Former Judge Criticized For Remarks on Irish, 'German Jew'
Aug. 16, 1990
LONDON (AP) _ A leading former judge came under fire today for reportedly disputing the innocence of Irish people cleared by the courts, and suggesting British sovereignty was under threat from ''a German Jew.''
Lord Denning later insisted his remarks to the weekly Spectator magazine were reported in a ''very misleading and erroneous'' way.
The interviewer, novelist A.N. Wilson, wrote that Denning cleared the remarks about the Irish for publication. He did not say whether Denning cleared the remark about Jews, but Denning said later: ''That is just the sort of thing I would hate having put in a paper at all.''
Denning, 91, was master of the rolls, the highest civil judge in England, when he retired in 1982. An internationally renowned legal authority, he remains an influential voice on British judicial issues.
In the interview, published in question-and-answer form, Denning attacked the growing power of the European Community to influence British internal affairs.
He singled out EC official Sir Leon Brittan, a lawyer and former Cabinet minister who is now on the commission that governs the 12-nation European Community.
According to The Spectator, Denning said of Brittan that ''he was no good'' as a lawyer, and added: ''A German Jew, isn't he?''
Wilson: ''What's that got to do with it?''
Denning: ''Look him up. I think you'll find he's a German Jew, telling us what to do with our English law. It's quite plain that these pan-Europeans do not go by the words of the (EC) treaty.''
Brittan is the London-born son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. He was on vacation and unavailable for comment, his office said.
Hayim Pinner, secretary general of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, denounced Denning's ''quite disgraceful, and gratuitous, and, as it happens, inaccurate remark.''
Wilson quoted Denning as decrying the public campaigns that have quashed or undermined the convictions of alleged Irish terrorists.
The death penalty, abolished in 1965, should have been retained ''for murder most foul,'' Denning said. ''We shouldn't have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they'd been hanged. They'd have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied.''
The Birmingham Six are Irishmen serving life sentences for terrorist bombings in 1974 that killed 19 people. Their supporters say they were convicted on bad forensic evidence and confessions extracted under duress.
Denning also questioned the innocence of the so-called Guildford Four, who were jailed for life in 1975 for bombings that claimed five lives. They were freed last year after an appeals court quashed their convictions.
Wilson asked Denning: ''If they had hanged the Guildford Four they would have hanged the wrong men, wouldn't they?''
Denning replied: ''No. They'd probably have hanged the right men.''
Later, he told BBC-TV: ''Their convictions were quashed, but that does not mean they were innocent. It only means their convictions were not safe. That's all.''
On BBC Radio he said: ''I'm very annoyed at The Spectator magazine which has misinterpreted me altogether, which has misled the public, and has attributed to me defamatory things which I never said and would never entertain.''
Breda Power, daughter of one of the Birmingham Six, said: ''I don't take what Denning has said seriously. He is obviously getting very old and does not know what he is talking about.''
Anita Richards, a campaigner for the Birmingham Six, said: ''We are outraged at Lord Denning's hysteria.''