Barrister who appeared in many high-profile trials with a civil liberties element

The life in law of Leonard Woodley, who has died aged 92, was a catalogue of the most famous British race trials of the late 20th century, from those related to riots in Notting Hill, Tottenham, Brixton and St Paul’s, Bristol, in the 1980s, to the famous cases of the Mangrove Nine (1970) and the Newham Eight (1983). The first Afro-Caribbean barrister in Britain to become a Queen’s counsel, a recorder (part-time judge, 1989-2000) of the crown court and a bencher of the Inner Temple, he was a barrister adviser to the Scarman inquiry into the Brixton riots and was counsel in many murder trials where racism was an element.

On a wider canvas he also chaired the 1995 Laudat inquiry, which investigated and reported on a shocking murder committed by a mentally ill patient released into the community with inadequate supervision. In 1997 he was appointed to the royal commission on long-term care of the elderly, established by the Labour government to try to find a way forward on care provision. It was a source of deep regret to him that the recommendations of the commission’s report were ignored.

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