge of the Lahore High Court, and of Katherine Wilberforce, the daughter of John Sheepshanks, Bishop of Norwich. His great-grandfather was Samuel Wilberforce, sometime Bishop of Oxford and his great-great-grandfather was the famous abolitionist William Wilberforce, a family connexion which had much influence on Wilberforce.
Wilberforce attended Norwich School, Sandroyd School, and Winchester College, where Monty Rendall, the headmaster, convinced him to drop Mathematics, in which he excelled, in favour of Classics. From Winchester he entered New College, Oxford, where he was a scholar, obtaining Firsts in both Classical Moderations (1928) and Literae humaniores (1930). In addition to the Craven, Hertford, and Ireland scholarships in Classics, he also won the Eldon Law Scholarship.
Moving to London, in 1931 or 1932 Wilberforce was called to the bar at the Middle Temple. In 1932, on his third attempt, he was elected a Prize Fellow of All Souls College: the two other successful candidates that year were Isaiah Berlin and Patrick Reilly. Wilberforce remained a fellow of the college until his death. In London, Wilberforce practice at the Chancery bar but, lacking family connections, his earnings were small.
Having joined the Army reserves after Munich, at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Wilberforce volunteered for service in the British Army. In 1940 he was aide-de-camp to Major-General Bernard Paget, who led the British expeditionary force during the Norwegian Campaign. He was later posted to the War Office where, as a lieutenant colonel he was put in charge of Army entertainments. In 1944 he was attached to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. In 1945 he drafted the German military surrender which Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signed in Berlin on 8 May.
After the German surrender Wilberforce, by then a Brigadier, headed the British legal section of the Allied Control Council. In 1946–7 he returned to London to serve as Under-Secretary at the Control Office for Germany and Austria. For his wartime service, Wilberforce was appointed an OBE and received the American Bronze Star. He retained the rank of honorary brigadier.
Return to the barEdit
Wilberforce returned to the bar in 1947, upon the abolition of the Control Office for Germany and Austria. His old set of chambers had disappeared, forcing him to find new accommodation. He participated in several Foreign Office cases, including Corfu Channel case and the Nowegian Fisheries case. He was also appointed as the British legal member of the International Civil Aviation Organization. He became a Queen's Counsel in 1954. He was appointed a CMG for services in relation to the Warsaw Convention in 1956.
Wilberforce was appointed to the High Court and assigned to the Chancery Division in 1961, receiving the customary knighthood. In 1964, he was elevated to the House of Lords as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, and was made a life peer as Baron Wilberforce, of the City and County of Kingston-upon-Hull. He is the only England and Wales judge in recent times to have been appointed to the House of Lords straight from the High Court Bench, without serving in the Court of Appeal.
His decisions were known for being reserved and cautious. He served as a Law Lord for 18 years, and heard 465 appeals.
Wilberforce gave many important and prescient judgments, including in the following cases:
- Eastham v Newcastle United FC  Ch 413
- National Provincial Bank Ltd v Ainsworth  AC 1175
- Boardman v Phipps  2 AC 46
- Boys v Chaplin  2 All ER 1085
- Barclays Bank Ltd v Quistclose Investments Ltd  AC 567
- McPhail v Doulton  AC 424
- Prenn v Simmonds  1 WLR 1381
- Ebrahimi v Westbourne Galleries Ltd  AC 360
- Howard Smith Ltd v Ampol Petroleum Ltd  AC 821
- Anns v Merton London Borough Council  AC 728
- Johnson v Agnew  1 All ER 883
- Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd  AC 827
- Williams & Glyn's Bank v Boland  UKHL 4
- Midland Bank Trust Co Ltd v Green (No 1)  UKHL 7 (11 December 1980)
- College of Nursing of the United Kingdom v Department of Health and Social Security (1981)
- Ramsay v IRC  AC 300
- MPC v Caldwell  AC 341 House of Lords
- Brinkibon Ltd v Stahag Stahl und Stahlwarenhandelsgesellschaft mbH  2 AC 34
- McLoughlin v O'Brian  1 AC 410
- Frazer v Walker and Radomski
- R v Inland Revenue Commissioners, ex parte National Federation of Self-Employed & Small Business Ltd
- The Diana Prosperity  1 WLR 989