Leading barrister inspired by Douglas Bader died yesterday, 24th October.
Robert Harman KC Obituary
Leading barrister who argued a Brando film was obscene and, as a bed-bound child, took inspiration from the RAF hero Douglas Bader.
After spending two years bed-bound with an infection and unable to attend one of the most prestigious of all schools, Robert Harman was invigorated by a chance meeting with Douglas Bader. The decorated wartime fighter pilot emphasised that his disability would hardly hinder him, given he himself was a double amputee. Bader was proved correct, for Harman became a leading criminal barrister and a keen and prize-winning golfer.
Harman was even able to fit a third hip operation into his summer holiday in 1990 so that when a lengthy case resumed after a break, there was no sign of deformity before the judge. It also meant he could navigate the steps of the Old Bailey without a stick.
He had met Bader soon after coming out of hospital as a teenager and was inspired by his ability to overcome adversity and to play golf. “Compared with that, my father’s problems seemed manageable and he even won a foursomes at Royal St George’s,” said his daughter, Davina.
Harman would continue to meet Bader on golf courses while forging a legal career prosecuting and defending in celebrated cases. These included representing Jack Lyons, who was convicted and fined £3 million at the end of the Guinness trial in 1990 but was the only defendant to avoid jail. Harman, who was described in The Independent as “known for his expertise in fraud trials . . . another courtroom tactician rather than dramatist” had pointed to the door leading to the cells and said: “If he goes through and down those steps today, none of the doctors called would answer for the consequences.”
In 1974 he sought to prove that Last Tango in Paris, the film starring Marlon Brando, was obscene. It was ruled that an “X” rating provided sufficient protection from impressionable viewers. He successfully defended a gamekeeper in 1990 who was financially backed by the royal household and cleared of illegally using a wire snare to trap a fox cub in Windsor Great Park.
Robert Harman KC, the leading barrister inspired by Douglas Bader’s nickname to his fellow criminal silk Robin Simpson KC was “the harmonium”, reflecting his mellifluous voice!