Obituary: Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, FRSE, FBA, QC, PC, law lord

Widely respected Scottish judge who sat in the Supreme Court in London

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, FRSE, FBA, QC, PC, law lord.

Born: 18 September, 1944, in Glasgow.

Died: 26 June, 2011, in Edinburgh, aged 66.

LORD Rodger of Earlsferry was the fourth most senior Justice in the UK Supreme Court and, with Lord Hope, was one of the two Scottish Justices. He had an agile and precise legal mind that could not only sum up a case with accuracy but make complex and salient facts comprehensible to jurors.

Lord Roger had an outstanding intellect but was never over-bearing in court. Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said yesterday of his former colleague: "Those of us who have had the privilege of working with or appearing before him held him in the highest regard.

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"His sharp intellect allied to his humanity and humility made him one of the great Lord Advocates and Lord Presidents."

Lord Rodger was invariably patient and generous with nervous witnesses and knew how and when to lessen the tension in court. His work on developing the due processes of the law throughout Scotland was immense and his scholarly writings and academic papers won him much respect among colleagues.

Alan Ferguson Rodger's father was the Professor of Psychological Medicine at Glasgow University. He was educated at the Kelvinside Academy and did an MA and LLB at Glasgow University.

He studied at New College, Oxford gaining an MA and D.Phil and then became Dyke Junior Research Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford in 1969, and a Fellow of New College between 1970 and 1972.

He returned to Scotland to practise law in 1974 and that year became a member of the Faculty of Advocates. Further appointments included Clerk of Faculty (1976-1979) and a QC in 1985. His progress up the Scottish legal profession was impressive - Lord Rodger spent some years practising at the private Senior bar and went into government service as a prosecutor.

He was Home Advocate Depute from 1986 to 1988, a much respected Solicitor General for Scotland (1989-1992) and an eminent Lord Advocate (1992-1995).

In 1995, Lord Rodger was appointed Senator of the College of Justice in Scotland and became Lord Justice General of Scotland and Lord President of the Court of Session in 1996, a post that he retained until 2001. During his time as Lord President he ensured that their judgments could be read on the Scottish Courts website. In 2001 he became a Lord Appeal in Ordinary. As Lord Advocate he presided over a number of important changes, including the introduction of the right of the prosecution to appeal against sentences it considered too soft. In 2001 Lord Rodger sat as Lord Justice General in the Court of Criminal Appeal in the case Drury v HM Advocate.

Drury had been convicted of killing his wife with a hammer on discovering her affair with another man. The original trial judge directed the jury that a finding of culpable homicide could only be made if the accused had not intended to kill.

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In his summing up Lord Rodger succinctly gave the legal definition of murder: "Murder is constituted by any wilful act causing the destruction of life, by which the perpetrator either wickedly intends to kill or displays wicked recklessness as to whether the victim lives or dies."

Last year at the Supreme Court Lord Rodger sat in a case concerning two men, from Iran and Cameroon, who claimed asylum on the grounds of their homosexuality. In a fascinating judgment Lord Rodger talked of the stereotypical examples found in British society concluding: "Gay men are free to live their lives in the way that is natural to them as gay men, without the fear of persecution." On the role of the Supreme Court vis--vis Scottish criminal law appeals, Rodger considered it "useful to have a forum where there are members of the court who do not all share the same preconceptions".

Lord Hope spoke warmly of his colleague yesterday to The Scotsman. "Alan had an acute and penetrating mind that examined all the issues.

"He stuck to the principles which he believed to be right but if he saw faults he was fearless in exposing them.

"Alan had a specialist knowledge of Roman Law - he wrote widely on the subject and was not beyond including Latin phrases in his judgements. He developed links with legal students throughout Scotland and regularly spoke at university seminars.

"The Scottish legal profession has lost one of its greatest champions - he was a most valued and cherished colleague."

Lord Roger was a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, held honorary degrees at Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities and acted as High Steward of Oxford University.

Lord Rodger, who never married, was made a life peer and Privy Councillor in 1992, and was keen on opera, fine wines and hill walking.