Sir David Clarke

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Sir David Clarke for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University. 

Since joining the legal profession in 1965, Sir David Clarke has practised law with great distinction. He has been involved in many high profile cases, one of which saw him in the role of Leading Counsel for the John May Enquiry into the Guildford and Woolwich Pub bombings - an investigative role which required him to challenge the actions of fellow professionals in relation to what was a major miscarriage of justice.  

A former Circuit Court Judge in Merseyside and Honorary Recorder of Liverpool, he was appointed as a High Court Judge in 2003.  

David Clive Clarke was born in Mansfield on 16th July 1942 - sixty-five years ago today (applause!).  He moved to Wirral in 1953 when his father was appointed managing director of a stevedoring company.  

His father incidentally was closely associated with this cathedral, and was treasurer of the executive committee during the 1970s. 

David spent his secondary years at Winchester College. He greatly enjoyed the experience, did well academically and progressed to Magdalene College Cambridge to study Law, graduating with honours in 1964.     

He was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple in 1965 and practiced on the Northern Circuit until 1993, with a 5-year period as Treasurer until 1992. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1983 and became a Bencher in 1992. 

Next he was appointed as a Circuit Judge on the Northern Circuit, and in 1997, he became Honorary Recorder of Liverpool, a civic appointment and the second oldest office in the City after the Mayor. At the same time, he was appointed Senior Circuit Judge for the Northern Circuit by the Lord Chancellor.  

During this time he was: 

  • A Member of the Criminal Justice Consultative Council which fostered better communications between the main national criminal justice agencies  
  • Chairman, Merseyside Area Criminal Justice Strategy Committee which served a similar function at a local level, bringing together CPS officers, probation officers, prison governors and law officers  to ensure the smooth running of criminal justice 

In 2003, David was appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor as a Judge of the High Court, Queen's Bench Division, at which time he was also knighted. 

In 2006, he succeeded the Honourable Mr Justice Leveson in becoming a Presiding Judge of the Northern Circuit with a supervisory role over the judiciary - who affectionately refer to him as "The Headmaster".   

His time is now divided equally between London and the Northern Circuit.  

David married Alison Brazier in 1969 and they have two sons: Edward in Australia who they visit regularly, although it does cause David some concerns about his carbon footprint, and Jonathan who is a barrister in Liverpool. 

Sir David Clarke is widely admired both for his professional excellence and for his personal qualities. Unpretentious, sincere and compassionate are words used to describe him by a solicitor who has known him since he was a pupil at the Bar. It would appear that he has very much taken to heart the motto of his old school, Manners Makyth Man".   

In his working life he comes across all kinds of people, some with extremely sad and disturbed lives. This can be dispiriting and desensitising, but David is strongly drawn to the human interest in the cases, always reminding himself of the humanity beyond the inhumanity, and much preferring this to mulling over dry documents in appeal cases. He well remembers the impact of a brief period of incarceration when he spent a night in a prison cell for charity. Despite knowing that he would be free in the morning, he recalls how unsettling the experience was.  

Given his demanding workload in the courts and the regular commuting to London, Sir David relaxes 'with difficulty'. 

Nowadays, he enjoys supporting Oxton Cricket and Sports Club, and sailing and walking with Alison when time allows. 

Sir David has retained throughout his career a strong love of Liverpool and its people, remaining domiciled on Merseyside despite the attractions of London. When asked whether he supports Liverpool or Everton, he has the perfect judicious reply - he supports Tranmere Rovers. And he has been a consistent supporter of our School of Law's Liverpool Law Review Annual Lecture, not least when he was Recorder of Liverpool.  

In 2004, the University of Liverpool awarded him an honorary LL.D and we are pleased to record our appreciation for his valued support and for his contribution to criminal justice in our city and wider region.  

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Sir David Clarke, this most distinguished son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.