Baron James Edward Brian Hutton, former Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland and a Law Lord, has died aged 88.
Regarded as a conservative figure, he nevertheless gained enormous respect for his integrity and fairness.
A rare profile of him in this newspaper in 1988 quoted an old student of his who described him as the very epitome of a judge: "He doesn't have much contact with ordinary people - how could he have? Yet he is the fairest man I know."
As a judge who spent much of his career in the Diplock Courts, courts where judges sat without juries in terrorist trials, he naturally had his critics and was high on the IRA's hit-list.
Like many of his colleagues on the Bench he had a constant armed guard.
Born in north Belfast, he attended exclusive preparatory school Brackenber House, became head boy, and won a scholarship to Shrewsbury School in England, where Michael Heseltine was a contemporary. He also won a scholarship to Balliol College Oxford, where he gained a first class degree before returning to Northern Ireland and completing his legal education at Queen's University. He was called to the Bar in 1954.
He had a fairly meteoric rise through the legal ranks, becoming Lord Chief Justice in 1988 after spending only nine years as an ordinary judge. He leapfrogged three more senior colleagues to get the post.
His reputation as a safe pair of hands was enhanced when he represented the Ministry of Defence at the inquest into the British Army's shooting dead of 13 civilians on Bloody Sunday.
He publicly rebuked the coroner, Major Hubert O'Neil, who described the killings as "murder", as this contradicted the findings of the Widgery Tribunal.
Widgery's findings would be later discredited by the Saville Inquiry.
He also defended the UK in the European Court of Human Rights over allegations republican detainees had been tortured.
The court determined that while the interrogation techniques were "inhuman and degrading", they did not amount to torture.
Although he had been a legal adviser to the pre-1969 Stormont regime, he was not afraid of finding against the Establishment - he threw out an appeal by British soldier Lee Clegg, who had been jailed for shooting dead a teenage joyrider, and in the 1990s he ruled that the 11-plus examination discriminated against girls.
When he made his maiden speech after becoming a Law Lord a fellow barrister described him as "in that special category of judges from Northern Ireland who are especially brave and noted for their fearless independence".
Undoubtedly his most high profile role was when he led an inquiry in 2003 into the death of scientist David Kelly, who was named as the source of information to the BBC that cast doubt on Prime Minister Tony Blair's claim to Parliament that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed quickly. Blair's claim was the clinching argument in the decision to go to war with Iraq.
After he was outed, Mr Kelly apparently took his own life, and Lord Hutton was asked by the Prime Minister to head an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death.
Lord Hutton's reputation as a safe pair of hands was used by some sections of the media to question how he would handle the inquiry. But, as one QC put it: "An inquiry's about doing things thoroughly and properly and coming to sound and sober judgments."
His report was critical of some aspects of the Government and security services, but hugely damning of the BBC, who had accused Blair of deliberately misleading Parliament.
The corporation's chairman Gavyn Davies, director general Greg Dyke and reporter Andrew Gilligan, who broke the original story, all resigned when the Hutton Report was published.
Lord Hutton's verdict did not meet with universal approval - one newspaper described it as a "whitewash".
He died peacefully on Tuesday at home and is survived by his wife Lindy and daughters Louise and Helen from his first marriage, as well as grandchildren Arthur, Emma, Michael, Faith and Jemima, and stepchildren James, Beazie and Hugo. A thanksgiving ceremony will be held at a later date.
A spokesperson for the Bar in Northern Ireland said: "He will be greatly missed by the many colleagues who continue to hold him in the highest esteem."