Obituary Of The Week

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This clip comes from the London Daily Telegraph, June 26, 2005.


Patrick Pakenham, who has died aged 68, was a talented barrister and the second son of the 7th Earl and Countess of Longford; highly intelligent, articulate and possessed of an attractive and powerful voice, Pakenham could have attained great professional heights, but his boisterous nature and bouts of mental illness rendered it impossible for him to adhere to the routine required to sustain his position at the Bar, and he retired after 10 years’ practice.

During his legal career, Pakenham became something of a legend, and, 25 years on, accounts of his exploits are still current. During his appearance before an irascible and unpopular judge in a drugs case, the evidence, a bag of cannabis, was produced. The judge, considering himself an expert on the subject, said to Pakenham, with whom he had clashed during the case: “Come on, hand the exhibit up to me quickly.” Then he proceeded to open the package. Inserting the contents in his mouth, he chewed it and announced: “Yes, yes of course that is cannabis. Where was the substance found, Mr Pakenham?” The reply came swiftly, if inaccurately: “In the defendant’s anus, my Lord.”

Pakenham’s final appearance in court has been variously recorded. As defence counsel in a complicated fraud case, he was due to address the court during the afternoon session, and had partaken of a particularly well-oiled lunch.

“Members of the jury,” he began, “it is my duty as defence counsel to explain the facts of this case on my client’s behalf; the Judge will guide you and advise you on the correct interpretation of the law and you will then consider your verdict. Unfortunately,” Pakenham went on, “for reasons which I won’t go into now, my grasp of the facts is not as it might be. The judge is nearing senility; his knowledge of the law is pathetically out of date, and will be of no use in assisting you to reach a verdict. While by the look of you, the possibility of you reaching a coherent verdict can be excluded.” He was led from the court. …

Paddy Pakenham’s outstanding gift was for loyalty and friendship, and he had countless friends in all walks of life. Whilst he could be a tremendous attention-seeker, he was also generous and loving, and created an atmosphere of immense gaiety wherever he went. All his friends were tolerant of his erratic behaviour, which was also the source of much of his charm. He had been suffering from cancer and died on June 8.

An unexpected but entirely happy consequence of one of his bouts of exuberance was that he married his nurse, Mary Plummer. This union, which led to a divorce and then re-marriage, yielded three sons, Richard, Guy and Harry, to all of whom Pakenham was a devoted father. Latterly, he found love and companionship with Dominique De Borchgrave, a Belgian countess resident in London.

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