Scottish law lord who sat on Lockerbie appeal

Rt Hon Lord Macfadyen Born: 8 September, 1945, in Glasgow. Died:11 April, 2008, in Edinburgh, aged 62.

THE Right Hon Lord Macfadyen, PC, LLB, was one the most respected legal minds in the Scottish judiciary. He was involved in many high-profile cases and was acknowledged by advocates, juries and the accused for his straightforward and uncomplicated approach to the law. Lord Macfadyen was praised for being hard-working, careful and courteous in the courtroom. His clarity of mind allowed him to make courageous, sometimes unexpected, decisions.

Lord Macfadyen's reputation on the bench was enhanced with such important cases as the Lockerbie appeal of 2002 but he also served as chairman of the medical appeals tribunals and acted as counsel in the sensitive case of the removal of children from Orkney in 1991. To all these Lord Macfadyen brought a scrupulous honesty, a gracious manner and great personal authority.

Lord Hamilton, lord president of the Court of Session, spoke warmly to The Scotsman of his colleague of more than 40 years, saying: "Donald Macfadyen was one of the most distinguished judges of his generation. He was held in the highest esteem for his learning and was regarded with real affection by all those who had dealings with him. Donald had a keen sense of what was right and fair and until the last stages of his illness continued to perform his judicial duties with energy and enthusiasm.

"His untimely passing deprives the courts of Scotland of a judge of the highest calibre." Lord Hamilton added that he would be speaking in Lord Macfadyen's memory at the Court of Session next Tuesday.

Donald James Dobbie Macfadyen was educated at Hutchesons' Boys Grammar School and then read law at Glasgow University. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1969 and was standing junior counsel to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (1977-79) and the Scottish Home and Health Department (1982-83).

In 1995 he was appointed a judge after serving for a year as a temporary judge. Lord Macfadyen spent part of his time in the specialist court for commercial actions.

Lord Macfadyen sat in the contentious case against Jim Brady in 1996. Brady had taken the life of his brother, who was suffering from Huntington's disease. After a lengthy trial Lord Macfadyen admonished Brady with a clearly argued and sensitive summing up. He stressed the "exceptional circumstances" and, although criticised in some quarters, he said Brady had acted out of "compassion rather than from any malicious motive or any desire to make matters easier for himself".

In 2002 five judges of the Scottish Court created a unique situation by sitting in the Netherlands to try the appeal of the Lockerbie bombers after the disaster of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. The trial made legal history as a few acres at Camp Zeist were deemed to be Scottish soil. Lord Macfadyen was joined by four other Scottish judges under Lord Cullen. The nine-month trial was an exhausting process – the judgment alone ran to 82 pages and some 26,000 words.

Last year the legal magazine the Firm carried out a poll among Scotland's advocates how they ranked the nation's 32 judges. Top of the league was Lord Macfadyen, who scored consistently in every category and, when an average was taken, he was deemed to be the most consistently respected judge in Scotland. Advocates commented that he was "the High Court judge who is the most respected among Scotland's advocates. He is bright, straightforward, open-minded, fair and down to earth."

Such respect from his peers was a true reflection of the esteem in which Lord Macfadyen was held throughout the Scottish legal system.

Lord Macfadyen was chairman of the Cockburn Association and had been an active member for many years. The association does much to preserve Edinburgh's architectural heritage and Bill Cantley, its vice-chairman, remembered Lord Macfadyen's contribution to its activities. "Donald Macfadyen was a well liked, much admired chairman of the Cockburn organisation. He was well regarded for his wisdom, touch, judgment and participation, and was a very warm, likeable human being."

Lord Macfadyen worked assiduously to maintain the heritage of the city. In a letter to the Evening News about the Canongate development, he wrote persuasively about "the integrity of the Old Town conservation area".

Lord Macfadyen, whose son Donnie has been capped for Scotland at rugby, was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago. Colleagues believed he had made a full recovery and, within months of treatment, he was sitting again in the appeal court. Displaying typical courage and tenacity, Lord Macfadyen sat in the court until last month.

Another colleague and friend of many years, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, told The Scotsman: "Donald was always very thorough and a tower of strength in both the judiciary and the bar. He had a powerful legal brain and was admired by juniors and seniors alike.

"During the Lockerbie appeal he was a particularly strong member of the judging team. I admired him immensely. He kept on working despite his severe illness and never made it an issue or created any fuss. That was typical of him.

"Donald, always a great lover of Glasgow and the west of Scotland, was a likeable and generous friend."

Lord Macfadyen married Christine Hunter. She and their son and daughter survive him.