We cross-examine distinguished criminal barrister and cruise-line lecturer Sir Ivan Lawrence, QC.
How much cruising have you done?
A fair amount, though always as a lecturer: on the Braemar, Balmoral, Boudicca, Saga Ruby, Aurora, and Queen Mary 2 – seven trips over five years.
What have been the highlights?
We have done most of our cruises with Fred.Olsen which has been outstanding, but on all the cruise ships we have been very impressed with the accommodation, the food, the helpfulness of the excellent staff, the entertainment and the wide range of activities and tours on offer. And of course the sheer number of people who seem interested in the subject of my talks and insist that I have, and turn up at, a special session for questions!
Does cruising have a specific appeal for you?
It does now that my wife and I have experienced such superb cruises. When I was first invited, my reaction was – not for me! But they have all been great fun – mostly in warm climates when it was freezing back home – and as relaxing as you want them to be.
How did you find your cruise with Fred.Olsen to the Canaries last Christmas and New Year?
Delightful! We had a family time with our barrister daughter, and were joined by friends from Miami. The whole package of accommodation, beautifully prepared food, considerate staff, first-class entertainment and interesting places to visit was tip-top.
What were the highlights of that particular cruise?
What I find so surprising – and this applies to every cruise I have spoken on – is the large number of people whose lives just happen to have touched mine at some stage. They may be retired police officers, prison officers, barristers, solicitors, judges, magistrates – even one or two people I have defended! There have been former constituents, political party workers, MPs, Lords, secretaries, members of my family – and on one occasion even an ex-girlfriend! On Queen Mary 2 I was thanked for instigating the National Lottery – by a very substantial winner who would not otherwise have been on the cruise!
What subjects do you cover when on board?
I have spoken about my life of crime: as a criminal barrister mainly defending, as a recorder (part-time judge), and then as an MP – nothing to do with expenses! – rather as a legislator taking a particular interest in the development of criminal law. So I have spoken about how the two professions involved with the law inter-relate and overlap, and how unfortunate it is that the modern demands on MPs’ time no longer allow them to be practicing criminal lawyers. Thus our laws are now often badly drafted, hardly discussed in the House of Commons, and either unjust or impracticable! I have also spoken about being a back-bench MP during the Thatcher years.
Of the many trials that you have been involved in, is there one that people are particularly fascinated to hear about?
People are, of course, interested to hear anecdotes from the horse’s mouth about the Kray twins and Denis Nilsen the serial killer. But I have been engaged in so many high-profile cases that people ask me questions about many other trials too. There is always a deep public interest in criminal trials.
And is there one trial that stood out for you personally?
All the trials I speak about on cruises are either fascinating or important. Sometimes they concerned injustices, sometimes they resulted in changes in the law – and sometimes they were simply great fun in which to have been the advocate. There are also a number of political moments that ask to be spoken about because they throw light on their character of our leaders or important events.
When is your next cruise?
I hope that it will be next Christmas and New Year – after all, I am still working in the meanwhile. But I await invitations!