As a magistrate in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, Ian Candy came across numerous celebrities who reverently bowed before him in court, including pop star Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, the late billionaire Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum and actor Tony Leung Ka-fai. But even as an ordinary citizen without his judicial attire, Candy can boast of crossing paths with figures as globally renowned as former Irish president Mary Robinson and as locally notorious as station sergeant Lui Lok, who collected a fortune in bribes before fleeing to Taiwan in 1974. In April, Candy was honoured by Irish President Mary McAleese as one of the four founders of Ireland's Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), an independent human rights organisation dedicated to equal access to justice, which celebrated its 40th anniversary. Candy was a student at the time of the organisation's founding and described it as just a shared ideal among friends who felt they should help provide legal advice at a time when legal aid in Ireland was not provided in civil cases. 'At the time there was only criminal legal aid and no civil legal aid, so it was in effect a denial of access to justice for a majority of the population.' Despite its humble origins, FLAC went on to initiate some landmark cases, forcing the introduction of Irish civil legal aid through a decision at the European Court of Human Rights. FLAC began operating in April 1969 and was intended to be a legal-advice service provided by law students. Candy said they identified domestic issues and social welfare as areas where advice was needed. Three weeks later they had their first case: 'Our guesswork was entirely right. Interpersonal relations, as we called it, was an enormous area.' One of the earlier cases that left an impression on Candy involved a woman living in a tenement building. Her only running water was over an old stone sink in the hallway outside her room. 'The landlord had removed the sink and was just going to throw it out. She just wanted some help with this,' he said. 'We talked to the landlord, posing as her nephew. He wasn't unreasonable about it, and he agreed to reinstate the sink. There was a very simple action, and a very satisfied client. That sort of thing gave us encouragement to continue.' However, it was the next generation of students who really got the work of FLAC going full-steam. 'And because it was run by students, and students are vociferous people at the best of times, there were lots of issues to be dealt with, and they marched, they picketed the Department of Justice, picketed the parliament, all these sort of things.' FLAC pressure eventually resulted in a report calling for civil legal aid, but the breakthrough came through litigation. In the 1970s a woman named Josie Airey wanted legal separation, but could not afford a lawyer and no legal aid was available. 'With the encouragement of FLAC ... she launched proceedings against Ireland and the Attorney General in the European Court of Human Rights. Her counsel was none other than Mary Robinson. And the European Court of Human Rights declared that Ireland was in breach of the convention for not providing legal aid.' The case forced the introduction of civil legal aid. After graduating from University College Dublin, Candy practised at the Bar until 1978, when he joined the Director of Public Prosecutions' office in Dublin. 'But frankly, Ireland at the time was in an economic slump,' with high taxes, said Candy, so he took the opportunity to come to Hong Kong in 1985 to become a magistrate. 'We had nice pictures of Hong Kong but no experience' of the place, he said. By December 1989, Candy, his wife and two daughters had settled in government quarters, a property of Lui Lok repossessed by the government. 'It's the only time in my life I have benefited from the corruption of a policeman. We moved there in early December 1989 and we didn't leave there until July 2006. We lived in the same quarters all along.'