A Judge’s Tribute to Nicky Gatto

Some of you will have read my blog about my colleague Nicky Gatto. The day after the news was announced HHJ Tom Gilbart, a former member of our chambers, said a few words in open court at the start of the day. Tim Storrie KC responded on behalf of the Bar. A largely impromptu tribute and HHJ Gilbart has asked me to share his words with a wider audience than was in court and I am more than happy to do so. You will note that we both recall the same anecdote!

It was announced yesterday that Nicky Gatto passed away.

I know that something more formal will take place and I do not want to step on anybody’s toes but I was in Chambers with Nicky for my entire time at the bar and I wanted to say something very briefly in open court this morning.

She was, I think, one of the funniest people that I have met. A natural raconteur. My first reaction yesterday when I heard the news – after the sadness – was to share some of stories about her with my son and laugh about them. A personal favourite was when she walked into Court without her glasses on. Seeing the usher on the Judge’s bench preparing his papers, Nicky asked – unable to see properly – what time is Ratface getting here?

It was, of course, the Judge. “Ratface is already here” came the reply.

She was also an absolutely first rate barrister – tireless; fearless and well prepared. Whenever I covered one of her cases as a barrister, I would be astounded by the number of conferences she had had and the whole wealth of issues she had explored.

We defended a trial together for about a month at Preston Crown Court. The case was overwhelming against both of our defendants. Witness after witness would come and give apparently devastating evidence about her defendant and I would sit there and think “What on earth will Nicky ask him?”. But every time – she would stand up; gown a bit dishevelled; wig not quite straight on her head; papers falling from a pile onto the floor – and produce killer question after killer question. It was obvious that the jury loved her and at the end of the trial – she gave the best defence speech that I have ever heard.

She also appeared in front of me once I was appointed as a Judge and, of course was just what was expected – a powerful advocate; immensely well prepared; an expert on the law and fearless in putting her case. 

Her death is a sad waste of all that energy and talent and the Northern Circuit and 9 St John Street Chambers and the staff at Bolton will miss her terribly but the real loss, of course, is suffered by Mark and her family. All of our thoughts are with them today.

Thank you

HHJ Tom Gilbart

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