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Tributes to Lord Judge by Charles Kinnoull and Lord Anderson

Lord Judge: 19 May 1941 – 7 November 2023 | Image courtesy of UK Parliament

Charles Kinnoull and Lord Anderson

7 min read

Kind, wise and witty – and in possession of a lethal logic – former lord chief justice Igor Judge commanded the attention and affection of the House

Igor Judge was born in Malta in 1941 at the height of the siege which saw that gallant island the most bombed place on the planet during the first 18 months of his life. Of course we know that his father Raymond was called Judge, but his remarkable mother Rosa's maiden name was Micallef, the Maltese for judge. As he observed he had therefore little choice in profession.

At 13 he came to school in England at the Oratory, a fellow pupil with Lord Berkeley of Knighton who recalled his reputation, even at that age, for sagacity and integrity. From there he proceeded to Magdalene College Cambridge and was called to the bar in 1963.

It was soon after this that he married Judith, his great companion and, as he liked to say, his better half. He took great pride in their three children and clutch of grandchildren in an especially close and warm family environment.

His legal career has already been described on these pages by David Anderson, but suffice it to say he sat on benches of various sorts for 32 years, finishing, via his presidency of the Queen's Bench Division, as lord chief justice.

On retiring from that role in 2013 he finally could take his seat up in the Lords. Never one to shirk a challenge he concentrated his political energies on the balance between Parliament and the executive, his weapons of choice being wit and a lethal logic. In a House prone to lengthy interventions his style was heroically short and crisp.

In legislation, and in four years on the Constitution Committee, he proved a formidable and highly effective parliamentarian who not only often won through but left those involved contented. 

He was filled with that pretty rare commodity, common sense

In 2019 he was unanimously elected as the convenor of the crossbench and worked tirelessly on behalf of his flock, finessing many an awkward situation and no matter how busy he was, always seeming to have time for his crossbenchers. He brought his experience and wisdom to the many committees that the convenor serves on, filled as he was with that pretty rare commodity, common sense.

It was while as convenor that he briefly held the record for the size of a government defeat on one of his amendments to the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, but typically took pleasure only when at a later stage his point was conceded.

Recently he and I had spent sometime discussing crossbench voting patterns, a subject that has bubbled up in Lords of late. He was of the view that a vote against a government was either motivated by opposition to that government or a desire to improve law. He voted only using this latter principal.

Igor had many great passions and interests. He loved cricket, having captained the Oratory, and a visit to his room would frequently and rapidly become a discussion of recent results or future encounters. He loved poetry, reciting especially TS Eliot, often as he arrived in the convenor's office. He loved Leicester City, along with fellow fans Baronesses Henig and Fraser and Lord Bourne. In this he was an evangelist, hoping to persuade the labour chief whip, Lord Kennedy, to renounce Millwall and join their ranks.

During the debate on the Gracious Speech on 8 November, the House heard the sad news and many members turned their opening remarks to their affectionate memories of Igor. The following day a full House gathered for formal tributes. Alongside members, staff from all corners of the House have offered condolences and memories. The common theme is of Igor’s integrity, his clarity of thought, gentle humour and kindness.

Lord Charles Kinnoull is convenor of the crossbench peers

Great judges rarely become great parliamentarians. To achieve that elusive double requires a range of attributes: learning and sagacity of course – but also shrewdness, humanity, and wit. Igor Judge combined all these qualities with a devotion to Parliament and its constitutional role. He cared deeply about the work of the Lords, and all who made it possible. In return he commanded attention and affection, right across the House, to an extent that can only be described as unique.

Igor cut his teeth on the Midland Circuit, where he made his name as a much-feared prosecutor in heavy cases. Later he became known as a sure-footed judge, immune from the fashion for prolixity, and a far-sighted judicial administrator. As lord chief justice, he steered the judiciary through many difficulties and was an early champion of the Judicial Studies Board (now the Judicial College), the Sentencing Council and the Criminal Procedure Rules.

Civil servants, fellow-judges and court staff were treated with equal and unvarying courtesy – backed by an expectation of the highest standards. Nobody ever refused him: he asked so engagingly that nobody wanted to. His kindness is exemplified by the unsolicited letters he would write to law officers about counsel who had appeared before him and who he thought deserved recognition. When he retired from the bench, his valedictory ended with a standing ovation.

Deeply attached to the common law, Igor was always ready to defend it from misdirected challenges. So he pushed back when the European Court of Human Rights questioned whole-life sentences; and when the hearsay evidence rules were challenged, he helped to pioneer the notion of judicial dialogue between our Supreme Court and Strasbourg. The dialogue that followed was mainly one-way: to the surprise of no one who knew Igor, it was Strasbourg that relented.

Nobody ever refused him: he asked so engagingly that nobody wanted to

Igor’s legal and historical interests enriched the work of the Lords, to which he devoted his last 10 years. He wrote a book on Magna Carta, and illuminated his distaste for executive over-reach by analogies drawn from Tudor and Stuart history. But he sought neither a reputation for cleverness, nor a share in the power that he knew must ultimately reside in the elected House. The currency that he valued – and in which he became rich – was influence. He achieved it through wisdom, experience and persuasion.

Though no one’s idea of a “lefty lawyer”, Igor did not hold back when provoked by what he saw as ministerial (or prime ministerial) high-handedness. The executive was accountable to Parliament, he reminded us, not the other way round. Addressing the Chamber, his techniques included understatement, powerful satire, extreme brevity and – as in last year’s Queen’s Speech debate, in which he referenced Wat Tyler, John Lilburne and Oliver Cromwell – irresistible calls to rebellion. The speeches read well on the page. But to see and hear them was to pick up the twinkle in his eye, and a general sense that however egregious the folly he had identified, all might yet be sorted out with goodwill and a quiet word.

As crossbench convenor, Igor did his best to imprint his standards of excellence on a younger generation of peers. For some, it was enough to observe him in action: others needed a bit of prompting. Newly arrived on the red benches, I remember mentioning to him airily that I might speak for eight or 10 minutes on the issue of the moment. Igor recoiled in (possibly forensic) shock. “Keep it to five!” he counselled firmly, and was gone. Sound advice, for all of us in Parliament, from a crossbench peer without compare.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich is a crossbench peer

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