Obituary: Sheriff Duncan Lowe

DUNCAN LOWE was a dedicated public servant who made an important contribution to the administration of criminal justice in Scotland.

He was appointed to the bench as a Sheriff at Glasgow in January 1997. Most of his career was, however, devoted to the public prosecution service in Scotland - the Crown office and Procurator Fiscal Service. His distinguished career in that service culminated in his appointment as Crown Agent for Scotland in 1991.

Born in Alloa, Duncan Lowe was educated at Hamilton Academy and Glasgow University, where he graduated MA, LLB. He qualified as a solicitor in Scotland after an apprenticeship with the firm of Biggart Lumsden and joined the Procurator Fiscal Service in 1974, following a short period in local government.

His potential for high office was quickly recognised, and by the time he was appointmed Crown Agent he had accumulated a breadth and depth of experience which equipped him well for that demanding post, even at the early age of 42. Periods "in the field" in Procurator Fiscal offices at Kilmarnock, Glasgow and Edinburgh, where he was the Regional Procurator Fiscal between 1988 and 1991, were interspersed with spells in the Crown Office headquarters, including a term as Deputy Crown Agent from 1984 to 1986.

The detailed knowledge of the work and workings of the prosecution service which Lowe brought to the office of Crown Agent, allied to his intellectual abilities and personal qualities, equipped him well to meet the major challenges which faced the service during his time at its head. It was a time of unprecedented upheaval, with a major culture change in the management of the public service, new systems of work increasingly utilising computers, and significant operational changes resulting from criminal justice legislation.

He tackled these challenges with skill and determination and displayed foresight and vision, sound judgement and impressive leadership in pushing through organisational change and improved financial discipline. His effectiveness in leading the prosecution service was recognised in 1995 when he was made a Companion of the Bath.

However, it was not just in the management of the Scottish prosecution service that Duncan Lowe excelled. The confidential advice and loyal support that he provided behind the scenes to various law officers were often invaluable in guiding them through unfamiliar areas of the mechanics of government as well as assisting them in developing prosecution policy and making and defending difficult decisions in sensitive cases.

Lowe was an able lawyer and also made a valuable contribution to the development of law, procedure and practice - including through participation in important inter- departmental and inter-agency initiatives. Respect for his professional ability extended far beyond the Scottish jurisdiction to many overseas colleagues, who were impressed not only by his intellect but also by his striking appearance wearing the kilt at international conference dinners. In pursuing and developing overseas contacts and participating in assistance to Eastern European countries, Lowe maintained the strong international traditions of the Scottish prosecution service and the high regard in which it is held in other parts of the world.

His new judicial career was undertaken with typical enthusiasm and commitment. He was soon dealing with the full range of work, civil and criminal, and relishing the judicial role. Those well placed to know quickly recognised his potential to achieve distinction and respect as a judicial figure. But that was not to be. Less than a year after his appointment he was diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

A devoted family man, Duncan Lowe drew great strength from the support of his wife, Jacquie. In the rugby season they were frequently to be found on the touchline in all weathers supporting school and former pupils teams, an interest which took precedence even over the lure of fishing and occasional golf.

A quiet, modest and private man, Lowe possessed a kindness and warmth of personality, a ready dry wit and a cheerfulness which belied his often serious demeanour. He was widely held in great affection as well as respect. His cheerfulness continued to be evident throughout the course of his illness, which he endured with dignity, fortitude and calm.

Andrew Normand

John Duncan Lowe, lawyer: born Alloa, Clackmananshire 18 May 1948; Procurator Fiscal Depute, Kilmarnock 1974-76; Legal Assistant, Crown Office 1976- 78; Senior Procurator Fiscal Depute 1978-79; CB 1995; Sheriff of Glasgow and Strathkelvin 1997-98; married 1971 Jacqueline Egan (two sons); died Edinburgh 7 September 1998.