Obituary: Pam Long

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WHEN PAM Long, as a sitting magistrate, was invited to take aspiring stipendiaries to sit with her on the bench, taking no part but learning how to deal with cases, she would proffer really only one piece of advice: "Make sure that the last thing you do before you go into court is go to the lavatory." It was typical of her robust, no-nonsense approach to the law. She had style.

She was born in 1930 and educated at Carlisle and County High School for Girls. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1959; in those days a university education was not required. After a short spell in private practice she was one of the first women to join the Solicitor's Department at New Scotland Yard, where she cut a flamboyant figure. In the days before political correctness, she was very much a "man's woman" and, wearing an amount of perfume and a fur coat on her visits to the London magistrates' courts, she was adored by the police for her support as well as for her quick and rough wit.

To a police officer who, failing to unlock a door for her, remarked "I can't get it in", she replied, "The story of my life." In turn the officers would protect her when she swept into court an hour late. There was no need for her to make any excuses, an explanation for her absence had already been made by the court officer.

Very much the grande dame in the New Scotland Yard Solicitor's Department, she was not required to share an office, and woe betide anyone who tried to see her in the afternoon when she was listening to her favourite radio programme, Waggoner's Walk.

Once on the bench, to which she was appointed in 1978, her former colleagues could expect no favours. Nor did the fact that she wore a police medal pinned to her dress whilst on the bench in any way indicate a partiality against the defendant or his advocate. She required and obtained a high standard of advocacy and behaviour in her courtroom at Greenwich and Woolwich.

Socially she took no prisoners, declining to share the boring afternoon traffic list with the local lay magistrates as was expected of her. When she was invited to undertake a lengthy trial at a court in Middlesex occupied normally by lay magistrates the chairman wrote saying the local bench sat at 10am sharp and rose for a coffee break after an hour. He hoped she would join them. She replied saying that her hours were 10.30 straight through until the luncheon adjournment. At a Metropolitan Police Solicitor's Department reunion, she was approached by a former colleague murmuring how nice it was to see her again. "Run away and get a drink for me, dear," she replied, proffering an empty glass.

In her youth something of a socialite, in 1966 Pam Long married another stipendiary magistrate, John Nichols. They shared an interest in cricket. They were devoted to each other and rarely spent an evening apart. They both retired in 1992, intending to finish the development of the house in Cornwall which they had built for their retirement. She was devastated when Nichols died of cancer shortly afterwards, in 1996. By then she had already had an operation for the same disease. The cancer returned early this year.

Pamela Marjorie Long, magistrate: born 12 September 1930; Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate 1978-92; married 1966 John Nichols (died 1996); died London 13 September 1999.