Henry Mc Cardie - High Court

High Court

As a judge McCardie used common language to make his judgements easier to understand, but at the same time he also made them very long and detailed. He was noted for his tendency to rebel against the opinions held by the rest of the judiciary and much of society as a whole; as early as 1931 he was supported the legalisation of abortion, saying that "I cannot think it right that a woman should be forced to bear a child against her will". He made several judgements in areas that previously had no case law; in Cohen v Sellar 1 KB 536 he decided that a fiancée who breaks off the engagement is not entitled to the return of the ring, and his ruling in Hartley v Hymans 3 KB 475 was one of the cases used by Lord Denning in his resurrection of promissory estoppel. His decisions and his differing opinions from that of the judiciary as a whole led to criticism from the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, as well as several members of the Court of Appeal., particularly Scrutton, whose increasingly bitter attacks suggest personal antipathy, and became so extreme that the two men ended by shouting at each other in open court.

While on circuit in 1933 McCardie caught influenza, and the illness and lack of sleep that resulted from it drove him into a deep depression. On 26 April 1933 he shot himself in his flat; the coroner ruled that it was suicide. After his death it came out that he had massive gambling debts, and that he was being blackmailed as a result. It was also suggested that dabbling in the occult had given him a morbid premonition of death.

Henry Cecil Leon in his memoir Just Within the Law wrote " I have only the happiest memories of appearing before him".

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