Tributes to part-time Canterbury Crown Court judge Peter Harrison QC after death
Kent's senior judges and lawyers have today paid a special
tribute to top barrister Peter Harrison QC, who has died.
Recorder Harrison, 47, had sat as a part-time judge at
Canterbury Crown Court and had been joint head of the successful 6
Pump Court Chambers.
He was found dead at his London flat last week, but police are
not treating his death as suspicious.
Today Canterbury's top judge Adele Williams paid a moving
tribute to her friend and colleague, who had been called to the Bar
in 1986 and took silk seven years ago.
She told a court packed with judges, barristers and court staff
the death of Mr Harrison (pictured right) had been "a
"We all share a profound sense of shock and loss," she said.
Judge Williams praised the lawyer as "a wonderful
companion, with a good sense of humour who could be very
She added: "He was a very well-respected silk and recorder and
was very highly regarded by members of the bar and staff alike. He
could be kind and generous and always concerned about his fellow
human beings and was a good listener."
Mr Harrison, who was a church commissioner, made his name in
planning and environmental law - appearing in many of the top
building enquiries in London, including Three Sisters and the
Vauxhall Tower court cases.
"He was a very well-respected silk and recorder and was very highly regarded by members of the bar and staff alike...” – Judge Adele Williams
"When he sat at Canterbury as a recorder he demonstrated he had
all the necessary skills to sit as a judge. In due course I am
confident he would have made an excellent judge."
Senior barrister Oliver Saxby – from 6 Pump Court – added: "The
news (of his death) was shocking and upsetting when we first heard
it and still remains so.
"He was just such a nice man, modest, sincere, able, quick to
smile and to laugh. He was slow to criticise and to find
Mr Saxby also remembered his colleague playing for the Bar in a
cricket game when he threw the ball and hit the Square Leg umpire –
also a judge - in the back of the head by accident.
As the judge turned around to discover who had hit him, Mr
Harrison looked at another fielder nearby... and shook his head,
making everyone laugh, Mr Saxby added.
Recorder Harrison QC was on the bench at Canterbury Crown Court
last year presiding over a difficult child cruelty case, said
KM Group court reporter Paul Hooper.
"Because a legal restriction on identifying the child victim was
in place, it effectively meant that the identities of the two who
had inflicted the horrific injuries could not be published," he
"I felt it was important to challenge the order and I made what
I thought was a strong case to persuade the judge to lift the ban
and allow us to name the sadistic pair in the court
"He listened patiently, smiled respectfully and then told me:
'Mr Hooper, you make a very compelling case....' before adding
words reporters always dread: 'But...'
"He then explained he had a duty to put the interests of the
child ahead of the rights of the Press to report the case which had
been held in public.
"The child, who was now being lovingly cared for by foster
parents, was near school age and he felt that the naming of the two
might jeopardise the victim's recovery.
"Of course, I disagreed. It is an anathema to me that
perpetrators of dreadful child cruelties should benefit from
legislation, designed to protect youngsters, and effectively hide
behind their undeserved anonymity.
"Of course, he was right. It is one of the hardest tasks judges
have to perform, to weigh in the balance the rights of victims –
especially vulnerable children – with the rights of newspapers to
publish court cases fairly, accurately and in full.
"The child in that case had suffered at the hands of people who
had treated her like a rag doll. Now she had a chance to rebuild
her life. I understood that.
"Later that day, Recorder Harrison and I met at the exit of the
court and exchanged respectful professional nods. We then spoke
about cricket and the late afternoon sunshine before he caught the
train back to his London home.
"He was a kindly and unpompous advocate and I warmed to him
instantly. I genuinely looked forward to his return this year. Now
sadly we have been robbed of the wisdom of a man who despite
reaching the top of his profession never lost the common
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