1915 to 1981


Dr. Richard Norman Gooderson, who died on 25th March 1981, at the age of 66, was a reader in English Law in the University of Cambridge from 1967, a Fellow of St Catharine’s College from 1948, and a Recorder of the Crown Court from 1972.


He went up to St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1934, and inaugurated his career in the Law Faculty by bringing academic honours to the legal side of a college which already boasted the names of Winfield, Jackson, Bailey, Emlyn Wade, and the young Glanville Williams.


A first in the qualifying examination, a double starred first in the Law Tripos, and a shower of prizes, were followed by a first place in the open competition for Indian Civil Service candidates in the 1937 and the Bhaonagar medal.


He arrived in India late in 1938, and served there for seven years as an assistant commissioner in the Punjab ; during the last of those years, as judge of the small-cause court at Simla, he discovered his aptitude for judicial work. On returning to England he resumed legal studies, gained a certificate of honour in the bar examinations, and was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1946. After a chancery pupillage in the chambers of Mr Charles, later Lord, Russell he was drawn back to the Cambridge Law Faculty in 1948.


The first law Fellow ever elected by St Catharine’s College, he directed single-handed the studies of hundreds of St Catharine’s lawyers for over 25 years. For 15 of those years he was also a Tutor, and in 1965-67 Senior Tutor, of the College ; and in later years he was thrice elected President.


His academic work was marked by an unusual breadth and depth of knowledge, and he was one of the last Cambridge law dons who could claim to have supervised in almost every subject on the curriculum. As a junior lecturer he was assigned to teach real property, and he wrote several papers on the subject ; but the range of his publications matched that of his college teaching, to include subjects as diverse as jurisprudence and criminal law. His lasting affection for India led him to edit two textbooks on the Indian law of contract in the 1950s.


Later his main attention shifted to criminal procedure and evidence, an interest sharpened after 1969 by his experience as a trial judge; it resulted in his major published work, "Alibi" (1977), a treatise on identification evidence, which was well received and earned him the LLD degree.


In the best traditions of the two professions for which he was trained, Richard undertook willingly whatever chores were thrust upon him, and performed them unostentatiously and efficiently. His commitments were many and varied; from presiding at Huntingdon to collecting newspapers for charity.


His learning was always worn modestly, and was never used to deflate those who knew or understood far less; in private life, he would sooner avoid an argument than hurt anyone by proving them wrong.


He married, in 1939, Marjorie, younger daughter of William Nash. They had two sons and one daughter.


[ Based upon an article published in The Times on Friday 27th March 1981 ]


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