Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Farewell to a Gentleman

I went a couple of weeks ago to the funeral of a former colleague, John. I was surprised to hear that he had died, because he was a familiar sight in our court until early this year, having, typically, worked as a volunteer with Witness Support following his retirement from the Bench at the set age of 70.
As so often happens, I discovered during the service just how wide was his circle of friends, and  how diverse were his activities in the community.

He was quite frankly one of the nicest men I have ever met. Quiet of speech and manner, he was always ready to take on any task that was put before him, and he joined my bench a few years after I did. He never commented on his luck when he drew the short straw of  a day dealing with TV licences, nor was he awed by the odd heavyweight case that came our way. At our occasional social evenings he was a tireless and cheerful barman, who just seemed to become part of the furniture.

I had the awkward task of telling him, many years ago, that he had failed to be selected as a court chairman and I decided to adopt the directest and safest course of telling the truth. I had appraised his performance from the well of the court, and while his understanding of the law and procedure was fine, his manner was hopeless. He reminded me of John Le Mesurier in 'Dad's Army' in the way that he wouldn't give an order, but rather make a kindly suggestion that the defendant might care to take a certain course of action.  I told him that his competence was undoubted, but that he was, as I put it, 'just too nice'.

To my relief he readily agreed, and the question of his taking the chair was discreetly shelved.

I shall miss him.


  1. From the description you gave that is the result I would have expected. Had I been in your place though I too would have been concerned.

  2. It's a true gentleman who can take rejection for a much sought after position with grace.

  3. The last chairman I appraised I commented that there was a bit too much of the Sgt Wilson about his handling of the court, he was not a bit pleased!

  4. I must have seen him but never having been introduced I don't know for sure that I know who he was. At any social events one tends to chat to colleagues rather than retired magistrates who one never sat with. Sad nevertheless.

  5. The problem with so many magistrates is what Professor Hendrik Vuye (Namur University, Belgium) calls "the President's syndrome'. Too often it is a long ego-trip, typical for Justice that not cares. This story proves judges can excel in modesty and tact.


Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.