Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Couch, Richard

COUCH, Sir RICHARD (1817–1905), judge, only son of Richard Couch of Bermondsey, was born on 17 May 1817. After being educated privately, he entered as a student of the Middle Temple on 10 Jan, 1838, and was called to the bar on 15 Jan. 1841. In 1844 he assisted in editing Blackstone's 'Commentaries' (21st edit.). For some years he practised on what was then the Norfolk circuit, and he was recorder of Bedford from 1858 to 1862. In the last year he became a puisne judge of the high court of Bombay upon its re-establishment under the charter of 1862. Upon the retirement of Sir Matthew Sausse in 1866 he succeeded to the chief justiceship of the court and was knighted. In 1870 he succeeded Sir Barnes Peacock [q. v.] as chief justice of the high court of Calcutta. In 1875 Couch was appointed president of the commission of inquiry into the charge brought against the Gaekwar of Baroda of conspiring to poison Colonel (afterwards Sir) Robert Phayre [q. v. Suppl. I]. The Gaekwar was defended by Serjeant Ballantine [q. v. Suppl. I]. Couch and the other English commissioners found the Gaekwar guilty of instigating the crime, but the native commissioners gave in effect a verdict of 'not proven.' In the same year Couch resigned the chief justiceship. Returning to England, he was made a member of the privy council, and in January 1881 he was appointed to the judicial committee as one of the two members enjoying judicial experience in India or the colonies (Act 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 41). In that capacity Couch did valuable work for twenty years. He was not a brilliant judge, but his judgements were invariably clear and his grasp of principles enabled him to deal efficiently even with appeals from South Africa and other parts of the empire where the prevailing system of law is not English. He was elected a bencher of his inn in March 1881. He died at his residence, 25 Linden Gardens, London, W., on 29 Nov. 1905, and was buried at Paddington cemetery.

Couch married on 1 Feb. 1845 Anne (d. 1898), eldest daughter of Richard Thomas Beck of Combs, Suffolk, and had one son, Richard Edward, also a barrister of the Middle Temple, who predeceased him.

[The Times, 30 Nov. 1905; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; Who's Who, 1904; Foster, Men at the Bar; Law Journal, 2 Dec. 1905.]

C. E. A. B.