Chambers beckon to retiring judge

Retiring judge Gerald Butler QC has taken the unusual step of returning to his old chambers to practise, after spotting a gap in the legal market for media and entertainment arbitration.

Butler left One Essex Court to sit on the bench in 1982, becoming Presiding Judge at Southwark Crown Court for 13 years before retiring three weeks ago. Now, aged 66, Butler has decided to return to chambers.

As well as offering an arbitration service he will also take up an as-yet undefined advisory role.

Butler said record companies and other media were crying out for speedy resolution of disputes, but added that the justice system was continually failing to deliver this.

His own practice as a barrister had been in the entertainment and media field and Butler said he was busy catching up on the latest trends. “When I was at the Bar I made a point of doing this so I would not say, 'Who are the Beatles?' or words to that effect,” he said.

Butler's return to One Essex Court after a 15-year absence is part of an emerging trend which is raising questions about how extensive retired judges' practices should be.

While it has become an accepted practice for retired judges to become arbitrators, it is unclear to what extent it is appropriate for them to act as legal advisers.

Butler said he would be holding talks with chambers colleagues to ensure there were no “raised eyebrows” among the legal community about his advisory work. He said he planned to offer legal advice to clients, but confirmed that he did not intend to appear in court, a grey area of the law which retired judges have yet to test.