Early life

Born in Scotland on 7 September 1956, Robert John Reed attended George Watson’s College in Edinburgh before studying at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Law, where he attained a First Class Honours LL.B, and won the prestigious Vans Dunlop Scholarship.  He then went on to Balliol College, Oxford University, where he undertook a Ph.D. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1983 and embarked on a wide range of civil work. Lord Reed has two daughters with Jane Mylne, whom he married in 1988.

An esteemed Career

Lord Reed has had a very busy and colourful legal career.  He served as Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Education Department from 1988 to 1989, and then to the Scottish Office Home and Health Department until 1995 when he was appointed Queen’s Counsel.  In 1996 he became an Advocate Depute, and two years later was appointed as a Senator of the College of Justice and a judge of the Court of Session.  It was in 1998 that he was granted his judicial title, Lord Reed, and he served as a judge of the Court of Session for 13 years.

Lord Reed found himself involved in one of the most high profile cases of the modern judicial era, sitting in the Grand Chamber judgments in 1999 on the appeals of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.  This was as part of his role as one of the United Kingdom’s ad hoc judges at the European Court of Human Rights.  Lord Reed’s involvement in European affairs did not end there: he acted as an expert adviser to the European Union Initiative with Turkey on Democratisation and Human Rights between 2002 and 2004.

Lord Reed was a member of the Advisory Board of the British Institute for International and Comparative Law from 2001 to 2006, has been Chairman of the Franco-British Judicial Co-operation Committee since 2005, and part of the UN Task Force on Access to Justice under the Aarhus Convention since 2006.

He was also the Vice-President of the EU Forum of Judges for the Environment between 2006 and 2008, serving as Vice-President in 2008 and 2009.  Further to this Lord Reed has taken on roles as Convener of Children in Scotland (a consequence of his involvement in the Thompson/Venables case); Visiting Professor of Law at Glasgow Caledonian University; Honorary Professor at the University of Glasgow; and Chairman of the Centre for Commercial Law at the University of Edinburgh. 

Lord Reed was appointed to the Inner House (First Division) in 2008, having previously been the principal judge of the Commercial Court.  Appointment to the Privy Council soon followed.

The Supreme Court

Lord Reed has in fact sat on the Bench of the UK Supreme Court once before, during the illness of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, and was correctly identified by legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg as “the firm favourite” to succeed the now late Lord Rodger. 

On 20 December 2011, after consultation across each of the Supreme Court’s three UK jurisdictions, the anticipated appointment of Lord Reed as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was confirmed.  He was sworn in on 6 February 2012.

Lord Phillips, President of the Supreme Court, said of the appointment, “Lord Reed brings depth of experience in Scots law and practice, as well as insights into the work of the European Court of Human Rights.  As I near the end of my time as President of this court, it is encouraging to be welcoming [someone] of such high calibre.”

The appointment was made by Her Majesty, The Queen at the advice of the Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, following the recommendation of the independent selection committee.

In accepting his new post, Lord Reed commented, “I am honoured by my appointment as a member of a court which has a world-wide reputation and influence, and whose decisions affect all parts of the United Kingdom. I am conscious of the responsibility which that entails.”