Sue Rabbitt Roff in The Independent:
Jeremy Hutchinson, who died earlier this month aged 102, was one of England’s finest criminal barristers, and the counsel of choice for some of the most high-profile cases of his era. He defended the likes of Christine Keeler and Great Train robber Charles Wilson and also obscenity cases against novels such as Fanny Hill and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Later known as Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, his role defending Penguin Books after it published the unexpurgated version of the DH Lawrence classic is particularly memorable. It remains the landmark case in British obscenity law. But look at the details and something extraordinary emerges: Penguin’s decision to publish 200,000 copies on the advice of Hutchinson and joint lead counsel Gerald Gardiner was a massive gamble. It set up a case that were it not for the incompetence of the prosecution could easily have gone the other way.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover had only ever been legally published in abridged versions in the UK, starting in 1932. Though by 1960 the unexpurgated edition was sold in Europe and America and could be obtained under the counter in London if you knew where to go, Penguin co-founder Allen Lane wanted to publish a cheap paperback of the full thing. The idea was to put it out at 3s 6d, the same price as 10 cigarettes, to make it affordable for the “young and the hoi polloi”. The excuse was the 30th anniversary of Lawrence’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 45. When Penguin consulted Hutchinson and Gardiner, the lawyers retreated to reflect. A trial under the new Obscene Publications Act seemed inevitable. The act’s first paragraph stated that material will be deemed obscene if it contains elements that tend as a whole “to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely … to read, see or hear” it. The act included a new defence in cases where the offending segments were “for the public good on the ground that [they are] in the interests of science, literature, art or learning”. In consultation with several literary experts, Hutchinson and Gardiner felt most of the racy scenes and bad language – including (30) “f***s” and (14) “c***s” – could fall under this defence. Lawrence, after all, was one of the most highly regarded writers of his era.