QBD names successor to retiring libel judge Eady J

Former Paradise Chambers silk HHJ Jeremy Baker QC has been appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division (QBD) to succeed Mr Justice Eady, who retires later this month.

Eady J presided over his final case last month in which he awarded disgraced Tory peer Lord Hanningfield £3,500 in damages after he sued Essex Police for unlawful arrest.

He has been one of the highest-profile judges in the QBD, having headed the jury list for a decade until October 2010, when he was succeeded by Mr Justice Tugendhat (15 September 2010).

During his time on the bench he rose to become the top libel and defamation judge in England and Wales, making him a target for criticism from the national press.

Eady J set a new record when he ordered News Group Newspapers, owners of the now defunct News of the World, to pay Formula 1 boss Max Mosley £60,000 in damages for breach of privacy. The ruling marked the beginning of a lengthy campaign by Mosley to bring the press under statutory regulations.

Eady J subsequently came under fire from the mainstream media for what they saw as introducing a privacy law through the back door. In 2008 Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre said the “arrogant and amoral” judgments of Eady J were “inexorably and insidiously” imposing a privacy law on the British Press (10 November 2008).

“It’s become fashionable to label judges not as independent but rather as unaccountable and as hostile to freedom of speech,” Eady J said as he hit back a year later (7 Decmber 2009).

The judge stood by his comments when he presided over an injunction application brought by CTB, now known to be Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs, against NGN and former Big Brother star Imogen Thomas (20 May 2011).

In that ruling he stated: “It has for several years been repeatedly claimed in media reports that courts are ‘introducing a law of privacy by the back door’.

“Yet the principles have long been open to scrutiny. They are readily apparent from the terms of the Human Rights Act, and indeed from the content of the European Convention itself. Furthermore, they were clearly expounded seven years ago in two decisions of the House of Lords which was, of course, at that time the highest court in this jurisdiction: Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] 2 AC 457 and Re S (A Child) [2005] 1 AC 593.”

HHJ Baker was called to the bar in 1979 and took silk in 1999. He was appointed a recorder in 2000, a circuit judge in 2010 and is approved to sit as a deputy High Court judge.

As a silk he specialised in criminal cases, both prosecuting and defending serious and sensitive cases. His practice covered police disciplinary and coronial inquest matters, together with medical malpractice and HSE work.

His set, Sheffield’s Paradise Chambers, merged with St Johns Buildings (SJB) in 2011 (12 January 2011).