legal

Hugh Bevan obituary


My friend Hugh Bevan, who has died aged 98 from pneumonia, was an influential academic in the field of child law, and helped draft what became the Children Act, 1975. This created a shift in family law cases towards the rights of children, rather than parents. He taught at the University of Hull for nearly 40 years.

Hugh was born in Neath, the first of two sons of Thomas Bevan, a solicitor and registrar, and his wife, Marjorie (nee Trick). He enjoyed his school days at the local grammar school and studied law at Aberystwyth University, graduating with a first in 1949.

In 1950 he took up a law lectureship at the University of Hull. The same year he married Mary Harris, whom he had known since childhood.

Hugh was called to the bar in 1959 and practised part-time with Wilberforce chambers in Hull, specialising in land law. The university promoted Hugh to a senior lectureship in 1961 and to a chair in law in 1969. He was also a magistrate for 20 years from 1972, eventually becoming chairman of the Hull bench.

In 1973 he wrote The Law Relating to Children, a book that became a seminal text. The same year he became a visiting fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and while there, he met David Owen, then a Labour MP in Harold Wilson’s government, who invited Hugh to assist with writing a private member’s bill. It became the Children Act, 1975. That act marked a shift in family law towards promoting children’s interests in both family disputes and where local authorities sought to protect a child.

We met in 1973 when Hugh was on the panel interviewing me for a lecturing job at Hull. We worked together and became friends, and when Hugh decided to write a book about the new act, he asked me to co-author it. We then became founding authors of the children’s law chapters of the ongoing loose-leaf textbook Butterworths Family Law Service.

When he retired from Hull in 1989, to mark his service there, including three years form 1979 as a pro-vice-chancellor, the university established the HK Bevan chair of law and awarded him an honorary LLD. He was also awarded honorary LLDs by Swansea and Sheffield universities.

He went on to become a visiting professor at City University London and moved to the chambers of Allan Levy QC, one of his former students. When Wolfson College, Cambridge, elected Hugh a visiting fellow, followed by an honorary fellowship in 1992, Hugh and Mary made Cambridge their home. He continued with his work for Butterworths until 2014, when he was 91.

Hugh was a man of unshakeable integrity, wise, kind and gentle – a true gentleman.

A son, Vaughan, died in 1992, and Mary died in 2010. Their daughter, Jane, survives him.



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