Lionel Daiches

Criminal Defence Lawyer | Number 10

Lional Daiches (1902-1999) was the eldest son of Dr Salis Daiches, a man of great learning who came from a distinguished line of European rabbis. He served for many years as Rabbi of Edinburgh's synagogue. 

Lionel and his younger brother David went to George Watsons Boys College, learning to weave between the highly traditional aspects of their Jewish home life and the delights and opportunities of early twentieth century Edinburgh. Lionel studied law at the University of Edinburgh, edited its student newspaper and made a name for himseelf as a skilled debater. 

He worked initially as a solicitor. After war broke out in 1939 he enlisted and fought with distinction in North Africa and Italy. The army made use of his training by deploying him on court martials. Back in Edinburgh, he qualified as a QC and served for five years as a sheriff.  But his true colours emerged as an advocate, representing clients charged with many and various crimes through his brilliant and persuasive oratory. Former Secretary of State for Scotland Malcolm Rifkind said of him "In his day he was the finest [advocate] in Scotland. He was unfailingly courteous but his gentlemanly behaviour did not in any way detract from his extraordinary forensic skill."

His bon mots were many.  His response to a judge who referred in his charge to the jury to irrelevant and possibly prejudicial evidence was that it was like 'throwing a skunk into the jury room and instructing the occupants to ignore the smell'.

He is credited with establishing, through an appeal case, that a defendant who had believed his victim to be armed was justified.

A burglar caught redhanded at Number 15 thirty years ago with his hand in the jewellery box protested indignantly that he was just on his way to consult his friend Mr Daiches.

You can read a fascinating account of the lives of the children in the Daiches household written by Lionel's brother David called 'Two Worlds', republished as a Canongate Classic in 1987. You may also hear his voice, giving the tribute to The Lassies on 'A Burns Supper'album, released by Lismore Recordings in 1987.



'throwing a skunk into the jury room and instructing the occupants to ignore the smell'.