Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, who retired as a Justice of the UK Supreme Court just two months ago, has died at the age of 72.
Tributes have been paid from across the United Kingdom to a man who, when he retired, was the court's longest serving Justice and its first from Northern Ireland – and one who was said to have "a twinkle in his eye" and a mischievous sense of humour.
Lord Reed, President of the Supreme Court, said: "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.
"Brian Kerr had the most distinguished of legal careers. As a barrister in Northern Ireland he served as Crown counsel for a period of 15 years. He became a High Court judge at the age of 44, at a time when the decision to serve as a judge in Northern Ireland required courage and a strong sense of duty. He served on the High Court for 11 years, and then for five years in the extremely demanding role of Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. In 2009 he was appointed to the House of Lords as the last Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, and later that year he became one of the first justices of the Supreme Court.
"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: in Northern Ireland, in the rest of the United Kingdom, in Europe through his service as an ad hoc judge on the European Court of Human Rights, and in the many jurisdictions around the world for which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council serves as the final court of appeal. 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."
Bernard Brady QC, chair of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, added: "The Bar Council of Northern Ireland is shocked and deeply saddened at the news today of the untimely passing of Lord Kerr. He will be remembered by many members of the Bar who were proud to have worked alongside and appeared before him during his most distinguished legal and judicial career...
"The legal world has lost a truly excellent role model and he leaves behind a significant legacy which stands as testament to his immense contribution to our justice system. Lord Kerr was always a highly regarded and much cherished friend of the Bar and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Gillian and family, including John, Patrick, Neasa and Una at the Bar, to whom we offer our unlimited support at this very difficult time."
The Faculty of Advocates tweeted: "We are very sad to hear of the untimely death of Lord Kerr. His human rights judgments were insightful. He was not afraid to strongly disagree, always respectfully. A man of principle."
In memory of Lord Kerr, the Supreme Court flag has been lowered to half mast on 1 and 2 December.