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Legal community pays tribute to former Chief Justice

Sir Austin Ward, former Chief Justice of Bermuda (File photograph)

Bermuda’s legal community paid tribute to former Chief Justice, the late Sir Austin Ward, who died in his native Barbados last month at the age of 85.

In a special online hearing held on Friday, Sir Christopher Clarke, President of the Court of Appeal, said Sir Austin had a keen and wise legal mind and a fierce commitment to the law.

Sir Christopher said: “He was a soft-spoken man. Notwithstanding this, Sir Austin was described by some lawyers as being a formidable force and a man who tolerated no nonsense.

“Some lawyers received lessons in court when on their feet giving submissions that did not entirely accord with Sir Austin’s view of the law.”

He added Sir Austin was a consummate gentleman and a published poet.

Sir Christopher said: “Bermuda has been enriched by his unmatched contribution to it’s legal system, which he served unwaveringly and with distinction.”

Chief Justice Narinder Hargun said Sir Austin made many contributions to Bermuda’s legal system, noting that his term as Chief Justice coincided with Bermuda’s emergence as an international business hub.

Mr Justice Hargun said Sir Austin presided over seminal cases in the complicated legal field, but will equally be remembered as a gentleman who was always polite, kind and helpful.

Elizabeth Christopher, the president of the Bermuda Bar Council, said Sir Austin was a pillar of the legal community that now mourns his loss.

Ms Christopher said: “He lived a life of quiet and humble service in our community for most, if not all, of his professional life.

“As the situation permitted, he was either a man of wit and quiet mischief or a concise and reflective jurist.”

Mark Pettingill, a former Attorney-General, recalled an incident in which Sir Austin called him into his office for what he feared would be chastisement – only for the judge to ask him advice about beard grooming.

Mr Pettingill said: “That was the only advice he ever asked me for.”

He added Sir Austin was a patient man who always sought wisdom and understood the value of family.

Sir Austin came to Bermuda in 1969 from Barbados and served in a range of judicial roles including a magistrate, Registrar of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice until his retirement in 2004.

In retirement, Sir Austin split his time between Bermuda, where he had status and Barbados, serving as the chairman of the commission into the deadly Glendiary Prison fire during a riot in 2005.

He was a member of the Bermuda Court of Appeal from 2004 until 2013, and was knighted in 2006 for his service to the island.

Sir Austin died with his wife Francisca at his side at home in Springvale, St Andrew, Barbados on February 22. He had two daughters and several grandchildren.

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Published March 22, 2021 at 8:18 am (Updated March 22, 2021 at 8:18 am)

Legal community pays tribute to former Chief Justice

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