A memorial and thanksgiving service for York’s much-lamented and inimitable former chief judge Paul Batty KC was held in the 14th-century splendour of All Saints Church in a fitting farewell to the highly respected recorder whose mourners included the city’s erstwhile Archbishop Dr John Sentamu.
There wasn’t a spare seat inside the ancient church on Pavement, which has paid homage to the city’s great and good for the past 700 years.
Lord Sentamu was among friends, dignitaries and judiciary who paid tribute to the former Recorder of York during a solemn and poignant thanksgiving on Saturday.
They recalled the life of a highly popular man renowned as much for his seafaring exploits and ability to “puncture pomposity” as his high intellect.
Speaking from the pulpit at the ancient church, the bishop said he had the “great honour” of staying with Mr Batty and his wife Angela at their home in North Yorkshire and described their hospitality as “awe-inspiring”.
He said he would never forget the day he received a call to say that his great friend, a fellow Anglican renowned as a “great raconteur and bon viveur”, was in intensive care.
“I dropped everything and drove straight to the hospital,” added Dr Sentamu, who recited the Lord’s Prayer at his friend’s bedside.
But perhaps the most telling eulogy came from Jamie Martin OBE, Mr Batty’s long-time friend who was honoured for his services to the business community in the north-east.
“Paul had an ability to puncture pomposity,” said Mr Martin.
“He had an ability to get on with anyone, from humble fishermen to boat-builders to archbishops and (the judiciary). He took his responsibilities seriously, but he wore them lightly.
“He enjoyed life, good food, good wine and good company. He was mischievous fun, he was loyal and he was a good friend.”
Their friendship was forged through a shared love of fishing off the Northumbrian coast, “having a pint and exchanging fishing stories”, added Mr Martin.
He said he had “many great weekends” with his friend on Mr Batty’s ship, which he kept on the Northumberland coast, and at the late judge’s rented Northumbrian cottage where “liberal quantities of Bulgarian Claret” were imbibed following cod-and-mackerel fishing expeditions.
Mr Batty, whom he described as a “great leader”, skippered the boat as he was “the only one of us who had any seafaring qualifications”. He said his friend was a great raconteur and a “hugely admired judge, as well as a man of the sea”.
Lives turned upside down
Mr Batty, ever affable and occasionally irascible, was renowned for his “humanity and passion” in emotive cases.
He died in February aged 69 following complications from an accident in May 2018 in which he suffered spinal injuries which, tragically, put an end to his lifelong love of fishing off the North Sea coast around Northumbria, Scarborough, Whitby and Filey.
His wife Angela Batty, whom he married in 1986, said her husband’s life-changing accident five years ago had “turned our lives upside down”.
“He was told he would not work again,” she added.
Mr Batty’s spinal injuries left him paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair, which tragically brought a premature end to his beloved sea-fishing, but his wife said he “fought his problems with typical fortitude”.
“Paul was a loving husband, father and grandfather and a good friend to many,” she added.
“He’s sadly missed by all of us.”
Hailing from County Durham, Mr Batty spent two years as a boarder at Carlisle’s Austin Friars school.
An interest in the legal profession began while his father, Vincent, was a police inspector in the coastal town of Seaham Harbour. He would attend court hearings with his father, watching as senior officers prosecuted cases before addresses by defence solicitors.
After reading law at Newcastle University, he joined London’s historic Lincoln’s Inn and was called to The Bar in 1975 after passing his barrister training.
He joined chambers in Newcastle and sat as a recorder, or part-time judge, from the mid-1990s, until his appointment as a North East circuit judge in 2003. He was made a QC (Queen’s Counsel), known as ‘taking silk’, the following year.
He was appointed resident judge at Carlisle Crown Court in 2007 and served there with distinction until 2015 – including three years in the ceremonial role of Honorary Recorder – and was made a freeman of the city in recognition of his distinguished service.
He transferred to York in 2015 where he became a formidable presence on the Crown Court bench as the city’s Honorary Recorder and was particularly notable for ridding North Yorkshire’s streets of some of the most notorious ‘County Lines’ drug dealers.
The Honourable Mr Justice James Cross, a fellow alumnus at the College of Law, said his long-time friend “relished” his new role in York with “customary gusto” and described him as a “much-admired and respected judge, extremely witty, a bon viveur with a formidable constitution”.
“He suited York and York suited him,” he added.
“How tragic it was that the events of May 2018 brought a premature end to his (tenure as resident judge). He will be greatly missed.”
His Honour Judge Sean Morris, the current Recorder of York, said his predecessor was a “great…and loved family man” whose life should be celebrated.
The service – led by Canon Rodney Nicholson and Reverend Liz Hassall, priest in charge of York city-centre churches – included hymns with a nautical theme chosen by Mr Batty’s family.
The late judge is survived by his wife Angela, daughter Sarah and two grandchildren.