Earlier this evening Richard Wright, the leader of  North-Eastern Circuit  announced the death of barrister John Collins, of Park Square, Barristers, Leeds.

“Today the @ne_circuit  lost one of its finest. John Collins called to the Bar 1956 and working to the very end. Committed to the underdog. Pro Bono champion. Circuit legend. Absolute gentleman. We may not see his like again but we will remember him. Rest in peace John.”


John was a colleague for more than 20 years. There will be others, far more eloquent than me, who will pay tribute to John, his fantastic personal attributes and his professional life and achievements.  I would just like to record that he was the nicest, most gentle, most kind human being you are ever likely to meet.

John as a lawyer

John was called to the Bar in 1956 (and that is not a misprint). He was head of chambers of Woodhouse Square, and then joint-head of Zenith for many decades.  During that time, indeed in all the time I knew him,  I never heard him complain, or say a bad word about anybody.

John had no plans to retire.   He had that essential trait of a great lawyer – curiosity. He never stopped learning.  He continued writing for the New Law Journal, and more widely, on a wide range of legal subjects.  He was an encyclopedia of legal knowledge.

John’s thirst for work and thirst for knowledge went unabated. He was also, as Richard said, a champion of the underdog.  In 2016 he was winner of the Bar Pro Bono award.  His awards did not stop there. I was on the judging panel when he was an entrant for the Yorkshire Lawyer Awards for his  Pro Bono work.  The judges put their views in in advance, and then discussed the outcome if there was not a majority winner. I got up to leave the room (as John and I were  in the same chambers I couldn’t vote) “don’t bother” said the chair of the panel “it is absolutely unanimous”,  John was the winner of the Yorkshire Lawyer Pro-bono award for 2017.

His list of reported cases shows the extent and breadth of his professional work.  He was always willing to share his knowledge, many, many young (and now not so young) barristers benefited from his experience and wisdom.

  • Re Jackson, Ilott v Mitson [2011] 2 FCR 1;[2014] WTLR 575; [2015] 1 FLR 291; 2FLR 1409, [2016] 1AER 932.
  • Bell v Northumbrian Water [2016] EWHC 133 (TCC) – Nuisance from defective sewer.
  • Direct Line v Fox [2009] 1 AER (Comm) 1017, fraudulent insurance claims
  • William Smith (Wakefield) Ltd -v- Parisride Ltd [2005] 2EGLR 22 – an important decision in agricultural holdings law
  • Ribee v. Norrie [2001] 33 HLR 69, a successful appeal to the CA, where the duties of an absentee landlord of property were laid down in relation to escape of fire and nuisance
  • R. v Leeds City Council e.p. LICS (1996) 73 P&CR 70 (see below)
  • Nationwide Anglia B. S. v Ahmed and Balakrishnan (1995) 70 P&CR 381 (loss of vendors lien)
  • R. v Inspector of taxes e.p. Brumfield [1989] STC 151 (taxation of farming partnerships)
  • Wakefield MDC v Huzminor Investments (1989) 29 RVR 108 (rating of commercial premises)
  • Re K. [1988] Ch. 310 (the leading case on enduring powers of attorney)
  • Sharneyford Supplies v Edge [1986] Ch. 128, [1987] Ch. 305 (sale of maggot farm: damages for non-completion)
  • Re ilkley and Burley Moors (1984) 47 P&CR 324 (rights of common)
  • Wakefield City Council v Box [1982] 3 All E.R. 506 (markets and fairs)
  • Harrison-Broadley v Smith [1963] 1 WLR 1262 and Beevers v Mason (1978) 37 P&CR 452 (agricultural holdings)
  • Robinson v Crompton Parkinson [1978] (unfair dismissal)
  • Jarmain v Wetherall (1977) 75 LGR 537 (the case which gave the “go-ahead” to car boot sales)
  • Harrison v Battye [1975] 1 WLR 58 (exchange of contracts)
  • Blackstone v Burnetts (West End) [1973] 1 WLR 1487 (important case on waiver of forfeiture)
  • Crow v Wood [1971] 1 QB 77 (easement of fencing)
  • CEGB v Dunning [1970] Ch. 643 (what is a “pleasure ground”?)
  • R. v Inman [1967] 1 Q.B. 140 (company fraud, duplicity of indictment)
  • Radziej v Radziej [1967] 1 WLR 659 (matrimonial provision in bigamy)
  • Alwoodley Motors’ Application (1961) 13 P&CR 195 (restrictive covenants)

Notable Cases

  • Ilott v Mitson – Important decisions on adult child’s Inheritance Act Claim
  • R (LICS) v Leeds City Council, advising and representing a Local Authority on restrictive covenants affecting a major development

His chambers’ profile records that John was involved in charitable and public work. He was a member of a housing association board for over 40 years.  This does not surprise me. He had an intense sense of public duty which was demonstrated in his capacity as head of chambers for all those decades.

I am sure that I send the condolences of every practising lawyer who knew John to his family. He still had a great deal to give. We will all be poorer without him.