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Lord Toulson, former Supreme Court justice, has died

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He retired in 2016, but was still hearing cases as early as three weeks ago while the court looked for a replacement

Lord Toulson, 70, has died during a medical operation. The president of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said:

It is with great sadness that the Supreme Court learns of the death of Lord Toulson… Justices and staff alike are shocked by the news, and we offer our deepest sympathy to Lady Toulson, his children and their families. They are all very much in our thoughts at this tragic time.

Toulson has enjoyed a life of academic achievement and progression through the legal system’s top ranks.

Having completed his GCSEs aged 13 and his A-levels at 15, Toulson went on to earn a Cambridge degree and was then called to the bar in 1969. He enjoyed a successful commercial law practice, and was made silk in 1986. His first taste of life in the judiciary came when he was appointed a crown court recorder in 1987. In 1996 he was made a High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) judge, before being promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2007.

Toulson — who served as the chairman of the Law Commission between 2002 and 2006 — was made a justice in the highest court in the country in 2013. Speaking last year, he said his most memorable case from his Supreme Court stint was R v Jogee, which changed the doctrine of joint enterprise and sparked undergraduate law syllabus reform.

Reflecting on Toulson’s three years on the bench, Neuberger said today:

Through his judgments and during hearings, Lord Toulson demonstrated a learned, deeply thoughtful and principled approach to resolving legal problems. These qualities ensure that his enormous contribution to the common law will always be remembered as disproportionate to the relatively short time for which he served upon the Supreme Court. And of course, he made great contributions to the law and to the administration of justice as a judge in the High Court and Court of Appeal, as well as a practising barrister before that.

Neuberger continued:

He will never know the full extent of the impact that his considerate, thoughtful and encouraging nature had on the Court, the wider profession and the society we serve, but it is a legacy that we will all treasure long into the future.

Toulson reached his statutory retirement date and hung up his Supreme Court robes on 29 July 2016. However, the court chose not to replace him because of the spate of upcoming 2017 retirements (basically it made sense to find Toulson’s replacement at the same time as Lords Neuberger’s and Clarke’s).

Because of this, the court set up a rotating roster of top judges to sit on cases ad hoc. This bank of part-timers includes Lord Dyson, Lord Gill, Lord Hamilton, and Toulson himself. The last case he sat on was Jamaica Public Service Company, a Privy Council case involving an electricity licence clause, three weeks before his death. A final word from Neuberger:

He was a truly valued colleague, a man of honour, modesty and integrity who will be deeply missed by all with whom he worked.

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