A SALISBURY judge who has presided over murder trials, sat on the court of appeal and even been mistakenly called up for jury service has hung up his wig and gown after more than two decades.

Judge Keith Cutler CBE has enjoyed a law career spanning nearly 50 years and officially retired earlier this month.

The Recorder of Winchester had been due to retire on his 70th birthday last August but due to the Covid-19 pandemic was asked to stay on.

He was called to the Bar in 1972 and worked as a barrister in London. He became a circuit judge in 1996 and was later appointed as the resident judge for Salisbury in 2003 before the two courts amalgamated.

"I've been a judge for over 24 years and was a barrister for 24 years before that so all those years, getting on to nearly 50 years in the law courts. Now I will be in my garden really or somewhere else thinking about life in general," he said.

The Recorder of Winchester His Honour Judge Keith Cutler CBE

The Recorder of Winchester His Honour Judge Keith Cutler CBE

Mr Cutler says there is a "responsibility" that comes with the role. His last case involved a defendant on trial for murder and attempted murder who was subsequently acquitted.

"All the emotion, difficulty and complexities of all that and you managing that as a judge on your own. The jury are finding guilt and innocence but you are controlling all the proceedings. I've enjoyed it but I suppose I shall also enjoy being without that responsibility and enjoying all the books I want to read and listen to music and catching up on the Netflix."

From amateur dramatics to the court room stage

However, Mr Cutler admits a legal career was not something at the forefront of his mind in his younger years.

As he explains: "It only came into my thoughts when I was at school in my sixth form, thinking 'what should I do at university?'.

"I thought I'd like to do a law degree and was involved in amateur dramatics and quite liked public speaking so thought yes I would try and work towards becoming a barrister."

Mr Cutler says he was at a state school where he said "the chances of me succeeding were very slim but being very determined I did it".

He got his degree at the University of Bristol before passing his Bar finals and getting chambers in the temple in London. As a barrister he did work on the western court circuit and would come out to Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

Being a judge

"My judging certainly over the past 11 or 12 years as recorder of Winchester and Salisbury, has been solely crime.

"When I was a barrister I did some crime but not all crime - sometimes I would be prosecuting and sometimes I would be defending - but when you become a judge you are removed from that arena really, you are just out of that.

"You can't be over-friendly with the prosecution or the defence, you've got to be friendly with the jury but not over-friendly but you have to keep them on your side.

"You've got to be comparatively nice to the defendant during the trial but you can be as nasty as you like about them if they are convicted and you are sending them off to prison.

"It is one of the jobs publicly you can say particularly damning things to someone when you send them off to prison and not be complained about.

"It is a very fascinating job and it is one I really have enjoyed over the years."

Salisbury Law Courts

Salisbury Law Courts

Salisbury Law Courts

The creation of Salisbury Law Courts

Salisbury retains a special place for the retired judge who saw the current court in the city come into being.

As resident judge in Salisbury in 2003 the crown court was located opposite the White Hart, while the magistrates' court was in the Guildhall.

This was before the criminal and civil courts were brought together under one roof at Salisbury Law Courts on Wilton Road, which last year celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Judge Keith Cutler, Judge David McLaren-Webster and Judge Andrew Barnett..The 10th anniversary of Salisbury Law Courts DC9293P3 Picture by Tom Gregory.

Judge Keith Cutler, Judge David McLaren-Webster and Judge Andrew Barnett..The 10th anniversary of Salisbury Law Courts DC9293P3 Picture by Tom Gregory.

Judge Keith Cutler, Judge David McLaren-Webster and Judge Andrew Barnett marking the 10th anniversary of Salisbury Law Courts Picture by Tom Gregory

High profile cases

Although there have been many memorable cases in Judger Cutler's career, one of those was a robbery at the post office in Downton.

Judge Cutler has occasionally sat at the Court of Appeal in London and was the coroner in the high-profile inquest of Mark Duggan in 2013 – the Tottenham man shot and killed by police in 2011.

As well as being a judge he was also president of the Council of Circuit Judges and was asked by the Lord Chief Justice to do the Mark Duggan inquest as he was used to dealing with high profile cases involving a jury.

He recalled: "That was three or four months in the Royal Courts of Justice where we had the hearing.

"We used the rooms that had just been vacated by Lord Leveson having done his report.

"We were going to follow on from the inquest into Litvinenko. There I was right in the middle of all this.

"We went to site visits where Mark Duggan was shot and had all the experts trying to reconstruct what might have happened. I had to fight with the BBC to release us some footage so that was quite interesting law.

"I had to do some visits to a secret police area to listen to covert tapes.

"It was absolutely fascinating, again hard work but really, really great.

"That was another thing I was lucky enough to do."

Thanks to the jury

"I have been so grateful for all the people who have been brought in on jury service. They have been asked to come in for jury service and in spite of all the problems of Covid times, all the difficulties, they have come in and done there duty and sat as jurors. It has been very impressive.

"They deserve thanks because it is a tough old duty deciding someone's guilt or innocence in some of these cases."

Winchester Crown Court

Winchester Crown Court

Winchester Crown Court

Mr Cutler has also thanked the various Lord Lieutenants and High Sheriffs he has worked with over the years and has enjoyed his contact with Salisbury Cathedral, including the Dean and the Bishop.

Jury service call up

Judge Cutler still recalls the time he was actually called up for jury service himself in 2019.

"I was finishing off a murder case in Salisbury and I said to the jury 'don't worry members of the jury it is a very important duty you are doing and you will be interested to hear I'm meant to be on a jury next week here in this very building'.

"They pricked up their eyes then I told them the story of how I was asked to do jury service and contacted the jury summoning bureau and said I can't do that I'm the resident judge."

A letter came back stating his application for refusal is refused and suggested contacting the resident judge so he then got back in touch with them to explain "I am the resident judge'" and he says they were "rather embarrassed".

"I told this story to the jury not realising that there was a member of the press in the corner of the court."

What have you enjoyed most?

Mr Cutler says he has particularly enjoyed working with his colleagues over the years.

He said: "The camaraderie is brilliant.

"The friendship of the barristers is really brilliant.

"You might be against each other in a case but you are always great friends with your learned friend and that follows through to being judges.

"That is one of the great highlights of the whole career and I'll miss that."

He also says he has enjoyed working with the various Lord Lieutenants and High Sheriffs over the years in the local area.

New judge takes the reigns

Judge Angela Morris now takes over as the Recorder if Winchester.

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