Tributes to a ‘true giant of legal world’

Judge David Bentley.
Judge David Bentley.

TRIBUTES have been paid to a top Sheffield judge.

Judge David Bentley QC, who died aged 70 after suffering a brain disease, was described as “having a burning desire to see justice done”.

In a eulogy at Sheffield Crown Court friend and former colleague, the Recorder of Sheffield Judge Alan Goldsack QC said Mr Bentley had “a great passion for and knowledge of the law”.

After graduating from University College, London, he had spent a short time in banking before becoming a senior lecturer at what was then Sheffield City Polytechnic, continuing his academic work when he join the only set of chambers in the city at that stage, in Bank Street, in 1969.

In 1976, Mr Bentley, with Judge Trevor Barber, Judge Michael Murphy QC and Judge Roger Keen QC, set up what became Paradise Chambers, now in Paradise Square. He became a QC in 1984.

Judge Goldsack said: “He did crime, family and all manner of civil work, all to an exceptionally high standard. He was a ferocious cross-examiner and a superb jury advocate. If he was not always the easiest of opponents, it was because he fought so hard for his clients and had a determination to avoid what he perceived as injustice.”

Mr Bentley, who was married to Christine, with sons David and Tom, became a judge in 1988.

Although he also wrote books on legal history, law was not his only interest. The former King Edward VII student had an extensive knowledge of history and literature, especially the early and Victorian authors.

He was devoted to Sheffield and was a passionate Blades supporter, leading to “many lively lunchtime debates with Judges who supported the opposite team”.

His illness affected his brain to the extent he was not aware of his surroundings or who he was with. “For someone with such a huge intellect the last few years have been all the more cruel,” said Judge Goldsack.

He added: “David was a complex character. Like all of us, he had flaws and sometimes they surfaced, but at heart he was someone who had a burning desire to see justice done.

He helped to nurture future generations of lawyers and many pupil barristers, those much more experienced and Recorders and Judges remember how he always had time to help them with a problem they had, however, busy he was. Sheffield will not see many like him again.”

On behalf of the city’s barristers, Paul Watson QC said Mr Bentley was “a true giant of the Sheffield legal world, an academic, a tenacious prosecutor and defender and a civil lawyer with scarcely an equal”.