Tributes paid to judge who spared Rolling Stone jail

Sir Lawrence Verney PNL-140508-131942001
Sir Lawrence Verney PNL-140508-131942001

Tributes have been paid to a former renowned judge who presided over the famous trial of Rolling Stone Keith Richards.

Sir Lawrence Verney, 90, passed away on July 25 at The Orchard Care Home, Stewkley.

He was born into the aristocratic Verney family based at Claydon House, the fifth son of Sir Harry Verney.

He became a circuit judge at Aylesbury in 1972 where he served until 1990. During this time, Sir Lawrence became the first crown court judge to try murder cases there.

Sir Lawrence was also the judge on a number of high-profile cases including in 1977 when Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was tried at the court for possession of drugs.

He let Richards off with a fine when many expected him to be jailed.

Sir Lawrence went on to serve as the Recorder of London from 1990 to 1998,

The Recorder of London is the only judge not appointed by the Queen. As part of the role, he is also the senior resident judge at the Old Bailey.

Sir Lawrence was also involved in the setting up of the Florence Nightingale Hospice which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

He was an early committee member and chaired the trustees from 1988 onwards.

He was also instrumental in the initial public campaign to help raise half a million pounds for the hospice.

He said on stone laying day: “Without the people of Aylesbury we would not be standing here on this cold and windswept site. With a great deal of effort, they raised the money to start the hospice.”

His nephew, Sir Edmund Verney, described his uncle as ‘a lovely man.’

He said: “He always had a twinkle in his eye.

“He was a very professional man who always took his job very seriously but at the same time he had a boyish yet sophisticated sense of humour.”

Sir Lawrence married Zoe Goodeve-Docker, who survives him, in 1972. The couple did not have any children.

A service of remembrance is being held on Friday August 8 at St Mary ‘s Church in Aylesbury at 2.30pm.