Professor Brice Dickson, a barrister from Northern Ireland, is Professor of International and Comparative Law at the School of Law, Queen's University Belfast. Formerly Professor of Law at the University of Ulster, he became the first Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on its establishment in 1999, serving two three-year terms. He left the NIHRC in March 2005 to take up his chair at Queen's.
Dickson is the author of numerous legal textbooks. He was a co-founder of the main human rights non-governmental organisation in Northern Ireland, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ).
Under Dickson's leadership the NIHRC developed as the first statutory national human rights institution for Northern Ireland, replacing a former advisory commission. The NIHRC monitored human rights compliance, advised the United Kingdom government and the Northern Ireland Assembly on legislation and policy, provided legal assistance to individuals and secured recognition within the United Nations and Council of Europe human rights systems.
The latter years of Dickson's tenure at the NIHRC were marked by controversy and the resignations or withdrawal from participation of several part-time Commissioners. After first agreeing to the Commission's Bill of Rights proposals in 2001, two Commissioners later resigned because they thought the proposals did not go far enough. Another area of difference related to the Holy Cross dispute in which Loyalists sought to blockade a Catholic primary school in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast. The NIHRC's Casework Committee decided in November 2001, contrary to a former decision by the whole Commission, to support a legal action brought by a Holy Cross mother who sought judicial review of the handling of the dispute by the then police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Dickson and some other Commissioners disagreed with the decision and wrote to the then RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, assuring him that they did not support the legal action against him. That letter was disclosed to the other Commissioners at the time but became public in the course of the subsequent legal proceedings and in 2003 two Commissioners withdrew from the Commission over the matter and called for Dickson's resignation. Another Commissioner resigned on being offered a post with the Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission. When Dickson's term as chief commissioner ended, the NIHRC was left without a chair for some months. The judicial review application against the RUC failed in the High Court, in the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland and in the House of Lords.
On returning to academic life, Dickson's research activity has included work on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, formerly the judicial or appellate committee of the House of Lords.