Stephen Sedley

Stephen Sedley is a former appeal court judge and visiting professor at Oxford.


D-Day Dodgers

8 February 2024

Malcolm Gaskill recounts that in 1944 ‘a myth set in that the soldiers fighting in Italy had it easy: they were, according to a popular song, “The D-Day dodgers”’ (LRB, 8 February). Well, not quite. It was the Tory MP Nancy Astor who had declared in a speech that the troops in Italy (my father was one) were ‘dodging D-Day’. In response a sarcastic song, ‘The D-Day dodgers’, sung to...

Coke v. Bacon

Stephen Sedley, 27 July 2023

‘That wonderful Edward Coke,’ wrote the great Maitland, ‘masterful, masterless man.’ Others prefer the judgment of the Australian judge and historian James Spigelman: Coke’s mind ‘was so narrow and unsubtle, so incapable of jettisoning detail, so often inconsistent, that no one has ever speculated that he wrote the works of Shakespeare’. That perverse...

Cloudy Horizon: Constitutional Business

Stephen Sedley, 13 April 2023

If constitutions are to represent a fresh start for a society, they cannot simply be adopted. They require a wide but intangible impetus – what is sometimes called a constitutional moment – that cannot be willed or voted into being.


For Entertainment Only

3 November 2022

In the 1950s, when the contents of country houses and villas that had been requisitioned during the war were being auctioned off in quantity, my father, a solicitor whose office was in Took’s Court (Cook’s Court in Bleak House) off Fetter Lane, would regularly come home with purchases from the nearby second-hand shop, whose proprietor he knew only as ‘the old lady’. She used to buy job...

Relentlessly Rational: The Treason Trial

Stephen Sedley, 22 September 2022

There are plenty of competent barristers, but Sydney Kentridge was more than this: he was from the start one of those advocates who sense exactly where to pitch anything from a lethal monosyllabic comment to a day-long submission of law. Of the many, often hyperbolic, appreciations of Kentridge’s style cited by Thomas Grant, two seem to me to hit the mark. The future Justice Edwin Cameron, watching Kentridge’s defence in the trial of the dean of Johannesburg under the Terrorism Act, witnessed a cross-examination that was ‘meticulously detailed, but mesmerising’ – a combination far more difficult to achieve than it sounds. Many years later, Nelson Mandela, always precise in his choice of words, described Kentridge’s courtroom manner as ‘understated, controlled and relentlessly rational’.

At Sunday mass in my North London parish there was recently imposed a ‘New People’s Mass’. It came suddenly and without warning. One week, we were all enjoying versions of the...

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In a narrow pass

Derek Hirst, 19 November 1992

Stephen Sedley and Lawrence Kaplan seek to map a new course for the post-socialist Left, and to turn attention away from that beguiling but now exploded theme, egalitarianism. The long fixation...

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