Published Monday, 25 June 2012
Justice McLaughlin has retired after 40-year legal career. (© NI Courts Service)
Tributes have flooded in from friends and colleagues at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast for Mr Justice Richard McLaughlin who has served 13 years on the bench.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan told those gathered that he has given years of outstanding service to the public.
"He has presided over some of the most high-profile and most controversial criminal trials in this jurisdiction," Sir Declan said.
"Among those sentenced by Mr Justice McLaughlin were Gary Taylor and Nigel Brown, the two Belfast men convicted of murdering schoolboy Thomas Devlin; and Armagh woman Jacqueline Crymble for killing her husband Paul."
He made legal history by imposing a whole life tariff on Sion Mills man Trevor Hamilton for the murder of retired librarian Attracta Harron in 2003.
The Court of Appeal later reduced the sentence to a minimum 35-years behind bars.
He presided over recent cases including those of Portglenone property fraudster Kevin O'Kane and the acquittal of the grandparents of Rebecca McKeown, who died in 2001.
A just man deciding justly, a judge of conscience, learning and integrity.
Attorney General John Larkin QC
Family and friends of the Ardoyne-born judge said he displayed "the human side of the judiciary".
Among anecdotes of his handling of cases, one recalled his decision to teach a schoolboy burglary suspect a lesson by temporarily seizing his Xbox games console.
Mr Justice McLaughlin, an avid golfer and hiker, explained his reasons for standing down at least five years before compulsory.
Referring to Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken, he said there was another side of life to explore.
"I relish the opportunity now, when I'm still able to walk and still able to play golf and enjoy many things, to walk the road not taken all those years back," he added.
"If, as Oscar Wilde said, youth is wasted on the young, I hope to demonstrate that retirement is not wasted on the elderly."