13:50, April 05 222 0 theguardian.com

2020-04-05 13:50:04
Retired senior judge Sir John Laws dies after contracting coronavirus

Sir John Laws, a retired senior judge and an uncle of the Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings, has died after contracting coronavirus, it has been reported.

Laws, 74, had been in hospital for three weeks battling sepsis and other health problems. He was seriously ill and at first tested negative for coronavirus but subsequently contracted the bug and died on an isolated ward at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London.

Laws was one of the UK’s leading authorities in public law and democracy, asserting the primacy of the constitution over parliament in the balance of power in Britain. He rose to become an appeal court judge after representing the government as first Treasury counsel – also known as the “Treasury devil” – followed by a period as a high court judge. After retirement from the bar, he was elected a visiting professor of legal science at Cambridge University.

“John was the most gregarious of men, with a quick and lively wit, who enjoyed life in all its richness,” said Mark Hill QC, the chair of Ecclesiastical Law Society. “A loyal and generous friend, he will be remembered for his love of Greece and of cats. Our thoughts are with his daughter, Margaret Grace, her husband and their two children, particularly at this difficult time of social isolation. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Nigel Pleming QC, a good friend of Laws, said Laws’ daughter was able to see her father before he died, wearing full personal protective equipment.

“He was one of the greatest lawyers of his generation,” Pleming said of Laws.

Dinah Rose QC, one of the country’s leading barristers, said Laws was “one of the greatest advocates I’ve ever seen, and a man of enormous charm and erudition.”

Edward Henry QC remarked on the irony of Laws’ embodying “the judiciary’s expansionist philosophy” as it set him on “a collision course with government”. The government has recently indicated it wants to reduce powers of judicial review, which it believes have interfered with its decisions including over Brexit.

Laws, the brother of Cummings’ mother, grew up in Easington, County Durham, and studied at Durham School and Exeter College, Oxford.