Judge served his profession with distinction

THE funeral of retired County Court judge, Robert John Babington DSC QC, took place yesterday in his home town of Holywood.

Judge Babington passed away last Friday, aged 90, following a long and distinguished military, political and legal career.

He was buried after a service in the town’s St Philip and St James Parish Church.

The Dublin-born former Ulster Unionist MP was educated at both St Columba’s College and Trinity College in the Irish capital.

He served with the RN Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War as an observer in the Fleet Air Arm and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1942.

The young pilot’s first wartime posting was flying Fairy Fulmars from the Harland and Wolff-built carrier HMS Formidable – arriving in Egypt just as his ship was about to take part in the evacuation of Crete.

After the Crete evacuation, Sub Lieutenant Babington flew Swordfish torpedo bombers during the invasion of Syria and once spent three days in a dingy, without food or water, after being forced to ditch at sea.

His medal citation reads: “The Distinguished Service Cross has been awarded to Sub Lieutenant Babington for his skill, bravery and sustained resolution in many air attacks against enemy submarines and E-boats in the Mediterranean.”

He had another brush with death when the carrier HMS Dasher was sunk while sailing in the Clyde with the loss of 379 men.

As the ship was sinking, Sub Lt Babington was forced to jump overboard and swim to safety. A massive explosion took the ship under a short time later.

It was while on leave in Belfast that the young Robert Babington was taken to a legal profession lunch and decided he wanted to become a barrister.

After the war be embarked on his chosen career in law, eventually becoming a barrister in 1947. He was made a QC in 1965.

In 1978, aged 58, the QC was appointed as County Court judge for Fermanagh and Tyrone.

He married Bryanna Alton in 1952 and went on to have two sons and one daughter.

Giving an address at yesterday’s funeral, Mr Justice Hart paid tribute to his friend and colleague saying he was universally regarded as a “perfect gentleman”.

Judge Hart said of Robert Babington’s career as a QC: “He was faced with the enormous increase in crime which came with the onset of what are euphemistically referred to as the Troubles, and appeared on behalf of the prosecution in many, if not virtually all, of the major murder trials and other cases of the early 1970s.

“Robert Babington served his country, his profession and this community with distinction.

“Those of us who were privileged to appear against him or with him, and then before him, and who enjoyed his company as a colleague and friend, will long remember him with respect, admiration, and great affection.”

Between 1968 and 1972, Robert Babington served as the Member of Parliament for North Down and was widely regarded as a moderate voice within the party. His political career came to an end with the collapse of the Stormont Parliament in 1973.

Judge Babington’s hobbies, as listed in Who’s Who, were golf and bird watching. He was a member of Royal Belfast golf club.