Brian Hutton, Baron Hutton

James Brian Edward Hutton, Baron Hutton, PC (29 June 1932 – 14 July 2020) was a British Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.

The Lord Hutton

Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
In office
Appointed byElizabeth II
Preceded byLord Lowry
Succeeded byLord Carswell
Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
6 January 1997 – 11 January 2004
Appointed byElizabeth II
Preceded byThe Lord Woolf
Succeeded byLord Carswell
Personal details
James Brian Edward Hutton

(1932-06-29)29 June 1932
Belfast, United Kingdom
Died14 July 2020(2020-07-14) (aged 88)
Mary Murland
(m. 1975; died 2000)

Lindy Nickols
(m. 2001)
Children5 (3 stepchildren)[1]
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford


Hutton was born in Belfast in 1932, the son of a railways executive. He won a scholarship to Shrewsbury School[2] and Balliol College, Oxford (BA jurisprudence, 1953) before returning to Belfast to become a barrister (after study at Queen's University Belfast), being called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1954. He began working as junior counsel to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland in 1969.

He became a Queen's Counsel in 1970. From 1979 to 1989, he was (as Sir Brian Hutton) a High Court judge. In 1989, he became Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, becoming a member of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland, before moving to England to become a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary 6 January 1997. He was consequently granted a life peerage as Baron Hutton, of Bresagh in the County of Down.[3]


On 30 March 1994, as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, he dismissed Private Lee Clegg's appeal against his controversial murder conviction. On 21 March 2002 Lord Hutton was one of four Law Lords to reject David Shayler's application to use a "public interest" defence as defined in section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1989 at his trial.

Lord Hutton represented the Ministry of Defence at the inquest into the killing of civil rights marchers on "Bloody Sunday". Later, he publicly reprimanded Major Hubert O'Neil, the coroner presiding over the inquest, when the coroner accused the British Army of murder, as this contradicted the findings of the Widgery Tribunal.[4][5]

Hutton also came to public attention in 1999 during the extradition proceedings of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet had been arrested in London on torture allegations by request of a Spanish judge. Five Law Lords, the UK's highest court, decided by a 3-2 majority that Pinochet was to be extradited to Spain. The verdict was then overturned by a panel of seven Law Lords, including Lord Hutton[6] on the grounds that Lord Hoffmann, one of the five Law Lords, had links to human rights group Amnesty International which had campaigned for Pinochet's extradition.

In 1978, he defended the UK at the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ireland v United Kingdom, when the court decided that the interrogation techniques used were "inhuman and degrading" and breached the European Convention on Human Rights, but did not amount to "torture". The court also found that the practice of internment in Northern Ireland had not breached the Convention. He sentenced 10 men to 1,001 years in prison on the word of "supergrass" informer Robert Quigley, who was granted immunity in 1984.[citation needed]

Lord Hutton was appointed by Tony Blair's government to chair the inquiry on the circumstances surrounding the death of scientist David Kelly. The inquiry commenced on 11 August 2003. Many observers were surprised when he delivered his report on 28 January 2004 and cleared the British Government in large part. His criticism of the BBC was regarded by some as unduly harsh; one critic commented that he had given the "benefit of judgement to virtually everyone in the government and no-one in the BBC.".[7] In response to the verdict, the front page of The Independent newspaper consisted of one word, "Whitewash?"[citation needed]

Peter Oborne wrote in The Spectator in January 2004: "Legal opinion in Northern Ireland, where Lord Hutton practised for most of his career, emphasises the caution of his judgments. He is said to have been habitually chary of making precedents. But few people seriously doubt Hutton's fairness or independence. Though [he is] a dour Presbyterian, there were spectacular acquittals of some very grisly IRA terrorist suspects when he was a judge in the Diplock era."[8]

Lord Hutton retired as a Law Lord on 11 January 2004. He remained a member of the House of Lords until retiring under the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 on 23 April 2018.[9]

He died on 14 July 2020 at the age of 88.[10]


  • Mr James Brian Edward Hutton (1932–1969)
  • Mr James Brian Edward Hutton, QC (1970–1978)
  • Sir James Brian Edward Hutton (1979–1989)
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir James Brian Edward Hutton (1989–1997)
  • The Rt. Hon. Lord Hutton, PC (1997–2020)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Norton-Taylor, Richard (4 August 2020). "Lord Hutton obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  2. ^ Lord Hutton profile, The Independent
  3. ^ "State Intelligence". London Gazette. 13 January 1997. Retrieved 29 April 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "1973: 'Bloody Sunday' inquest accuses Army". BBC. 21 August 1973. Retrieved 18 December 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Paul Foot: The old Orange judge". the Guardian. 4 February 2004.
  6. ^ "Pinochet judge under pressure". Retrieved 17 July 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "Dyke warning over Hutton report". BBC News. 18 December 2017.
  8. ^ "The truth is he lied". 10 January 2004.
  9. ^ "Lord Hutton". UK Parliament.
  10. ^ "Sign In to The Times & The Sunday Times".

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Lowry
Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Robert Carswell