Robert Lowry, Baron Lowry

  (Redirected from Robert Lynd Erskine Lowry)

Robert Lynd Erskine Lowry, Baron Lowry, PC, PC (NI) (30 January 1919 – 15 January 1999), was a Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.[1] Knighted in 1971,[2] he was created a life peer as Baron Lowry, of Crossgar in the County of Down, on 18 July 1979, in the early months of the Thatcher government.[1][3]

Early lifeEdit

His father was former Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament[4] and Attorney General for Northern Ireland William Lowry. His mother was a niece of Sinn Féin activist, Robert Wilson Lynd.[4][5] He attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read Classics, achieving a double first.[1]


During the Second World War, he fought with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Tunisia, followed by the Royal Irish Fusiliers before becoming a Major in 1945.[1]

He has since held the title of Honorary Colonel for


He was admitted to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1947. He was a High Court Judge in Northern Ireland from 1964 until he became Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland in 1971, when he was also made a Northern Ireland Privy Counsellor.

Prior to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 coming into force, Lowry excluded confessions made by Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) suspects in British Army detention on the grounds that they were not made voluntarily. The introduction of the Act reduced the scope of what was inadmissible.[4]

Lowry did not exclude self-incriminating evidence alone as insufficient to convict upon, and in R v. Gorman[6] he found that the Northern Ireland Act 1972 s. 1, by retrospectively validating the conferment of powers of arrest under the regulations, rendered lawful the otherwise unlawful arrest and subsequent detention of Gorman. Lowry was unable to implement Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as it was not incorporated into UK law until the Human Rights Act 1998.

In 1975, Lowry was appointed by Merlyn Rees to chair the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention, an unsuccessful attempt to replace the collapsed Sunningdale Agreement.

In 1977, John Hume challenged a regulation under the 1922 Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland), which allowed any soldier to disperse an assembly of three or more people. Lowry held the regulation was ultra vires under Section 4 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 which forbade the Parliament of Northern Ireland from making laws in respect of the British Army.[4]

In 1980, Lowry partly excused the actions of two Royal Ulster Constabulary members of the Glennane gang[7] convicted of murder and bombing by saying they acted under the "powerful motive... that more than ordinary police work was justified to rid the land of the pestilence which had been in existence". This was criticised by the Historical Enquiries Team of the Police Service of Northern Ireland as "difficult to conceive of a statement more fundamentally flawed or calculated to destroy the confidence of a large section of the community in the court's independence and probity".[8][unreliable source?][9]

Lowry presided over some of the Diplock court cases. He also presided over the supergrass trial in 1983 where Kevin McGrady, a former IRA member, gave evidence which led to the conviction of seven out of ten defendants. As a result, Lowry became an IRA target, narrowly missing death on at least three occasions. In 1982, having just survived a hail of IRA bullets, he proceeded to give a planned lecture at Queen's University, Belfast.[5]

He was an honorary Bencher of the King's Inns, Dublin, and of the Middle Temple, and he was a Law Lord.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Lord Lowry married twice:

  • Mary Martin (d. 1987), in 1948, with whom he had three daughters (Sheila, Anne and Margaret).
  • Barbara Calvert, Lady Lowry QC, in 1994 (daughter of Albert Parker CBE). She died in 2015.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Person Page".
  2. ^ "No. 45494". The London Gazette. 12 October 1971. p. 10977.
  3. ^ "No. 47909". The London Gazette. 20 July 1979. p. 9149.
  4. ^ a b c d ODNB
  5. ^ a b Obituary: Lord Lowry; The Independent; 18 January 1999
  6. ^ [1974] NI 152
  7. ^ "Collusion Cut Both Ways In The Troubles | John Ware". Standpoint. 23 June 2015.
  8. ^ Adams, Gerry (7 November 2013). "Léargas: Lethal Allies by Anne Cadwallader".
  9. ^ HET report, Micheal McGrath
  10. ^ Barbara Calvert QC (Lady Lowry)
Legal offices
Preceded by
John MacDermott
Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Brian Hutton