LONDON – Lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson, a towering legal figure who helped liberalize British laws around sex and freedom of expression, has died. He was 102.
Hutchinson’s former law firm, Three Raymond Buildings, said Tuesday that he died a day earlier. No cause of death was given.
In 1960 he was part of the team that successfully defended Penguin Books against obscenity charges for publishing D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”
The book was first published in Italy in 1928, but was banned in its full uncensored form in Britain until Penguin published it in 1960.
The novel scandalized some; a prosecution lawyer infamously asked in court whether it was “a book that you would … wish your wife or your servants to read?” Hutchinson felt that attitude was out of touch with an increasingly liberal and egalitarian society, and the jury proved him right.
Hutchinson had fought to have as many female jurors as possible because, he later said, “women are so much more sensible about sex.”
He went on to fight in court on behalf of the erotic novel “Fanny Hill,” the explicit movie “Last Tango in Paris” and the academic book “The Mouth and Oral Sex.”
In 1982 he defended the director of the play “The Romans In Britain” in a prosecution for gross indecency. Hutchinson demonstrated that an audience member who claimed to have seen an erect penis could have been looking at an actor’s thumb.
Other clients included model Christine Keeler, a key figure in the 1963 “Profumo Affair” sex-and-espionage scandal; Soviet spy George Blake; and drug smuggler Howard Marks.
Born in 1915 to parents who were part of London’s literary Bloomsbury group, Hutchinson attended Oxford University and served in the Royal Navy during World War II, surviving the torpedoing of his ship HMS Kelly during the Battle of Crete.
After the war he became a criminal lawyer and was made a member of the House of Lords in 1978 as Baron Hutchinson of Lullington.
The writer John Mortimer said Hutchinson was one of the inspirations for his character Rumpole of the Bailey, a loquacious, wine-loving defence barrister.
Hutchinson was married to the actress Peggy Ashcroft from 1940 until their divorce in 1966; she died in 1991. In 1966 he married June Osborn, who died in 2006. He is survived by a son and a daughter.