When particulars emerged of how the Iraqi resort receptionist Baha Mousa had been violently restrained and crushed to loss of life in British navy custody in 2003, it was the attraction courtroom choose Sir William Gage who was the pure option to chair the general public inquiry.
Trusted with excessive profile trials, Gage, who has died aged 85, was famend for his authorized thoroughness and composed manner. Moreover he had a navy background, having accomplished nationwide service as a lieutenant within the Irish Guards.
For 2 and a half years, beginning in 2008, he sat alone listening to contradictory proof about mistreatment of prisoners and producing a devastating, 1,400-page-long report that uncovered the inadequacies of British navy tradition and condemned its “lack of self-discipline and an absence of ethical braveness”.
Praised for being “rigorous and strong”, Gage highlighted the continued use of interrogation methods that had been banned in 1972 following earlier inquiries into the abuse of suspects interned throughout Northern Eire’s Troubles.
A number of methods – together with subjecting detainees to hooding, stress positions and sleep deprivation – had been nonetheless exploited by troopers of the first Battalion Queen’s Lancashire Regiment for what was politely termed “conditioning” – making ready suspects for questioning. Mousa was discovered to have suffered a minimum of 93 accidents, together with fractured ribs and a damaged nostril.
Gage’s painstaking investigation didn’t uncover a coverage of systematic abuse however recognized people and uncovered their roles within the occasions main as much as Mousa’s loss of life. His report was forthright in its condemnation, describing how British troopers inflicted “violent and cowardly” assaults on Iraqi civilians and subjected them to “gratuitous” kickings and beatings.
Witnesses had been granted immunity from prosecution based mostly on their proof to the hearings. This, Gage defined in his report, was to interrupt down the “closing of ranks” that had annoyed earlier courtroom martial trials.
Gage was born in Surbiton, Surrey, the son of Elinor (nee Martyn) and Conolly Gage. His father was a circuit courtroom choose and Ulster Unionist MP for South Belfast between 1945 and 1952.
Invoice adopted his father in going to first Repton college, in Derbyshire, after which Sidney Sussex School, Cambridge, the place initially he studied historical past however later switched to regulation. He spent two years doing nationwide service within the military, and taught historical past at a college in south London briefly earlier than becoming a member of what had been then his father’s chambers at 2 Harcourt Buildings within the Inside Temple – now Henderson Chambers.
In 1962, he married Penny Groves and the next yr was referred to as to the Bar. Appointed a QC in 1982, Gage developed a distinct segment observe defending these accused of white-collar crime. His most profitable case concerned the 1989 acquittal of Kenneth Grob, a Lloyd’s underwriter, who confronted 17 theft expenses.
He additionally defended Dr Ann Dally, who was disciplined by the Basic Medical Council for prescribing managed medicine to heroin addicts. The primary cost towards her was dismissed. In a ebook about her expertise Dally later remarked: “I favored William Gage instantly. He could possibly be comforting and abrasive on the identical time, an fascinating mixture.”
Gage first joined the bench in 1985, sitting sometimes as a recorder. In 1993, he turned a excessive courtroom choose and was knighted. He was promoted in 2004 to the courtroom of attraction, on which he remained for 4 years.
His legal regulation expertise resulted in him being chosen to listen to two of essentially the most infamous trials of the period: the case towards Siôn Jenkins, a deputy headteacher who was jailed in 1998 for murdering his teenage foster daughter, Billie-Jo, although formally acquitted in 2006 after two retrials, and that towards Barry George for the homicide of the tv presenter Jill Dando.
As trial choose on the Previous Bailey, Gage discovered himself underneath intense media scrutiny. George was charged with the homicide of Dando, a presenter on BBC Crimewatch, who was shot lifeless exterior her house in Fulham, west London, in 1999. The case resulted in George being sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001. That conviction was subsequently quashed by the courtroom of attraction in 2007 and George was acquitted after a retrial the next yr.
The conviction was overturned on the premise of disputed identification proof and the reliability of forensic checks. Gage was criticised in the course of the attraction for not halting the jury trial due to the paucity of proof however the equity of his summing up speech was resolutely defended by the crown – a stance that introduced him reduction.
In his personal life, Gage adored nation pursuits. Having first settled in Ladbroke Grove, west London, the household moved to Buckinghamshire within the late Eighties. He was eager on capturing, fishing and golf. Among the many family’s pets was a parrot which regularly sat on his shoulders as he watched tv and nuzzled his ear. On one event a caller was knowledgeable that Gage was unable to come back to the telephone as a result of he was “washing the parrot”.
In later years, Gage joined a number of boards and tribunals together with the Felony Accidents Compensation Board, the Parole Board and the appeals board of the British Horseracing Authority. He was additionally a Surveillance Commissioner (2009-15), overseeing the conduct of the safety companies.
A religious Christian, he was chancellor of the Anglican diocese of Coventry – a put up beforehand held by his father.
He’s survived by Penny and their three sons, Marcus, Timothy and Hugh.
“He stored on being given troublesome instances as a result of he was extensively revered,” recalled his pal and chambers colleague Roger Henderson KC. “The time period ‘secure pair of palms’ is commonly seen as a slight. In Invoice’s case, it was as a result of he was the most secure pair of palms. His work was inspiring.”