Happy 250th Birthday William Garrow

As William Garrow was born on 13 April, 1760 we can now mark the 250th anniversary of his birth.

It is incredible to think that he had been almost completely lost from popular history until very recently, and one of our chief aims is that he will still be remembered and studied at his 300th birthday and far beyond. With such an incredible life, combined with the new public awareness I think it is likely that Garrow and – more importantly – his contribution to the development of the English legal system will now be essential teaching for law, history and politics students for many years to come.

Charles Dickens and Garrow

Was Garrow the model for the defence counsel, Mr Stryver, in Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities? The question comes to mind because of a number of similarities between Garrow and Stryver as portrayed by the great novelist. In the first place the trial in which Mr Stryver is engaged takes place in the Old Bailey in 1780 close to the period of Garrow’s renown there in changing the face of criminal justice. It was the trial of Charles Darnay for treason for which the penalty if found guilty (as was generally expected) was to be hanged, beheaded and quartered.

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Law Society Gazette Competition

The Law Society Gazette offered three subscribers an opportunity to win a Garrow’s Law DVD by completing the sentence “I think history will determine that I have made much more of a difference to the law than William Garrow because ……”

In the issue of 11 February 2010 they give the results as follows:

Robert Miller, solicitor at claimant personal injury firm Fentons in Manchester, finished the sentence thus: `I have made great strides in respect of the rights of claimants, coining the term, “innocent until proven an insurance company”.

Ian Godfrey, senior partner at Shepherd Harris & Co in Enfield, wrote: ` I have coined the term, innocent until proven guilty, but you get a discount for an early plea and the case can be proved in your absence and as this is a fixed-fee case, you had better plead guilty immediately’.

Andrew Stynes of Ipswich and Chelmsford firm Prettys, says: `History is written by the winners, and that will be me’.