Tributes paid to leading QC Stephen O'Rourke after sudden death

Tributes have been paid to Stephen O’Rourke QC, one of Scotland’s leading legal figures, after his sudden death.

The body of the principal crown counsel was discovered at his home in Edinburgh’s Moray Place shortly before midday on Wednesday by Police Scotland officers.

The circumstances of the 45-year-old’s death is being investigated by the force. The procurator fiscal is aware and will be involved in the investigation as required.

Mr O’Rourke was only appointed principal crown counsel in September, succeeding Alex Prentice QC.

The role was recognition for his years of service at the senior bar, during which time he acted for government, commercial and private clients. He specialised in public and commercial litigation, property law, professional negligence, inquiries and regulatory matters.

Mr O’Rourke, who studied law at Edinburgh and Bologna universities, served as an advocate depute from 2010 to 2013, and was a standing junior counsel to the advocate general for Scotland between 2013 to 2017.

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He took silk four years ago. In February, he was elected keeper of the library at the Faculty of Advocates.

Stephen O’Rourke QC was one of Scotland's most respected legal figures.

Originally from Greenock, Inverclyde, he also carved out a successful career as a writer and novelist. He wrote a law column for The Scotsman, and The Crown Agent, his historical spy thriller, has been widely acclaimed.

Leading the tributes to Mr O’Rourke, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC it was with “deep sorrow” that she had learned the “tragic news” about her “dear colleague and friend.”

“Stephen made a lasting impression on everyone he met and his loss will be sorely felt by his family, friends, colleagues and the many, many people who were privileged to have known him,” she said.

“I was delighted when he agreed to become principal crown counsel earlier this year and was very grateful for the depth of knowledge, enthusiasm, integrity and leadership he brought to the Crown Office in that role.

“My thoughts are with all those who held Stephen dear while we all come to terms with this profound loss.”

Roddy Dunlop QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “Stephen was an inspiration to many and a friend to all. I am, as I know many will be, utterly distraught that we have lost him.

“I grow increasingly concerned at the isolating effect and impact on wellbeing created by the ongoing - and understandable - dictats and restrictions caused by this damned virus. I would please ask all to remember that support is available for anyone who is struggling."

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron described Mr O’Rourke’s death as “utterly heartbreaking.”

He was, said Mr Cameron, “not only a brilliant lawyer, but a dear friend to many people, and a man of great warmth and humour who was sustained by a deep faith.”

Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP and QC, tweeted: “Devastated to hear of the death of Stephen O’Rourke QC. Sincerest condolences to all his loved ones and colleagues.”

Leading criminal defence lawyer Aamer Anwer said Mr O’Rourke was not only a highly respected silk, but a “thorough gentleman, always full of kindness, and humour.”

Details of the arrangements for Mr O’Rourke’s funeral will be made known in due course.

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