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A Tribute to Mark Batchelor

1.     Chambers is very sorry to have to announce that our longest standing member of Chambers, Mark Batchelor, known affectionately to us all as Batch, passed away on 11 December 2020.

2.     We are extremely fortunate to have known Mark and to have had the benefit of his knowledge, wisdom, mischievous sense of humour, and to be fair, his eccentricities as well.  He has been described by one member of Chambers as one of the last of the old school.

3.     Mark came to the Bar by what was then not necessarily an unusual route, but which would be considered unusual today.  He came from a legal family in that his father was a partner of Clifford-Turner, a City firm of solicitors which, through various reincarnations, is now Clifford Chance.  Unfortunately, his father did not remain on the scene and he was brought up by his mother.  He has a twin sister Janet to whom he was very close, and particularly close to her two children.

4.     Mark read history at university and became a schoolmaster at Cheam School.  Only after doing that did he complete his Bar Finals via correspondence course.  He came to the Bar in 1971 and was still actively practising in 2020, nearly 50 years later.  His practice initially in our Common Law Chambers, at that stage at 3 Hare Court, was primarily criminal.  I was fortunate to have accompanied him to court as a young pupil and he was a masterly advocate, particularly in front of a jury.  The work in Chambers changed and he adjusted and changed his practice accordingly, and in his latter years specialised in family law, both concerning children and finance.

5.     He was a great advocate, fearless, extremely persuasive, and with a lovely turn of phrase.  He was also great fun to be against and to spend time with at court.  I was fortunate to conduct quite a number of family cases with him as an opponent, one memorable case being at Truro Courts before a High Court Judge.  It was the summer and Mark was determined to make the most of it all and fortunately the High Court Judge in question did not have a reputation for sitting long hours.  Mark arranged for his twin sister, Janet, to come down and stay with us at the same hotel, Budock Vean, overlooking the Helford River in Cornwall.  He had also arranged some extra-curricular activities to make use of the time after the court day had finished, such as horse riding (of which he was very fond), and swimming, as well as sailing.  So, one day, Janet and I were sitting having a pre-dinner drink in the hotel bar when Mark appears through the double doors from outside in full riding gear, with hat, boots, and whip, much to the consternation of the largely elderly female occupants of the bar.  Another evening, he rented a small dinghy and was pottering around on the river watched by me and Janet from a convenient river side pub.

6.     He was also determined to make the most of journeys to courts in other towns and cities and would chide people, for example, who were doing a case in Peterborough if they had not visited the Cathedral or been for a swim in the Lido.  I understand that he covered a case for another member of Chambers on the Isle of Wight and used it as another opportunity to go swimming and riding.

7.     He had a massive hinterland to his career – he was active in local and at one stage national politics.  He was passionate about helping under-privileged young people gain access to open spaces and particularly to the river and was very involved at the Westminster Boating Base to this end.  Many charity fund-raising parties there were enjoyed by a group of us from Chambers with Mark’s sister and nephew and niece joining in as well.

8.     Stories from members of Chambers are plentiful.  Mark had a great sense of humour and it would be too tempting for him to take up a particular stance in an argument or discussion, just to provoke a response.  He put on quite a stern air at first with pupils and young members of Chambers, only to let his expression slip after he had had some fun.  Everyone loved him from whatever background because they could see that he was passionately interested in other people and extremely welcoming to new members of Chambers.  Although for many years he had his own room in Chambers, like many people as Chambers and practices changed, he occupied space in our library.  This suited him greatly with a high turnover of people to chat to, to discuss cases with, and who often sought his advice given his huge experience.  His time in his own room, however, was a different matter.  Never the tidiest person (I had also visited him in his flat at Dolphin Square when he was recovering from illness) his rooms were the stuff of legend.  There was no floor space available at all with piles of papers, books, used stiff collars, and a whole collection of other things everywhere you could look.  In days when briefs often had to be recovered from his room to pass on to someone else covering one of his cases, I think it is fair to say that it gave the clerks nightmares.

9.     Not a lot of people knew that Mark was married for a while, to Damaris, the daughter of a wealthy American, and whilst he did not talk about his marriage a great deal, the parts one did hear involved yet even more wonderful stories of fascinating experiences which all added to make up the man.  Mark’s brother, David, tells me two stories about the wedding.  The family's Pennsylvania estate, where they were entertained as wedding guests in 1976, was substantial. At the time its perimeter was patrolled by armed men in jeeps and dark glasses aggressively checking out the guests because Damaris's father was under a kidnap threat. Luckily for them, the guards had been told to admit without harassment anyone with an English accent.  And in a typical Mark fashion the arrangements for the wedding were less than conventional. David, who was living in the US at the time, had rushed back to the US from an overseas trip because the family suddenly became homeless after a fire. Mark called his brother’s office to ask whether by any chance they could join him for a weekend in Pennsylvania a few weeks later, giving no special reason. David explained that they in all probability couldn't, due to the fire, which he accepted calmly. Fifteen minutes later, his furious fiancée (whom they already knew well) called, demanding to know why David and his family had refused to go to her wedding.

10.  Mark was also a man of considerable courage who had experienced some serious health issues when diagnosed with cancer of the jaw some years ago. His treatment was long and unpleasant but he never complained. Nor did he ever allow any of his health issues to interfere with anything in his personal or professional life.

11.  The Bar has certainly changed since Mark started, not least in its make-up.  He was interviewed by Rehna Azim for her website, It’s a Lawyer’s Life, and it’s a really interesting discussion.  He pointed out that when he started, there were few, if any, women in most Chambers and most of the men were from Oxbridge.  All that, he says in the interview, has fortunately now changed and someone’s background or education no longer matters.  One of the most frequent comments about Mark made by new members of Chambers is how friendly and welcoming he was to all.  He was a committed and welcome attender at all Chambers’ events.

12.  He will be greatly missed, and we wish his family all our best wishes and condolences. We hope he will find peace and success at the Great Point-to-Point in the sky.

 

Jonathan Bennett,

42 Bedford Row,

London WC12R 4LL.

19 December 2020


15.12.2020