Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Goodbye, Jeremy

12 February 2015

HHJ Jeremy McMullen QC has passed away. He will be missed.

Jeremy became a resident judge at the EAT in 2001, a couple of years before I started volunteering at FRU. Over the years, I appeared in front of him a number of times, as did many of the volunteers.

He used to keep a hollow cricket ball on the bench. If a phone went off during a hearing, he would lean forward to say ‘Well, Mr Smith, we can deal with this formally as a contempt matter’ A pause. ‘Or I have this cricket ball where I collect donations for a charity called the Free Representation Unit.’ As far as I know, nobody ever asked to be dealt with formally.

This did mean that whenever I appeared in front of him, I checked and double-checked that my phone was off. I could imagine how much fun he’d have getting a donation from FRU’s Legal Officer.

This didn’t mean I entirely escaped his sense of humour. I was once for the Respondent to an appeal which, although it had been let through the sift was, on examination, hopeless. The Appellant didn’t turn up to the hearing. When I stood up, Jeremy immediately asked ‘Mr Reed, I’ve read your skeleton. You say this isn’t a proper ground of appeal at all, I understand?’

Off my affirmative he immediately delivered judgment. Starting, with a twinkle in his eye: ‘Mr Reed, in accordance with the best tradition of English advocacy, has taken care to draw my attention to every legal point that might properly have been advanced by the absent Appellant.’

That’s actually the only time I remember him delivering judgment without announcing the result to the parties first. He thought the litigants should know immediately whether they’d won or lost, rather than have to wait anxiously through his speech.

That approach is an example of the kindness that made him such a civilised judge to appear before. No FRU volunteer had a tough time in front of him – win or lose. He’d invariably take the time to thank them and, when they’d lost, add a few words to the affect that they’d said everything that could be said.

There is to be a Jeremy McMullen Memorial Fund to support female candidates for the Bar through work-experience and marshalling. Donations can be made on JustGiving.

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