THE Right Hon The Lord Keith of Kinkel GBE who died on June 21, 2002, was a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary from January 1977 to September 19, 1996, having been a senator of the College of Justice in Scotland from 1977.
Henry Shanks Keith was born in 1922 the son of Lord Keith of Avonholm, who was also a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and grandson of Sir Henry Shanks Keith GBE, a former provost of Ham-ilton and chairman of several local and national educational bodies. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, where he was dux; Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was an exhibitioner; and Edinburgh University. He served in the Scots Guards from 1941 to1945 in North African and Italy and was a successful intelligence officer of the third battalion in Italy being mentioned in dispatches. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1950 and was called to the bar by Gray's Inn in 1951.
Keith quickly made a name for himself as a sound lawyer and forceful pleader and built up a busy junior practice. He took silk in 1962 and was appointed
sheriff of Roxburgh, Berwick, and Selkirk in 1970. As a silk,
his services were in considerable demand in cases involving difficult questions of law, particularly company and revenue matters and in advisory work of a similar nature. His clear thinking, grasp of complex issues, and forthright expression of opinion added weight to his advice and rendered him a formidable opponent in court. Although he was no mean cross-examiner, he was far more at home arguing a difficult point of law before an appellate court than appearing in a run-of-the-mill case before a judge or jury.
Keith was appointed as an inspector under the Companies Act 1948 on a number
of occasions and in 1969 he
was appointed by the secretary
of state to report on proposals
to establish a petrochemical complex and iron ore terminal
on the Hunterston Peninsula
in Ayrshire. After a lengthy inquiry, which he conducted
with great patience and firm-ness, he recommended that the terminal should proceed and
the petro-chemical complex should not. These recommendations were accepted by the
secretary of state.
As a Court of Session judge, Keith was courteous but firm. He said little, but when interventions were made they were short and to the point. Anyone seeking to pull legal wool over his eyes was doomed to failure.
In the House of Lords Keith's reputation continued to grow. He showed an independent mind, but not to the extent shown by his father, who was known in Parliament House as ''Thrawn Jamie'' because of his inclination to dissent. In 1986 he became senior law lord presiding over one of
the two appellate committees of the judicial committee of the privy council.
He gave leading judgments
in many well-known cases,
such as Spycatcher, and his judgments in a number of appeals involving economic loss resulting from negligence were seen
as a determined attempt to halt the creeping advance of that branch of the law into new and unexplored fields. When presiding his conduct was a model of judicial restraint.
He realised that there was nothing to be gained by harrying counsel and throughout an argument, however unsound in law or badly presented, he remained patient and courteous. Only on the rarest of occasions did he show signs of annoyance. When a young counsel replied to a question of his by asking Keith a question the young man was politely informed in no uncertain terms that it was for him to answer questions and not to ask.
Keith was appointed in 1982
by the government to be chairman on the committee of Enforcement of Powers of the Inland Revenue and in March 1983 the report of this committee was published. This was the first important examination of the way in which income tax and VAT was collected and the report proposed many changes in existing methods and powers of enforcing
collection of these taxes.
Keith was an essentially shy man and an exterior which sometimes appeared forbidding belied considerable warmth and a fine dry sense of humour. In his younger days he sailed regularly with his Oxford tutor in the
latter's yacht. And later in dinghies on Loch Tummel where he lived. He also fished and shot. He was a very confident worker of wood, to which parts of his house bear witness. He was a generous and amusing host to
his friends and devoted to his family, of whom one son, to his delight followed his footsteps by becoming a barrister.
Keith married Alison in 1955, a daughter of Alan Brown and is survived by her and their four sons and a daughter.