A solicitor who began his judicial career on the lowest rung – as a parking adjudicator – has been appointed to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Hickinbottom is one of six new appointments to the court to fill forthcoming vacancies, and will be the only solicitor among the current cohort of Court of Appeal judges.
He is joined by Mrs Justice Thirlwall, Mr Justice Flaux, Mr Justice Henderson, Mr Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Moylan.
They were appointed on the recommendation of an independent selection panel chaired by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas. The other panel members were the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, and three lay commissioners of the Judicial Appointments Commission: Sir Andrew Ridgway, Debra van Gene and Professor Emily Jackson.
Of the six, Thirlwall J has spent the shortest time on the High Court bench before her promotion – six years. Hickinbottom J has held his post for seven years, while the others have been there for around a decade.
Mr Justice Irwin is a former chairman of the Bar Council.
Gary Hickinbottom, who is 60, was admitted as a solicitor in 1981 and a solicitor-advocate in 1997. He worked at City firm McKenna & Co (as it then was). He was made a bencher of Middle Temple in 2009.
In 1994, he was appointed as a parking adjudicator and, in the same year, he became an assistant recorder. He became a recorder in 1998, a circuit Judge in 2000 and a deputy High Court judge in 2001. He was appointed as Chief Social Security and Child Support Commissioner in 2003, Chief Pension Appeals Commissioner in 2005, designated civil judge for Wales in 2007, and became the first president of the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal in 2008.
In a profile published by the Judicial Appointments Commission, Hickinbottom J explained that though he was determined to be a judge, he felt he needed ‘flying time’.
“As a litigation partner with a City law firm, my clients were mainly companies. Parking adjudication was a deliberate choice because it involved no representation, short hearings, immediate decisions – it was part of the justice system that involved dealing regularly with different members of the public face-to-face.”
He added: “I enjoyed my job as a solicitor, but I had been doing it for 20 years and I didn’t want to do it for another 25 years. Further, even then the tide was turning and we didn’t have any ‘old’ partners – very few were over their mid-50s.
“Having given advice for 20 years, I wanted a different role making the decisions. But I didn’t want to be made a judge in the autumn of my professional life, as a sort of semi-retirement. If able, I wanted to have good run as a judge – a second career.”