The chairman of the historical abuse inquiry Sir Anthony Hart has died suddenly.
The retired high court judge in passed away in St Thomas Hospital, London after a short illness, it has been announced.
It is understood he had suffered a severe heart attack.
In 2017, Sir Anthony published a report recommending compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 to those who suffered neglect and abuse at children’s homes run by religious orders and the state between 1922 to 1995.
In a statement on its website, the Diocese of Down and Dromore said Sir Anthony, or Tony as he was known, described him as a “strong but gentle Christian believer”.
He was a regular worshipper in St Mark’s Dundela, where he served in many roles.
He was also Chancellor of the Diocese of Down and Dromore, and assessor at the most recent Diocesan Synod last month.
Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Rev Harold Miller said: “It was a pleasure and privilege to know Tony. He served the Lord, the church and the community with faithfulness and integrity, with humility and firmness. He will be greatly missed. Our comfort is in knowing that he is in the closer presence of his Lord.”
Sir Anthony was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in September 1969, and to the Bar of England and Wales in 1975. He became a Queen’s Counsel in 1983, and was appointed a county court judge in 1985.
In 1997 he became the senior county court judge in Northern Ireland when he was appointed Recorder of Belfast, and in 2002 was the first person to be appointed as presiding judge of the County Courts in Northern Ireland.
In January 2005 he was appointed a high court judge, and until his retirement in January 2012 was responsible to the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland for the pre-trial hearings in, and listing of, all criminal cases heard by high court judges, and presided over many criminal trials.