Mr Justice Ian Kennedy fits many of the stereotypes of a judge, writes Stephen Ward. Aged 64, married for 33 years to a colonel's daughter, educated at public school (Wellington) and Pembroke College, Cambridge, he could easily be expected to regard the rule of law above the emotional damage to small children whose parents are jailed.

His pastimes away from the courtroom are not gregarious or social but private ones: sailing, theatre, walking and gardening, and his own three sons and a daughter are grown-up, yet his career is marked not by unworldliness and remoteness of the kind that leads judges to ask embarrassing questions of the "Who is Gazza?" kind. His one contribution to the genre was two years ago when he said conditions in some British jails would "leave Butlins well behind".

Rather than showing a man out of touch with "ordinary people", his record on the bench shows more a staunch upholder of authority, whose perspective on cases seems to have been shaped by his long and successful progress as a prosecuting barrister before becoming a High Court judge in 1986.

Most famously, in January last year, he was publicly criticised by the Court of Appeal for acting at times like a cross-examining prosecution counsel while he was sitting as judge in the trial of Susan Whybrow and her lover Dennis Saunders, jointly accused of plotting to murder Mrs Whybrow's husband with a lawnmower.

Ordering a retrial, Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, said after examining a transcript of the trial that the judge's conduct had gone "far beyond the bounds of legitimate judicial conduct" in his interventions. On one occasion, he had said Saunders had contradicted himself when he had not.

In similar vein this February, Mr Justice Kennedy was one of three Court of Appeal judges who refused to overturn a conviction where the trial judge in the Crown Court had persistently interrupted defence counsel while she cross-examined police officers.

In 1988, he ruled that a court had no powers to force a hospital to carry out hole-in-the-heart surgery on a four-year-old boy. The operation had been delayed by shortage of staff.

But even the harshest judges have softer moments. In 1987, Mr Justice Kennedy looked kindly on Lord Hertford, who had been fined pounds 10,000 for ploughing the remains of a Roman town on his Warwickshire estate. He and his fellow appeal judges decided the penalty had been excessive, and reduced the fine to pounds 3,000.

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