Thursday 14 March was the last day of the hearing of Futter & Anor v The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Lord Walker’s final sitting in the Supreme Court before he retired on 17 March 2013, his 75th birthday. On this occasion he was given a valedictory by colleagues from the Bar and Bench.

Robert Ham QC noted Lord Walker’s considerable contribution to the law in a judicial capacity, but focused on his career as a practitioner; praising the clarity of his advice, drafting and advocacy (apparently his drafting remains distinctive as he always eschewed the use of upper case initials for defined terms). Christopher Nugee QC acknowledged being in the unusual position of addressing valedictory remarks to a judge whilst they are in the midst of hearing his case, and went on to compliment Lord Walker’s erudite understanding of the law, mastery of facts and unfailing courtesy. Representing the Chancery Bar Association and Lord Walker’s former chambers, Five Stone Buildings, Mark Herbert QC sent their affection and goodwill, also remarking on Lord Walker’s “exemplary” manner with law reporters. Lord Neuberger, as President of the Supreme Court, described Lord Walker as a wonderful educator that managed to see both the wood and the trees with his “steady, focused – even bifocal – gaze”.

Lord Walker himself said he felt a mixture of emotions, but namely relief that he had managed to “complete the last lap”, and gratitude towards his family, friends at the Bar, and colleagues and staff at the Supreme Court. In his typical modest way he attributed his successful career largely to happenstance, and said if he had a regret it would be that he only spent three years as a judge at first instance. He described appellate work as comparatively arid and detached, and quoted an Australian colleague on the bench who said that when the battle of first instance trials are being heard in the plain, the appeal judges sit up in the hills, and once the noise and dust has settled, they come down from the hills and shoot the wounded.

A recording of the full valedictory is available above.