Scotsman Obituaries: Prof Anthony Bradley, academic lawyer and barrister

Anthony Wilfred Bradley, academic lawyer and barrister. Born: 6 February 1934 in Dover, Kent. Died 20 December 2021, aged 87

Prof Anthony Bradley was among the greatest constitutional lawyers of his generation
Prof Anthony Bradley was among the greatest constitutional lawyers of his generation

Tony Bradley, who has died, aged 87, of pulmonary fibrosis, was Professor of Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University from 1968 to 1989. In Scotland, Tony will be best remembered for his provision (first in his Scottish Law Commission memorandum on “Remedies in Administrative Law” and then in his “Administrative Law” title for the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia) of a modern but historically based intellectual foundation for his subject. It was a massive and meticulous project and, in combination with his authorship of successive editions of Wade and Phillips (subsequently Bradley and Ewing), secured Tony’s position as a giant of public law in the UK. Generations of public lawyers have benefited and will continue to benefit from his being over their shoulder.

Tony was born in Dover, Kent, in 1934, where his parents ran a dyeing and dry-cleaning business. At Dover Grammar School he was known as “Prof” due to his love of studying, and this turned out to be an uncannily accurate prediction of how things turned out for him. After National Service he won a scholarship to study history at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, but switched to law and graduated first class with distinction in his BA degree in 1957, followed by another first class with distinction in his LLB degree the following year.

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After the completion of his solicitor’s articles of clerkship with the Town Clerk in Reading, Berkshire, he secured first class honours in the final examination of the Law Society in 1960.

Law wasn’t Tony’s only interest, music was also an abiding passion – he played the piano and violin, as well as the viola, his preferred instrument – and it was in a Bach choir in Reading that he met Kathleen Bryce, a nurse who later became a health visitor. They married in 1959 and enjoyed a very happy lifelong partnership.

Tony returned to Cambridge as a Lecturer in Law and a Fellow of Trinity Hall in 1960. In 1966 he went on secondment as a Visiting Reader to Tanzania, where, with several other distinguished ex-pats, he taught in the Law Faculty at what became the University of Dar es Salaam. In 1968, at the very young age of 34, he was appointed, in succession to Professor John Mitchell, to the Chair of Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University, which he held with great distinction for the next 21 years. He became well known to successive generations of Edinburgh students, many of whom themselves became distinguished academics, judges and legal practitioners. He became even more widely known as principal author of what began as Wade and Phillips’ textbook Constitutional Law. With Tony at the helm, This became Constitutional and Administrative Law with 1977’s 9th edition. A classic, it is now in its 17th edition. Tony’s academic distinction was recognised by the award of an Honorary LLD from Edinburgh University in 1998.

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During his time in Edinburgh, Tony was Dean of the Faculty of Law for a three-year term and sat on numerous university committees. Beyond the University, he engaged actively in matters of law and administration. He was a member of both the Stodart and Montgomery Committees on local government reform. From 1985-1991 he edited the journal Public Law. In his mid-fifties, when his four children had all left home, he opted for a change of direction. After commenting on and analysing the law for so many years, he decided to put what he had learned as an academic into practice. He briefly considered the Scottish Bar but, in the end, decided, since his children had moved south, to go to the English Bar instead. Although he and Kathleen left Edinburgh in 1990, they retained their love for Edinburgh, and for Scotland in general, and returned frequently to the city.

Tony was called to the bar in 1989 and was invited by Sir Stephen Sedley to become a member of his chambers, Cloisters. Among the highlights of his career at the Bar was representing the Chagos Islanders, who had been forcibly removed by the UK Government from their homes on the Indian Ocean archipelago to Diego Garcia in 1971, when, in 2008, he acted as junior to Sir Sydney Kentridge. An earlier landmark case involved a courtroom battle in 1993 against the Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker, over the deportation of a teacher to what was then Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of Congo – who was still pursuing an asylum claim in the UK. The House of Lords eventually found that the Home Secretary and his officials were in contempt of court by unlawfully removing the teacher, establishing the principle that ministers are subject to court orders and that enforcement proceedings can be brought against them.

Tony’s distinction at the bar was belatedly recognised when he was made an Honorary QC in 2011. His many distinguished appointments included being a UK member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (“the Venice Commission”) and the first Legal Adviser to the House of Lords Committee on the Constitution, from 2002-2005.

Tony was among the greatest constitutional lawyers and thinkers of his generation. Although he wrote more than 150 academic articles, on an exceptionally wide range of topics, and sat on numerous advisory committees and representative bodies, he wore his learning lightly. How he accomplished so much is hard to fathom. He worked prodigiously hard but still found time for his family and his outside interests. In the 1970s and 1980s he played an important role, through the Economic and Social Research Council, in the promotion of socio-legal studies. His sage advice was often sought and freely given, and he earned the respect of everyone he encountered. He supported numerous good causes, many of them concerned with the promotion of civil liberties and social justice, and he helped many younger colleagues. At Christmas time in Edinburgh, he and Kathleen used to invite foreign students who had nowhere to go in the UK to their home. In Oxfordshire, they were both very involved with the reception of asylum seekers. Tony regularly played the viola in string quartets, in the Edinburgh Symphony, and, more recently, in the Abingdon Symphony Orchestra. He was something of a “lad o' pairts”.

Tony will be greatly missed, not only by his wife Kathleen, their four children, Richard, Elizabeth, Lucy and Charlotte, and six grandchildren, but also by his former colleagues and many friends and admirers. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have been among them.

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