Samuel Silkin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Lord Silkin of Dulwich

Shadow Attorney General
In office
4 May 1979 – 14 July 1979
LeaderJames Callaghan
Preceded byMichael Havers
Succeeded byJohn Morris
In office
5 March 1974 – 4 May 1979
Prime Minister
Preceded byPeter Rawlinson
Succeeded byMichael Havers
Member of Parliament
for Dulwich
In office
15 October 1964 – 13 May 1983
Preceded byRobert Jenkins
Succeeded byGerald Bowden
Personal details
Born(1918-03-06)6 March 1918
Died17 August 1988(1988-08-17) (aged 70)
Political partyLabour
Alma materTrinity Hall, Cambridge

Samuel Charles Silkin, Baron Silkin of Dulwich, PC, QC (6 March 1918 – 17 August 1988) was a British Labour Party politician and cricketer.

Early life[edit]

He was the second son of Lewis Silkin (afterwards Baron Silkin), a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) and a minister in Clement Attlee's Cabinet from 1945 to 1950. His younger brother, John, was also an MP and Cabinet minister.

Samuel Silkin was educated at Dulwich College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He played two games of first-class cricket in 1938, one each for Cambridge University Cricket Club and Glamorgan County Cricket Club.[1]


He became a lawyer; he was called to the bar in 1941. On 18 March 1946, Silkin, with the military rank of Lieutenant Colonel, presided over the Double Tenth war crimes trials at the Supreme Court Building in Singapore. Twenty-one Japanese Kenpeitai were accused of torturing 57 internees, resulting in the deaths of 15.[2] On 15 April 1946, after a hearing lasting 21 days, eight were sentenced to death by hanging. Three others received life imprisonment, one a sentence of fifteen years, and two were given prison terms of eight years. Seven were acquitted.[3]

In 1963, Silkin was raised to the rank of Queen's Counsel. He chaired the Society of Labour Lawyers. He served as a councillor on Camberwell Borough Council from 1953 until 1959.

Parliamentary career[edit]

At the 1964 general election, Silkin was elected Member of Parliament for the Dulwich constituency, adjoining his father's former constituency of Peckham. He was re-elected in Dulwich until his retirement at the 1983 general election.

From 1974 to 1979, he served as Attorney General for England and Wales and Northern Ireland under Labour Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. After his retirement from politics, he was created a life peer as Baron Silkin of Dulwich, of North Leigh in the County of Oxfordshire on 13 May 1985.[4]


Silkin died in 1988, aged 70. He left, by his first wife Elaine Stamp (whom he married in 1941), two sons and two daughters. He did not have any children by his widow, Sheila Swanston, whom he married in 1985 after his first wife's death.


  1. ^ "Sam Silkin". CricketArchive. Retrieved 27 May 2007. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "The Double Tenth Trial". National Library Board, Singapore. Archived from the original on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2007. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Thompson, "The Double Tenth", pp. 406–414.
  4. ^ "No. 50126". The London Gazette. 17 May 1985. p. 6887.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Jenkins
Member of Parliament for Dulwich
Succeeded by
Gerald Bowden
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Rawlinson
Attorney General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Michael Havers
Attorney General for Northern Ireland