William Nimmo Smith, Lord Nimmo Smith

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Lord Nimmo Smith
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Scotland).svg
Senator of the College of Justice
Assumed office
Nominated byJohn Major
As Prime Minister
Appointed byElizabeth
Personal details
William Austin Nimmo Smith

(1942-11-06) 6 November 1942 (age 77)
Spouse(s)Jennifer Main
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford; University of Edinburgh

William Austin Nimmo Smith (6 November 1942) is a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session. He retired from this position on 30 September 2009.[1]

Early life[edit]

Nimmo Smith was educated as a King's Scholar at Eton College, and studied Classics at Balliol College, University of Oxford (BA Hons 1965), and Law at the School of Law of the University of Edinburgh (LL.B. 1967). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1969.[2][3]

Legal career[edit]

Nimmo Smith was appointed Standing Junior Counsel (legal advisor appointed by the Lord Advocate) to the Department of Employment in 1977, serving until 1982, at which time he took silk. From 1983 to 1986, he was an Advocate Depute, representing the Crown in prosecutions and appeals in the High Court. From 1986 to 1991, he was Chairman of the Medical Appeal Tribunals and the Vaccine Damage Tribunals, and from 1988 to 1996 was a part-time member of the Scottish Law Commission.[2][3]

Inquiries and reports[edit]

In 1993, he was appointed along with James Friel, Senior Procurator Fiscal of North Strathclyde, to conduct an investigation into allegations of corruption amongst a so-called Magic Circle in the Scottish justice system, comprising homosexual members of the judiciary, legal profession and police. The allegations included liability to blackmail and giving preferential treatment, including unusually lenient sentences, to homosexual criminals. Concerns had been raised by Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell with Lothian and Borders Chief Constable Sir William Sutherland. The Report on an Inquiry into an Allegation of a Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice in Scotland was presented to the House of Lords on 26 January 1993 by Lord Advocate Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, and found no evidence of the existence of such a Magic Circle, but strongly criticised some police officers, who it said had treated rumours as fact or had been motivated by homophobia.[2][3][4][5]

In 1995 he was appointed by Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, to conduct a local inquiry with the terms of reference: "To inquire into the question whether Monklands District Council have failed to comply with the duty imposed on them by section 7 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to make appointments to paid office or employment on merit, and to report thereon." After conducting the inquiry, which included the taking of evidence at hearings open to the public, he reported on 15 December 1995 that there was no evidence that any such appointment had been made otherwise than on merit. The Secretary of State so advised the House of Commons on 20 December 1995.

The Bench[edit]

Nimmo Smith was appointed a temporary judge of the Court of Session in 1995, and in 1996 was raised fully to the Bench as a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary, Scotland's Supreme Courts, with the judicial title, Lord Nimmo Smith. Whilst a judge of the Outer House of the Court of Session, he served as the Insolvency Judge and one of the Intellectual Property Judges. In 2002, he was one of five judges who heard the appeal of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.[3] He was promoted to the First Division of the Inner House in 2005, at which time he was appointed a member of the Privy Council, affording him the style, The Right Honourable.[2] He retired on 30 September 2009.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Nimmo Smith married Jennifer Main in 1968, with whom he has a son and a daughter. He was Chairman of the Council of the Cockburn Association from 1996 to 2001, being succeeded in this position by fellow judge Lord Brodie.[3][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "EXECUTIVE NOTE: THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF JUDGES (TRANSITIONAL PROVISION) (SCOTLAND) ORDER 2009". Scottish Government. August 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Biographies – The Right Hon Lord Nimmo Smith". Scottish Court Service. Archived from the original on 4 October 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Judges named for Lockerbie appeal". Scottish Executive. 17 January 2002. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  4. ^ "House of Lords Debate: Nimmo Smith-Friel Report". Hansard. 26 January 1993. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  5. ^ "Fettesgate: 'Magic Circle' spells panic in the police". Edinburgh Evening News. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  6. ^ "The Cockburn Council". Cockburn Association. Retrieved 18 August 2009.