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Tributes to former family law judge Sir Nicholas Wall following death at 71

Sir Nicholas Wall, who was formerly Britain's most senior family law judge, has died "by his own hand" after recently being diagnosed with dementia.

Sir Nicholas, 71, became president of the Family Division in 2010 and retired on health grounds in December 2012.

His family said in a statement: "We are sad to confirm the death of Nicholas Wall, who was not only a highly respected former president of the Family Division but also a much loved husband, father and grandfather.

"Sir Nicholas took his own life having suffered for several years from a rare neurological disease called fronto temporal lobe dementia that had only recently been diagnosed.

"The family will make no further comment and asks to be left in privacy to grieve."

The Family Law Bar Association (FLBA), said Sir Nicholas had "continued to struggle with ill health" since his retirement in 2012.

He was described as "a compassionate judge who thought and cared deeply about the outcome of his cases".

A death notice in The Times states Sir Nicholas "died by his own hand on 17th February 2017".

It states: "After years of suffering he was recently diagnosed with a rare dementia of the front-temporal lobe."

A verse from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Tithonus, is included in the death notice.

It reads: "The woods decay, the woods decay and fall/ The vapours weep their burthen to the ground/ Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath/ And after many a summer dies the swan."

Sir Nicholas was called to the Bar in 1969 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1988.

He became a recorder in 1990 and then a judge of the High Court Family Division in April 1993.

Sir Nicholas worked at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and then the Administrative Court before being promoted to the Court of Appeal in January 2004.

Sir James Munby, his successor as President of the Family Division, said: "On and off the Bench and to the wide admiration of those who practise in family law, Sir Nicholas often spoke with passion, and in plain language, about the importance of family life, the good practice of family law, and the proper administration and resourcing of family justice.

"He was appropriately outspoken about the plight of children caught up in the midst of parental conflict.

"He expressed his deep concern again and again about the impact of domestic abuse on children and on family life."

"Sir Nicholas' life was one of very great achievement and he has left us a formidable and enduring legacy."

In 2011, Sir Nicholas said a "live-in lovers" law would protect women in long-term relationships from losing their home and income in a break-up with their partner.

He also said couples should be allowed to divorce without having to blame one or the other adding he could "see no good arguments against no-fault divorce".

Barrister Julien Foster tweeted: "RIP Sir Nicholas Wall, the Judge who decided my first child abduction case. A compassionate Judge."

Family law barrister James Roberts‏ added: "Very sad to learn of the death of Sir Nicholas Wall. A most humane Judge who always strived for the best outcome."

Sir Nicholas is survived by his wife Margaret, his children Imogen, Emma, Rosalind and Simon and his grandsons Joshua and Arthur.

They asked for donations to be made to the Dementia Research Centre at the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery in London.

There will be a private funeral service. A memorial will take place at a date which has yet to be set.

Fronto temporal dementia is one of the less common forms of dementia and is sometimes called Pick's disease or frontal lobe dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

It affects part of the brain that are connected to control behaviour and emotions plus the understanding of words.

The Alzheimer's Society states that fronto temporal dementia is caused when nerve cells in the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die and the pathways that connect them change.

There is also some loss of important chemical messengers.

Over time, the brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes shrinks.

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