Former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground dies

  • Former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground

    Former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground

Former Chief Justice of Bermuda Sir Richard Ground, who presided over the Island’s Supreme Court for eight years, has died at the age of 64.

Sir Richard passed away on Saturday at his home in Grindleford, Derbyshire, following treatment for cancer.

Premier Craig Cannonier last night hailed him as a reformer of the Island’s justice system.

His untimely death was described by his successor, current Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, as “a blow and great loss to the Judiciary as a whole”.

“Sir Richard Ground served Bermuda’s Judiciary sitting on the Supreme Court in two spells,” Mr Justice Kawaley said. “Initially, he served as a Puisne Judge between 1992 and 1998. He was subsequently Bermuda’s first Chief Justice to be appointed in the 21st century, and served in that capacity between 2004 and 2012.”

He had been appointed last year to the Island’s Court of Appeal, but was unable to sit due to his illness.

Mr Justice Kawaley hailed Sir Richard as “a model modern judge, setting very high standards of efficiency, fairness, clarity of reasoning and soundness of judgment in all the cases he dealt with”.

“I am saddened by his passing, but confident that his legal legacy will continue to illumine Bermuda’s legal system for years to come. He was an important role model for me, personally.”

Mr Cannonier said: “Sir Richard’s contributions to Bermuda were many. As a member of Bermuda’s Court of Appeal and a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he ably presided over criminal and commercial cases while reforming the court system to make it more efficient and responsive. It is fair to say that in his time on the Bench, Sir Richard strengthened and maintained the Island’s standing as a legal jurisdiction.

“Moreover, Sir Richard was an avid naturalist whose camera captured much that is beautiful about our island. There is no question that he loved Bermuda and gave his all to make a positive contribution.

“From the many comments I have heard this weekend, it is clear that Sir Richard was admired and respected by all who knew him professionally. and by those fortunate enough to call him friend. Bermuda is the poorer for his loss.”

According to a tribute issued by the Supreme Court of Bermuda, Sir Richard and his wife Dace “both considered the years they spent in Bermuda to have been their happiest and most productive”.

Sir Richard’s career included a term as Chief Justice in the Turks and Caicos Islands from 1998 to 2004, and as Attorney General in the Cayman Islands from 1987 to 1992.

Attorney General Mark Pettingill yesterday spoke of his “deep admiration and respect for him as a judge and what he contributed to Bermuda”.

“I was fortunate to get to know him on a personal basis. His wit and wisdom, love of nature, pleasure in good company and intellectual conversation are things I will recall fondly always,” Mr Pettingill added.

“He was, in my view, a gentleman and a scholar beyond refute, who had the ability to demand nothing less than the best of all of us who had the pleasure to work with him. For that, I am profoundly grateful and I am confident that many at the Bar share that feeling.

“He was indeed blessed to share his life with his incredible wife Dace who I can only hope will find comfort in the memories of the rich time they shared.

“Bermuda has lost a true friend who so fully contributed to the law and the Island.”

Head of the Bermuda Bar Association Justin Williams offered condolences to the Ground family, and said Sir Richard would be remembered “not only as judge who helped elevate the reputation of Bermuda in legal circles internationally, but as someone who was a friend to many in the community and who retired from Bermuda to the regret but admiration of all”.

Also giving condolences on behalf of the Supreme Court, Acting Registrar Peter Miller said Sir Richard had been held in high regard as “a Jurist of high intellect” as well as “a courteous judge who treated all with fairness”.

Sir Richard was an avid photographer of wildlife, ranging from fish to birds and butterflies. His work featured in magazines, calendars and books.

A keen historian, he collected Tudor coins and Bronze Age weaponry.

Sir Richard’s fairness was recalled by barrister Juliana Snelling, who in a letter appearing in today’s edition commended the former Chief Justice as a man who “paved the way for our celebrated black Bermudian current Chief Justice, Ian Kawaley, and the handover of the role from one to the other in the public’s perception was seamless and welcoming”.

Sir Richard was born in Stamford, England in 1949, later attending Lincoln College, Oxford and the Inns of Court School of Law.

He was Called to the Bar in 1975 at Gray’s Inn, appointed Queen’s Counsel for the Cayman Islands in 1987, and elected a Bencher of his Inn in 2011. Sir Richard was also awarded an OBE in 2011 for his service as AG in Cayman. In recognition of his service to Bermuda, he was made a Knight Honour in the Birthday Honours List, 2012. His other legal appointments included service as Justice of the Court of Appeal for the Tucks and Caicos Islands from 2005, and an appointment to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal in 2012.

Starting out in media law, Sir Richard worked on a landmark libel case involving the Daily Mail, and gave legal advice to some of the UK’s top newspapers.

Deciding to move on after seven years as a London lawyer, Sir Richard applied for a position as a Magistrate in the Solomon Islands — but was told that at 33 he was too young for the job.

However, he spotted a vacancy in the Cayman Islands, where he went to serve as Crown counsel — later telling The Royal Gazette: “I had no idea where that was, but I went out there in March, 1983, and stayed for nine years.”

It was there that he met Dace McCoy, a Harvard-trained lawyer serving as Marine Parks Coordinator for a system of protected marine areas. The couple married in 1986.

Lady Ground became the founding executive director of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, and later volunteered for the Bermuda National Trust.

In 2012, the couple retired to Derbyshire. Sir Richard contracted brain cancer a year later, but had hoped to return to judicial work before succumbing to his illness.

In a 2006 interview with this newspaper, Sir Richard spoke highly of his latest stint on the Island.

“It’s top quality in terms of the challenge and the competency of the counsel that appear in front of you,” he said. “You can’t find anywhere better than here.”

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Published Feb 24, 2014 at 12:01 am (Updated Feb 23, 2014 at 12:33 am)

Former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground dies

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