We continue our series of profiles of the Justices of the Supreme Court with a profile of Lord Saville. For previous profiles see Lord Brown here, Lord Mance here , Lord Rodger here, Lord Kerr here , and Lord Hope here.

Mark Oliver Saville was born on 20 March 1936. He was educated at Rye Grammar School, East Sussex, before undertaking National Service in the Royal Sussex Regiment between 1954 and 1956 as a Second Lieutenant. After completing his National Service he studied law at Brasenose College, Oxford and graduated with a first class honours and a Bachelor of Civil Law degree. He was awarded the Vinerian Scholarship, the prize for the University of Oxford student who gives the best performance in the examination for the Degree of Bachelor of Civil Law and which has also been awarded to Lord Hoffman and Chief Justice Keane. Sir Scott Baker, now a retired judge, was a contemporary of Lord Saville’s at Brasenose and has commented that Lord Saville was “without any doubt the most brilliant of our generation. He had an incredibly clear mind…”[1]

Lord Saville was called to the bar by the Middle Temple in 1962, becoming a QC in 1975 and a Bencher in 1983. By all accounts his rise through the judicial ranks has been incredibly swift. He was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in 1985 and became a Lord Justice of Appeal and a member of the Privy Council in 1994. In 1997 he replaced Lord Mustill as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and received a life peerage as Baron Saville of Newdigate in the county of Surrey.

Between 1994 and 1996 Lord Saville chaired a Committee of the Department of Trade and Industry on arbitration, which led to the enactment of the Arbitration Act 1996. Kenneth Rokinson, Lord Saville’s contemporary in chambers in Essex Court who also sat on the arbitration Committee, has said that Lord Saville “sat down with a piece of paper and a pen, and…drafted the Act almost single-handed. And that Act has been very highly regarded all around the world.”

Perhaps his most high profile public appointment to date is as chair of the second Bloody Sunday Inquiry, a position which he took on 29 January 1998 at the request of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. When his appointment was announced The Times described him as “a new boy in the House of Lords, and arguably the trendiest.” The Inquiry was last expected to report in early 2010 but publication was again delayed until after the election. David Cameron announced on 21 May 2010 that the final report, which is between 4,500 and 5,000 pages and runs to some 200 chapters, is now due to be released in the next couple of weeks.

Lord Saville has been praised for the way he used new information technology to assist in the Inquiry and his enthusiasm for the way advances in technology can be used to change the way in which the courts currently work. Professor Richard Susskind, the IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, has said that the inquiry is “the leading showcase demonstrator of what technology can achieve in the modern court. There is nowhere in the world where information technology has been used so pervasively.” However, the Inquiry has come under considerable controversy for its 12 year length, estimated £200 million plus cost (it is now the most expensive public inquiry in history) and legal attempts to force various journalists to disclose their sources. Lord Saville has undoubtedly paid a price in terms of his judicial career as a result of the length of time the Inquiry has taken. He is currently the least active of the 11 Supreme Court Justices and Rokinson has said that “the fact that the House of Lords and now the Supreme Court has been deprived of his services for so many years will have been a great loss to the development of law in England and Wales.”

Lord Saville has been married to Jill Gray since 1961 and they have two sons together. He enjoys sailing and flying and is a member of the Garrick Club. Rokinson has spoken of Lord Saville’s love of sport, saying that “he was, for example, one of the first hang-gliding enthusiasts…I remember him coming into chambers with a broken wrist, having thrown himself off the Devil’s Dyke above Brighton. He took up sailing and he sailed for Great Britain, helming a small dinghy.” Lord Saville received an Honorary Doctorate in Law from Guildhall University in 1997 and was made an Honorary Fellow of Brasenose College 1998. He also received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Nottingham Trent University in 2008.

[1] All quotes from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/northern_ireland_politics/8579910.stm