For once it was the lawyers who were in the dock - and the public gallery - at Eastern Court as the legal community bade farewell to retiring Principal Magistrate Ian Candy. Colleagues hailed the 60-year-old yesterday for his dedication, professionalism, common sense, humour, patience with young counsel and more as he ended his 21-year career in Hong Kong's judiciary. Opening the case for Mr Candy was Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross, who said he had turned on its head the dictum that 'judges are best in the beginning; they deteriorate as time passes'. 'You were good when you started, and have excelled of late,' Mr Cross said. He praised Mr Candy for doing the job 'without any sort of grandstanding'. 'In 21 years on the bench, you have presided over all manner of cases, some significant, others less so, yet, no matter what the case, you have always remembered the crucial importance of the issues to those actually involved in the proceedings.' Andrew Powner, a partner at law firm Haldanes, recalled a shaky appearance before Mr Candy. 'Some 10 years ago as a rookie criminal lawyer, I appeared before you very nervous and sweaty ... petrified ... fumbling with my notes. You calmed me down, organised my mitigation for me, pointed me to the tariffs and told me about case sentences I had never even heard of. I respect you for that help early in my career.' Lawyers are not the only admirers of Mr Candy's work. In March, an activist charged with criminal intimidation and loitering held up a placard demanding Mr Candy be given 'five more years'. Yesterday, flanked by eight fellow magistrates, including Chief Magistrate Patrick Li Hon-leung, and with his wife Maire, three daughters, relatives and close friends looking on in court No1, Mr Candy listened as Bar Association vice-chairman Clive Grossman praised his contribution to legal education. Grace Wong, administrator of the duty lawyer service, thanked him for his fairness and understanding and said he was 'well loved and well respected'. Describing himself as a 'clueless gweilo', Mr Candy paid tribute to court interpreters, lawyers, probation officers and, in particular, the duty lawyer service. Mr Candy was called to the Bar in Dublin in 1969 and was in private practice until 1978, when he joined the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Dublin. In 1985 he was appointed a magistrate in Hong Kong and has been a principal magistrate since 1991. Defendants to have appeared before him include billionaire Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum, troubled pop star Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, the founder of the Tse Sui Luen jewellery empire, and drink-driving actor Tony Leung Ka-fai.