The Passing of John Broadley

Cobden House were sadden by the passing of former member and previous Head of Chambers, John Broadley. 

Long-time friend and colleague Ian Metcalfe has written the following:

JOHN BROADLEY 1951 – 2020


I first met John Broadley in November 1986 when I applied for tenancy at 67 Princess Street, Manchester. The interview was conducted in a sauna. A couple of weeks later, I was sharing a first floor room with John in Chambers: the start of a thirty-four year friendship.

Since the news of his death, one of the most frequent descriptions that has been applied to John by those who knew him has been “charismatic.” Although a tiresomely overused word, it is, I believe in John's case, an entirely apt and well-deserved label. John Broadley had charisma. He was in his element in convivial company. In such setting, he attracted people like moths to light. Put simply, he was the consummate communicator, a raconteur nonpariel. Time in John's company was never misspent. His often improbable, always captivating, stories (“never let facts get in the way of a good story”) were never cruel and invariably reflected some greater truth about the human condition. Although, over the years, some became as familiar as old friends, John's jokes tales never ceased to be a pleasure to hear, each re-crafted and refreshed on every telling by some new twist or added insight. I never came away from John's company without feeling better about myself and better about life in general.

While John had his faults like every one of us, his personal virtues substantially outweighed any failings. In essence, he was a kind and gentle man. I often thought that he was generous to a degree that risked being a fault, but what has struck me most in the last few days has been the number of persons, not by any means confined to the Bar or the legal profession more generally, who have wanted to tell of some small act of kindness, some private handwritten note of encouragement from John which touched their lives. John was a very humble man. As has been observed elsewhere, he was entirely at ease in being the butt of his own jokes. He could sniff out pomposity in others like a truffle hound; and could shoot it down at a hundred paces. He could also be very reflective, content, especially in his later years, to take a back seat and to let others take centre stage. He took genuine pleasure in the achievements of his family, his colleagues and his friends. Although he felt great attachment to his Irish ancestry, John Broadley, to me at least, was always a son of Manchester.

John was also of course a very fine lawyer. His relaxed and courteous courtroom manner was in fact inevitably underpinned by careful and thoughtful preparation of his cases. He was a deep thinker and analyst about his cases, and about the art of advocacy in general. While he genuinely enjoyed the occasional foray into the more esoteric aspects of “pure” law, he was essentially a jury advocate. Once again, the great communicator, who never talked down to, and so often struck the right chord with, his audience. He was, for many years, in demand as one of the very finest criminal advocates working in and out of Manchester. He retained respect and consideration for a witness, even as he forensically disassembled their account, brick by brick. He never sought to take unfair advantage or needlessly to embarrass an inadequate opponent. Any skills or good habits that I have managed to pick up in my thirty-five years at the Bar owe more to John's example and guidance than any other person; my failings and bad habits are of course all my own.

John loved the working life of a criminal barrister. He loved the Northern Circuit. And, most of all, he loved his Chambers, to which he remained loyal, steadfast and generous throughout his professional career. All those who have followed him into what is now Cobden House Chambers owe him an incalculable debt. To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton (or do I mean Noel Gallagher?), we are all standing on the shoulders of a giant.

Ian Metcalfe

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