Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Great Edinburgh Liberal: Ludovic Kennedy 1919-2009

The Edinburgh born writer, broadcaster and campaigner Sir Ludovic Kennedy died yesterday at the age of 89.

He spent four decades fighting miscarriages of justice, including that of Timothy Evans who was hanged for a crime that was almost certainly carried out by the serial killer John Christie. He also thought that Stephen Ward who hung himself during the Profumo affair was another victim of injustice and that the man hanged for the abduction of Charles Lindbergh the aviator's baby was framed. But in fighting these causes he was also became a great force behind the abolition of the death penalty, a sentence from which there could be no remission for the falsely accused.

He wrote the book 10 Rillington Place about the Evans case, as well a Trial of Stephen Ward and Presumption of Innocence: Amazing Case of Patrick Meehan about some such cases amongst others.

In his later years he was also a champion of voluntary euthanasia, a position that led to his temporarily resigning from the Liberal Democrats when he disagreed with the stance of then leader Charles Kennedy, to whom he was not related. He wrote another book Euthanasia: the Good Death about his views on the matter which many believe were forged from watching his own mother Rosalind's last painful months.

He had stood as the Liberal candidate in the first by election to be televised in 1958 and although he did not win that seat in Rochdale, the strength of support for the Liberal party that had not stood in the previous general election would eventually lead to Cyril Smith taking the seat.

He was also made regular appearances on television both as a journalist with ITN and as presenter for some years of the BBC's Panorama as well as This Week, Midweek and 24 Hours. He even played himself interviewing the fictional minster Jim Hacker in Yes Minister.

He also had a love for jazz apparently playing with that other sadly missed Humphrey Littleton while the two were both at Eton. While at Oxford he was a member of the Bullington club. Private Eye referred to him as Ludicrous Kennedy.

Michael Mansfield QC sums him up with these words:

"He was an eternal supporter of true justice. At a time when no one was questioning the British system, he was there. He opened everyone's eyes. He challenged miscarriages of justice based on confessional evidence and people had to look again at the role these played in the justice system.

"There aren't too many campaigning journalists who are prepared to stand up to the system in the way he did. There is an important need for investigative, courageous journalists and there are fewer people than ever following in Ludovic's shoes. Somebody needs to pick up the baton where he left off."

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