31 March 2021
His Honour Judge Brian Appleby QC
Ropewalk Chambers notes with sadness the death of His Honour Judge Brian Appleby QC at the age of 91. Brian held a unique position at the Ropewalk, which he served as Head of Chambers from 1970 until his elevation to the Circuit Bench in 1988 and of which he was a member from the completion of his pupillage in the 1950s.
Brian was called to the Bar in 1953 by Middle Temple and became a tenant in Chambers on completion of pupillage. Armed with a smooth courtroom manner and a fierce intellect he was the most compelling of advocates, who could have turned his hand to anything the law threw at him. He took silk in 1971, one of the first QCs not to move to London, leading the way in achieving great success in silk whilst remaining in the provinces. Somehow, during that time, he managed also to be Chairman of Nottingham Forest FC, in which capacity he brought Brian Clough and Peter Taylor together at the City Ground (and might thus claim to have been responsible for the club’s greatest period of success).
Brian’s long tenure as its Head were formative years for Chambers, when it moved from being a general common law set, doing a lot of crime, to something resembling the Chambers it is today - well regarded nationwide, with a strong emphasis on high quality personal injury work and efficiently run. With then Senior Clerk, Michael Churm, and other members of Chambers who also went on to appointments, Brian was instrumental in winning the insurance work which was and still is a backbone of Chambers success. He was, by the time he went on the Circuit Bench, one of the best regarded silks outside London and an absolute tour de force as an advocate and orator.
He was a great advocate for the young Bar as well. A prolific pupil-master, with whom most of Chambers subsequent silks from the 1980s and 1990s started out, he was always sympathetic to the hardships faced by those starting out on their careers. "We look after our youngsters here" was a phrase that originated with him, and it is a mantra at Ropewalk. This was exemplified, perhaps, by an early appearance before him by one of our pupils, in Derby Crown Court, on a plea in mitigation for a nasty assault which was out of character for the Defendant. Brian was so kind to the pupil in question in his sentencing remarks, telling the Defendant how fortunate he was in his choice of Counsel, and how he had been "persuaded from a much more severe course by such skilful advocacy" (it was nothing of the sort, of course) that the Antecedents Officer asked afterwards if the pupil was the judge’s son-in law.
Brian never lost his connection with Chambers, attending events for many years after his elevation and, for the whole of his time on the Bench, kept a keen eye on those before him, always expecting the highest standards of those who had followed him into these Chambers. The standing of Chambers today owes not a little to Brian, as a Junior, silk and subsequently Head of Chambers, and we fondly remember “one of our own” and send our best wishes to Jonathan and Jane.
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