Retired Supreme Court justice Lord Kerr dies aged 72

Telegraph reporters
·3-min read
Lord Kerr with the Supreme Court judges 2017  - UK Supreme Court/Kevin Leighto 
Lord Kerr with the Supreme Court judges 2017 - UK Supreme Court/Kevin Leighto

Tributes have been paid to retired Supreme Court justice Lord Kerr, who has died at the age of 72.

Brian Francis Kerr, Lord of Tonaghmore, died following a short illness two months after his retirement, the Supreme Court announced on Tuesday.

Lord Kerr had served as the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland between 2004 and 2009, when he was appointed as one of the first Justices in the newly-created Supreme Court.

He was the first Justice of the Supreme Court to come from Northern Ireland, serving until his retirement in September 2020.

Lord Kerr was educated at St Colman's College, Newry, before studying law at Queen's University, Belfast. He was called to the Bar in Northern Ireland in 1970, joining the bar of England and Wales four years later.

Serving as junior counsel for the Crown between 1978 and 1983, he took silk and served as senior Crown counsel from 1988 to 1993, when he was appointed a High Court judge and knighted.

Lord Kerr became Northern Ireland's last Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2009, the last Law Lord appointed before the creation of the Supreme Court.

President of the Supreme Court Lord Reed paid tribute on Tuesday, noting Lord Kerr became a high court judge "at a time when the decision to serve as a judge in Northern Ireland required courage and a strong sense of duty".

Lord Reed continued: "Justices and staff alike are shocked by the news, and we offer our deepest sympathy to Lady Kerr, her children and their families. They are all in our thoughts at this time, and we send them our condolences.

"Through his judgments and during hearings, Brian demonstrated his strong and instinctive sense of justice, and his thoughtful and principled approach to resolving legal problems.

"He will never know the full extent of the impact which his considerate, good-humoured and encouraging nature had on the court, the staff of the court, and his judicial colleagues.

"Nor will he ever know the full extent of the impact which his judgments had on the society we serve...But he has left us a legacy which will be drawn on well into the future.

"Brian was a deeply valued colleague, a kind and modest man of the utmost integrity, who will be deeply missed by all those who had the pleasure of working with him.

At the start of the afternoon session in the Supreme Court, Lord Lloyd-Jones also paid tribute to Lord Kerr, praising his "distinguished judicial career" and expressing condolences to Lord Kerr's family.

Lord Lloyd-Jones said: "He was a brilliant colleague, held in great affection and admiration.

"It is right that I should recognise the profound sorrow of us all at the news of his death coupled with the immense pride at having such a colleague."

The flag of the Supreme Court will be lowered to half-mast for Tuesday and Wednesday.