Inquest to be held into suicide of former top judge Sir Nicholas Wall


An inquest will be held into the suicide of Sir Nicholas Wall, who was once Britain's most senior family law judge, who took his own life following a recent diagnosis with dementia.

The family of Sir Nicholas - who became president of the Family Division in 2010 and retired on health grounds in December 2012 - said earlier this year that he died "by his own hand" on February 17 aged 71.

In a statement following his death in Sevenoaks, Kent, his relatives said: "Sir Nicholas took his own life having suffered for several years from a rare neurological disease called frontotemporal lobe dementia that had only recently been diagnosed."

A death notice published in The Times newspaper was accompanied by a moving verse from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Tithonus.

Frontotemporal dementia is one of the less common forms of dementia and is sometimes called Pick's disease or frontal lobe dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

It affects part of the brain connected to control behaviour and emotions plus the understanding of words.

Frontotemporal dementia is caused when nerve cells in the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die and the pathways that connect them change.

The Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) said Sir Nicholas had "continued to struggle with ill health" since his retirement in 2012.

He was described as "a compassionate judge who thought and cared deeply about the outcome of his cases".

Cambridge-graduate Sir Nicholas was called to the Bar in 1969 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1988.

He became a recorder in 1990 and then a judge of the High Court Family Division in April 1993.

Sir Nicholas worked at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and then the Administrative Court before being promoted to the Court of Appeal in January 2004.

In 2011, he said a "live-in lovers" law would protect women in long-term relationships from losing their home and income in a break-up with their partner.

He also said couples should be allowed to divorce without having to blame one or the other, adding he could "see no good arguments against no-fault divorce".

Sir Nicholas is survived by his wife Margaret, his children Imogen, Emma, Rosalind and Simon and his grandsons Joshua and Arthur.

The inquest will be held at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone from 10am on Wednesday.