25 May 2023
His Honour Donald Herrod KC
We were saddened to learn of the death last week of Donald Herrod. At the age of 92, he had played a vital part in the history of KBW Chambers and had gone on to serve as a circuit judge of distinction, sitting principally in Leeds and York, where he had been Resident Judge, and at the Central Criminal Court.
Donald joined us from 38 Park Square when he took silk in 1972. It was a coincidence that that same year saw the collapse, mired in corruption, of the business empire of Yorkshire based architect John Poulson, but it was no coincidence that Donald was instructed to represent him in the resulting series of trials. His colleagues at KBW, John Cobb QC, Peter Taylor QC and Franz Muller, as they then were, appeared for the prosecution in the first trial which was presided over by another former member, Mr. Justice Waller, who, post conviction, was to refer to “an army of paid lieutenants” in the town halls of the North East. Mr. Poulson had always professed his innocence, and it was to Donald’s credit that he was persuaded to plead guilty to the next slew of charges, considerably reducing the total sentence that he would otherwise have received. The scandal, which led also to the resignation of Home Secretary Reginald Maudling and to the prosecution of T. Dan Smith, former leader of Newcastle upon Tyne’s Council, inspired the BBC television series “Our Friends in the North”, which helped to launch the careers of Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Craig, Gina McKee and Mark Strong. In the meanwhile, Donald’s growing reputation, hard work and attractive manner combined to ensure that his practice went from strength to strength.
Donald would say that his career in silk was his happiest time at the Bar, but it was typical of the man that, when his wife Elaine, who had practised as a doctor, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he should have decided to quit the Bar and become a judge of the Crown Court. Always on top of his cases, he was a hard task master, expecting and commanding the best from those appearing before him, but his courtesy never failed. Not that he would stand on ceremony. Nicky Campbell recalls one trial in which all counsel returned to court after lunch rather later than we had been required; this had not stopped Donald from beginning his summing up in our absence. Those were different times, and no one saw any ground to appeal the resulting convictions.
After his retirement and his move to their beautiful home overlooking the Vale of York, Donald would take time off from his care for Elaine to play rounds of golf and lunch with friends at Alwoodley Golf Club. However he would continue to support the North Eastern Circuit, joining us for several messes and keeping a lively interest in our progress. He will be greatly missed, and we send our deepest condolences to his surviving daughter Philippa and to his grandchildren, Teddy, Emily, Lucy and Freya.