Friday, January 26, 2007

Lord Nolan

The death has been announced of Lord Michael Patrick Nolan, a former Law Lord on January 22, 2007.

The son of a solicitor, Michael Patrick Nolan was born in 1928. His father’s family had emigrated from Co Kerry during the Irish potato famine. He was brought up in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, and attended Ampleforth, where his housemaster instilled in him a lifelong love of fishing.

As a Judge, Nolan’s decisions were seldom fashionable or even popular.

His most important judgment was in M v Home Office, in which he found the former Home Secretary Kenneth Baker in contempt for deporting a Zairean refugee subject to a court order. This firmly established that ministers and civil servants were accountable for their personal actions and can be proceeded against..

A month later Nolan again publicly criticised the Home Secretary, this time for refusing to set our parole terms for a convicted IRA terrorist.

Nolan was a member of the Court of Appeal panel that overturned the convictions of the Birmingham Six.

He also allowed the appeal of Judith Ward against a conviction for killing ten people in a 1974 coach bombing. Describing that conviction as a “grave miscarriage of justice”, he said it had resulted from the deliberate withholding of evidence that proved her innocence. His judgment transformed police practice by institutionalising the right of defendants to see nearly all the papers produced by a criminal inquiry.

After two years at the Court of Appeal Nolan was appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (the English equivalent of a Supreme Court judge) in January 1994.

Appointed by John Major as chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Nolan left no one in any doubt that he, and he alone, would determine how the committee would conduct its business. The committee’s first report, published in mid-1995, argued that MPs should declare their earnings from acting as parliamentary consultants and be banned from acting as paid agents for lobbying firms. It also recommended that a new commissioner be set up to oversee MPs’ conduct.

The Telegraph has said: "Not the least reason for the Nolan committee's success was the recognition of its chairman's unquestionable personal integrity, which was rooted in a devout Roman Catholic faith."

In 2000 Nolan was asked by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, to conduct a review of the problem of paedophile priests. His report, published in April 2001, contained 50 recommendations. These included the setting up of a national child protection unit within the Church to root out child abuse by vetting clergy, lay staff and volunteers before they took on new posts. The unit, it was suggested, would have responsibility for maintaining a national database of information on all applicants for ordination to ensure that those deemed unsuitable to work in one diocese were not able to seek employment in another.

See the obituaries in
The Times

The Telegraph