David Savill QC

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Judge David Savill QC, who has died at the age of 80, had a distinguished legal career spanning 42 years at the bar and on the bench.

Many might have expected on retirement he would spend more time on his hobbies such as golf and gardening, but almost to his own surprise it was then he became a committed fund-raiser for hostels for the homeless in Leeds.

After he was asked by the English Churches Housing Group to help establish a body to raise money in the city The Friends of Leeds was born.

He became a passionate champion for those who often could not speak up for themselves and went on to become a patron of the Church Housing Trust, a charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and resettlement of homeless people.

He said his reason was simple. “I have always enjoyed the advantages of a comfortable home and can’t imagine anything more miserable than not having one to go to, or to live in.”

He felt if homeless people were provided with an environment that gave a sense of security “a feeling they are being valued, they have a better chance to make something of themselves, to rediscover their lives.”

Over many years as chairman of the Friends he helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds supporting hostels at Ladybeck House and Bracken Court, Leeds.

Judge Savill said: “As a judge your detachment is absolutely paramount. You cannot ride two horses in the same race. It’s your job to do justice by the defendant and the victim of crime and reflect in some cases the public revulsion.”

Educated at Marlborough College, David Malcolm Savill spent his two years National Service between 1949-50 in the Grenadier Guards, becoming a second lieutenant. After Cambridge University he was called to the Bar in 1954 and joined chambers at 11 King’s Bench Walk, London which later opened an annex in Leeds. In 2004 KBW moved its administration to the city.

The son-in-law of Mr Justice Hinchcliffe, David Savill became head of the chambers, whose former members included Lord Justice Paul Kennedy and the late Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor.

He took silk in 1969 and became a Recorder in 1972. He was the last Recorder of Leeds before the post was abolished in 1971,

Appointed a Circuit Judge in 1984 he was the senior judge at Leeds Combined Court Centre, when in 1994 Leeds City Council revived the honorary position of Recorder of Leeds and he was aptly the first to hold the civic title, re-establishing the link between the city and the legal system.

When he retired in 1996 he was described by Mr Justice Holland as a “very hard act to follow” having coped with distinction with a “gruelling unending flow of really heavy crime”.

But there were also some lighter moments on the bench. In one high court civil case in 1988 involving a ladies’ hairdresser who described a style as being more “bouffant” the judge asked him “how do you spell that?” The blushing witness replied: “I don’t know, I just know what it looks like.”

Judge Savill was Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors from 1978-91, Chancellor of the Diocese of Bradford from 1976-99 and of the Diocese of Ripon from 1987-92.

He is survived by his widow Mary, who was a magistrate for 24 years, son Richard and daughters Caroline and Jenny. A thanksgiving service will be held at St Mary’s Church Goldsborough on March 25.