Adrian Head: Norfolk Circuit judge launched family conciliation service

The widow of a well-known retired Norfolk Circuit judge who died this week has paid tribute to the keen sailor, poet and artist.

One of Norfolk's most distinquished legal figures, Judge Adrian Head, who has died aged 88, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of East Anglia.

The public citation for the senior circuit judge, when his award of Doctor of Civil Law was made in July 1987, recorded: 'He never lets the law get in the way of justice.'

His legal writings also included a book on the Consumer Credit Act and he was responsible for Butterworth's County Court Precedents and Pleadings.

Adrian Herbert Head, who lived at Burnham Overy Staithe, was born on December 4, 1923 in York. He had moved to Burnham Overy Staithe in 1929, aged five, with his mother Geraldine and brother Henry. His father, George, who was a county court judge in York and came from a leading Quaker fanmily in Ipswich, died in 1927.


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His widow Ann Head, 89, said: 'He used to sail as child in Burnham Overy Staithe for many years. He had a converted Dutch fishing boat, which he used to sail between Cornwall and Scandinavia.

'He thought of himself as a Norfolk man.'

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In 1937 he became a naval cadet at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where he spent two years before contracting polio. He went up to Oxford in 1941 and took an honours degree in Modern Languages (French and German) at Magdalen. He was said to be at home in the broad Norfolk dialect as well as speaking fluent languages. He was also a president of the Oxford University Conservative Association and librararian of the Oxford Union.

Judge Head was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn, London, in 1947 - the same year he married Mrs Head - where his legal practice was mainly in internatinal and commercial law.

The couple lived in the capital until 1959 when they moved to his childhood home in Burnham Overy Staithe.

During the 1950s and 1960s the barrister attended quarter sessions at King's Lynn Town Hall where he was a 'much-respected senior figure'.

He was also a director of Norfolk Lavender between 1953 and 1971 and for many years was chairman. He served as deputy chairman of Agricultural Land Tribunals in the eastern region between 1966 and 1971.

In January 1972, Judge Head was made a circuit judge and sat in county courts across Norfolk. He was the first judge to take his seat in the Shirehall, Norwich, on January 4, 1972 when the Crown Court replaced the centuries old system of assizes and quarter sessions.

He retired in 1996.

Mrs Head said: 'He was passionate about family law and the care of children.' In 1983 he co-founded the Norfolk Family Conciliation Service and remained a trustee until 1996, and was also president of West Norfolk and Fenland Marriage Guidance Council from 1984 to 1995.

He was a 'staunch churchman' and a reader in the Church of England for more than 25 years.

Judge Head loved to paint oil landscapes and had two exhibitions of his work - one at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in 1997 and the other at Burnham Overy Staithe Village Hall in 2006.

Mrs Head added that he also loved to write poetry, some of which was published. He read extracts from his book, Poems in Praise, as a guest on Anglia TV's Reflections programme in October 1982.

Alison Croose, former EDP News Editor in West Norfolk, said: 'He was a true gentleman and treated everyone with great courtesy and sensitivity.'

Judge Head leaves behind three sons, Henry, Christopher and David, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His funeral will take place on Friday, March 16 at St Clement's Church, Burnham Overy Staithe, 2pm.

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