Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Judge retires after 20 years on bench

A SOUTH Cumbrian judge who championed improved legal rights for society’s most vulnerable has retired after 20 distinguished years on the bench.

Judges and solicitors travelled from across the region to honour district judge Gordon Ashton OBE when he sat for the final time at Kendal County Court last Wednesday.

The judge, who grew up in Barrow, is also known for his writing on the law and mentally disabled and elderly people.

His passion for these specific aspects of law developed when his son Paul, who died in 2004, was born with severe learning disabilities. He said: “We had a seriously learning-disabled son and because of his problems and me being a lawyer, I wrote my first book about 20 years ago called Mental Handicap and the Law, which was fairly groundbreaking then. Since then I’ve written about six or eight other books.”

Judge Ashton, who lives in Grange with his wife Marion, said he had found the legal system unsympathetic towards people who could not make their own decisions and set about changing attitudes.

He said: “I was instrumental in the formation of a body of solicitors called Solicitors for the Elderly and there’s now about 1,500 members.

“I’ve also campaigned for change and I’ve ended up training judges on how to recognise disabilities and how to make reasonable adjustments.”

Judge Ashton left Barrow to study law at Manchester University before working in Grange as a solicitor for 28 years.

In 1992, he became a district judge and was based predominantly in Preston until four years ago when he scaled back to three days a week in Barrow, Kendal and Penrith.

From 2005 he has been a visiting professor at the School of Law in Northumbria University and one of his greatest achievements came in 2006 when he was instrumental in getting the Court of Protection’s jurisdiction recast to allow it to sit outside of London for the first time.

Judge Ashton’s career was crowned in 2010 with an OBE for services to the administration of justice and to disabled people.

While he might have retired from the bench, Judge Ashton will continue making a contribution to the legal system through his writing, advocacy and training of overseas judges. But for the timebeing at least he wants to devote more time to his wife, two daughters and grandchildren, as well as his garden and classic cars.


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