'As I was defending him in court, he was digging a hole to escape' - Bolton Judge's book tells tales of the legal world
AFTER a legal career spanning half a century former Bolton Judge Charles Bloom QC has a tale or two to tell. Joanne Rowe finds out more about his fascinating new book.
WHEN Judge Charles Bloom QC finally hung up his wig and gown 18 months ago he decided to put pen to paper and record his life story for posterity.
Judge Bloom said: “It started as a legacy to my children and grandchildren and future generations so they should know something of their family history.”
The result of his endeavours is Life In Bloom, a memoir covering his early life as a tailor’s son in Cheetham Hill and his rise as a Manchester-based barrister and judge.
The project began with Judge Bloom jotting down a few of the humorous and memorable incidents from his life, but soon became a labour of love, with him devoting two hours a day to the work until it was completed.
The 73-year-old grandfather-of-six said: “I staggered myself and others at my ability to remember detail.”
“This is a story of a journey of someone from a relative lack of means and without any social background. The message is that anyone can do it if they have got enough determination.”
Judge Bloom was appointed a Circuit judge in 1997. For the last three years of his career he sat as a Circuit Judge in Bolton, but before that he started sitting as a part-time judge in 1979, was appointed a QC in 1987, and sat as a Deputy High Court Judge from 1991.
It is a journey the judge describes as “challenging, demanding and rocky, but also exciting, uplifting and rewarding.”
But his early career as a working class northern lad was not without obstacles.
After studying law at Manchester University and obtaining pupillage at Kennedy Street Chambers — now known as St John’s Buildings — Judge Bloom came up against prejudice within the profession.
“There was class snobbery. After I first appeared in crown court the clerk said I didn’t speak well enough and I was sent for elocution lessons,” he said.
His mohair suit did not go down well either so his tailor father made him a smart pinstriped version which he wore with a bowler hat.
After four elocution lessons though, the determined future judge decided he would proudly keep his local accent and is pleased that the profession is now more inclusive.
Judge Bloom believes it was the legal aid system, which was being introduced when he began his career, which enabled people like himself without a privileged family background, to make a living and ensured all defendants had access to justice.
And he fears for the future of justice as the government’s legal aid cutbacks take effect, describing the move as “tragic”.
Judge Bloom’s book contains a raft of funny stories and he is not afraid to poke fun at himself.
He recalls his embarrassment in 1993 when defending Alan Lord, one of the ringleaders of the Strangeways prison riots who had a reputation for escaping, including from a cell in Astley Bridge police station in 1990.
Judge Bloom said: “He was a gigantic man, muscle-bound and with a strong personality.
He told me he had reformed, found a life-long partner and was never going to misbehave again.”
Judge Bloom, then a leading barrister, made a speech to the riot trial jury at Manchester Crown Court repeating his client’s claims.
But unknown to him, after the case had finished for the day, Lord was busy boring a hole in the ceiling of his cell at the court and escaped, dressed in workmen’s clothes.
As a schoolboy, Judge Bloom never thought he would end up as a judge and it was only the encouragement of an older brother who was working as a solicitor, which steered him towards the legal profession.
He said: “I didn’t think I had the ability to do it.
“I believed I would be a good accountant as I was good at arithmetic.
“I can honestly say I don’t regret anything. I was very privileged to work as a barrister and sit as a judge for so long.”
A large part of Judge Bloom’s career involved looking after the interests of damaged and disadvantaged children and so he is hoping sales of his book will help one of his favourite local charities, Destination Florida, which sends children with life-threatening illnesses on holidays of a lifetime.
Many of the 200 copies of Life in Bloom have been snapped up by family, friends and former colleagues, but some copies are available from the counter at The Bolton News’ Wellsprings office.
Donations of £10 or more are requested with proceeds going to the charity.