Brian Kerr, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, who has died aged 72 after a short illness, was an energetic courtroom interrogator who became an ardent defender of the individual citizen’s human rights. The longest serving justice on the UK supreme court and a former lord chief justice of Northern Ireland, he was a progressive figure whose rulings advanced the rights of women and children and resolved controversies from the Troubles.
Along with supreme court colleagues, he found against the government in both Brexit-related challenges – over Article 50 triggering the UK’s departure from the EU in 2017 and the prorogation of parliament the following year. Of the prorogation case, he later told the Guardian:
The government’s position ought to be strongly tested … It was an intensely interesting case. I failed to resist the temptation to ask questions.”
He was most proud of the court’s 2018 ruling that eventually led on to the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. With other justices, he concluded that the Northern Ireland assembly’s law on abortion was incompatible with human rights.
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