Former Hong Kong judge Mr Justice McMullin dies in Sydney at age 94

The Irish judge served in colonial Hong Kong from 1961 to 1986 and then became a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal from 1997 to 2003

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 10:38pm

Mr Justice Arthur Michael McMullin, 94, who served as a judge in Hong Kong for about three decades from 1961, died earlier this month at his home in Sydney, Australia.

Most of his time spent on the bench was under British colonial rule. He later served as a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal from 1997 to 2003.

McMullin died on March 10 of pneumonia. He is survived by his wife, four daughters and eight grandchildren.

Two of his daughters recalled the kindness and humility of the Irish judge, who is remembered as someone who would pray and even visit those he convicted to long sentences.

“He was never seduced by power and he treated everyone he met with kindness. He would be exactly the same to the cleaner or the attorney general,” his daughter Gabrielle McMullin,60, said.

Several people from Hong Kong, including ex-judges who attended his funeral held appropriately on Saint Patrick’s Day, shared stories that not even his family had heard of.

“They told us that whenever he sentenced somebody to a long period in prison, he would pray for them and say the rosary, and even visit them in prison. He was considered one of the best judges Hong Kong has ever had,” Gabrielle said.

“He was apparently brilliant at his job, but also an amazing father,” another daughter, Lindi McMullin, 57, said. “He was truly unique in that I have never heard him utter an unkind word of anyone, nor raise his voice in anger,” she said.

The kindness that relatives and friends described is reflected in a story published by the Post in 1963. After releasing a man on a HK$500 good behaviour bond, he told him: “Be careful in future. Go and apologise to the woman you robbed. And go back to your wife.”

McMullin, who was honoured with a CBE, was involved in major cases, such as the inquiry into the sinking of the Seawise University after the former British ocean liner Queen Elizabeth burst into flames in Victoria Harbour in 1972.

Born in 1922 in Donegal, Ireland, he graduated from University College Dublin. He served as a crown counsel in Uganda from 1950 to 1961. In 1952, he married Beryl Edith Nicholds.

The couple and their four children left Uganda for Hong Kong in 1961.

“I remember when we first arrived we stayed at Shatin Heights Hotel, which was very different from Africa, of course. I was five. I just remember how many people there were,” Gabrielle said.

The family then moved to Peak Mansions.

“We had a fantastic time. My father was a family man and he had many friends, Chinese friends, and we would do many expeditions to the outer islands,” she recalled.

The devoted Catholic joined the Hong Kong judiciary as a magistrate in 1961 and was appointed a District Court judge in the following year.

He served as a High Court judge and then from 1979 became a justice of appeal before retiring in 1986 and moving to Mallorca in Spain.

He also served on the Court of Final Appeal in Brunei.

From 1997 to 2003, he was a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong.

He moved to Sydney in 2003.