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By Sir Lionel Luckhoo

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As his record suggests, Lionel Luckhoo was extraordinarily persuasive with juries. He was incisive in cross-examination, and got straight to the nub of a case. Between 1940 and 1985, when he finally retired, almost all his clients were acquitted at trial. The few that were not had their convictions overturned on appeal to the Privy Council. One such case, Noor Mohamed v R (1949), remains an authority on so-called similar fact evidence. The defendant, a goldsmith, was accused of murdering the woman he lived with by causing her to take cyanide, a substance, which he used for his trade.

Young Lionel was educated at Queen's College, Georgetown, before coming to London to study Medicine at St Thomas's Hospital. Realizing that he could not stand the sight of blood, he switched to Law, and was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1940. He left for home on the day of Dunkirk, to set up in legal practice with his brother as Luckhoo & Luckhoo, in Georgetown. As his record suggests, Lionel Luckhoo was extraordinarily persuasive with juries. He was incisive in cross-examination, and got straight to the nub of a case.

At the trial, the prosecution led evidence that the goldsmith had previously killed his wife with cyanide on pretence that it was a cure for toothache. On appeal, Luckhoo successfully argued that the prejudicial effect of this evidence outweighed its probative value, so it had been wrongly admitted. After independence, Luckhoo argued for keeping appeals to the Privy Council, feeling that its legitimacy could not be easily replicated in the Caribbean. He took Silk in 1954, and was appointed CBE in 1962.

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Biography by Sir Lionel Luckhoo


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