Obituary: Susan Ward

Obituary: Susan Ward, founding member of the Association of Women Barristers and judge at the Asylum and Immigration Appeal Tribunal

Susan Mary Ward was born in Romford on 21 February 1954. She came from humble beginnings and spent her time usefully, encouraged by her parents Roland and Vera to work hard at her studies.

Susan showed real academic promise.  She even took herself off to the library at weekends to study.  Educated at Brentwood High School for Girls, she developed a passion for the law and hoped to be a Barrister.

In those days, the judiciary was primarily a male dominated, public school network. Her parents had neither money nor contacts to influence her career. Nevertheless, she succeeded in gaining an Inner Temple scholarship and went to Bristol University to study law. 

By her own account, while there she also managed to develop a liking for extracurricular activities, but by sheer determination and undoubted ability passed her exams and was called to the bar in 1976.  She practised as a barrister initially, but was badly injured in a car crash, which caused a slight hiatus in her career.

She spent some time travelling, including to Australia. She was determined to get back to the law and joined Chalfont Chambers in Sydney as a barrister. One of her major briefs was to work with the government, investigating Agent Orange, the jungle defoliant that caused so much damage and injured so many Vietnamese people and allied troops during the Second World War.

She returned to the UK in 1987.  Her first job was with the government legal services and she then joined APACS, a company that handles cheques and bank payments and became general counsel.

Holidays were always a very special part of her life, allowing her time with her family.  They travelled widely. In Who’s Who she lists European languages (she spoke six European languages), travel and collecting Champagne labels as her hobbies. She has many different ones, but only collected labels from the bottles she had drunk.

Susan took an active role in her children’s education – she became a governor of Chigwell school, where both were educated. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge and also used to say she was the world’s leading expert on everything; and she had a sense of humour too.  

Susan’s career accelerated in the City where she became general counsel of the London Clearing House, the company that is the central counter party for the majority of stocks and shares and commodity transactions in the City. She enjoyed the City lifestyle and made many friends there.

But during all this time, she continued to work with the Bar in other ways. She was a founding member of the Association of Women Barristers and member of BACFI the employed barristers association – tirelessly supporting both these, arguably disadvantaged, groups within the legal establishment. She became chair of both and fought for their interests on the Bar Council for many years.  Among other legal roles, she was a member of the Academic Advisory Panel at the BPP Law school and a member of the Policy Holders Protection Board.

She thought her greatest career achievement was to be invited to be a Bencher of Inner Temple in 2002. Apparently she was the first ’employed’ barrister in the Inn’s 400-year history to be invited to be a bencher. 

From 1995 she had a part time judicial appointment as a judge and then chairman at the Asylum and Immigration Appeal Tribunal. This made her realise her ultimate goal was to become a full-time Judge

In 2008 she was appointed a full-time senior immigration judge of the Upper Tribunal. This work environment was very different to City life.  She was admired and respected by her colleagues and loved for her humour and her somewhat irreverent attitude outside court, which she brought from the City.

Susan Ward fought progressed through her career with determination and exceptional ability. She fought her own corner and those of her fellow women barristers and employed barristers at the Bar Council for many years. Several colleagues have said “she made a real difference” – not a bad epitaph. 

She married Fergus Jamieson in March 1989 and they have two children Annabel and Jack.