Brian Kerr is preparing to take on the mantle of Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland in the morning.
His appointment is a knock-on effect of the decision by Lord Hutton to retire as a law lord today. The completion of his eagerly awaited report into the death of British Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly – due to be published by the end of the month – will be his last official legal duty.
Kerr takes over from Robert Carswell at the helm of the judiciary in Northern Ireland, with Carswell becoming a law lord in place of Lord Hutton.
Only the second Catholic to hold the top legal post in Belfast, he has been a High Court judge since 1993 and has ruled on numerous politically contentious cases.
He was educated at St Colman’s College in Newry, Co Down, and at Queen’s University in Belfast.
He was called to the Bar in Northern Ireland in 1970 and in England four years later.
He took silk in Northern Ireland in 1983 and he was appointed a Senior Crown Counsel in 1988.
When his appointment was confirmed last month, he said he was deeply honoured to be replacing Robert Caswell and looked forward to meeting the challenges of his new role.
Kerr said: “The justice system is in a period of considerable change. As judges we recognise that we must play our part in the implementation of those changes.
For instance, we will be participating in the establishment of a new Judicial Appointments Commission and will be dealing with the many legislative initiatives that will have an impact on the work of the courts.
“I am confident that the judiciary will rise to the challenge that these changes present while continuing to manage the ongoing and significant workload undertaken in courts at every level.”