A judge has to understand human fallibility as he sits on the bench from where he gets to witness the very best and the very worst of humanity, Maltese-born Sir Igor Judge believes.

"As a judge you see humanity in the most wonderful way. You see things that make you humble to be human. You think to yourself: If that were me, I hope I could do that. And you also see things that are absolutely, unspeakably terrible and make you almost ashamed to be part of the human race," he told The Times in a telephone interview.

Sir Igor, who is known for his "humane" nature, has just been appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He will be taking over when Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers steps down in October.

Born in Malta in the middle of a bombing raid during World War II, Sir Igor lived on the island until the age of 13.

Despite having lived in England most of his life, the 67-year-old aptly-named Judge still appreciates the Maltese lineage he inherited from his Maltese mother.

"I am very proud of my Maltese heritage," he says as he goes on to outline the rich wisdom encapsulated in Malta's history. He travels to Malta frequently to visit his mother and, he admits, while he's here, he tries to speak Maltese.

He still understands the language but "I speak enthusiastic but not brilliant or grammatical Maltese," he laughs.

Sir Igor's mother, Rosa Micallef-Judge, recalled how, when he was young, her late husband Raymond Frank Aspinell Judge encouraged him to follow his preferred path.

"His father said to him: 'Igor, whatever you do, be a good carpenter but don't be a bad doctor'. I remember this like it was yesterday," she said.

On learning that her son was appointed Lord Chief Justice, Ms Micallef-Judge, who still lives in Malta, was extremely proud.

"My first reaction was that he is so blessed. He has always been blessed and never gave me a day of trouble," she said with enthusiasm.

Ms Micallef-Judge noted that her son was brought up in a tightly-knit family and, in fact, till this day they are all very close.

The proud mother believes that his upbringing may have had an effect on his understanding and humane nature.

"At home we always had an open door for whoever was poor and needed help... and I was always involved in charity work," she said adding: "I happened to have a wonderful husband as well. My husband adored the children. He was a man of few words. When I told him Igor was appointed a high court judge, unlike me who showed my enthusiasm, he did not say a word but there were tears of joy in his eyes and I never forgot it."

Sir Igor said: "One of the things that mattered a lot to me was that my parents both believed very strongly in understanding and toleration and that there are lots of different points of view in almost everything and you have to respect everybody's point of view".

This is a philosophy he adopts at work since, as reported in Timesonline, "Sir Igor keeps in mind the backgrounds of the offenders who come before him... He said in 2005: 'The defendant nearly always makes a difference. This isn't namby-pamby psycho-babble. You are not sentencing a piece of paper'."

Sir Igor was educated at St Edward's College, Malta, the Oratory School, Woodcote and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was called to the bar in 1963, was appointed judge in 1988, promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1996 and became a Privy Councillor.

He became Deputy Lord Chief Justice in 2003 and head of Criminal Justice in January last year. From October, he will be taking on the role of Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Asked whether his surname - Judge - had anything to do with his career choice, perhaps as a child, he explained that he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a barrister, however, his surname had no influence.

Many commented and joked about his surname... "It's a perfectly good joke," he laughed.


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