Sir Richard, a judge and noted wildlife photographer, dies at 64
Former Cayman Islands attorney general and current Court of Appeal judge Sir Richard Ground died Saturday in his native England after a lifetime of service in Britain’s Caribbean and Atlantic territories, including Cayman, Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands. He was 64 years old.
Sir Richard was appointed to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal bench in September 2012, after having been nominated to similar posts in Turks and Bermuda. His illness prevented him from serving in the Bermudian post.
The illness also cut short his service to the Cayman Islands, according to Court of Appeal President Sir John Chadwick.
“Sir Richard’s availability to sit as a judge in the Court of Appeal was tragically curtailed by the onset of the illness which led to his death,” he said. “But he demonstrated, in the course of the session for which he was able to sit, both his outstanding quality as a judge and that the contribution that he would have made to its work in future years would have been immense.”
Sir Richard spent the balance of his legal career in those three jurisdictions and had a special passion for the beauty of the Caribbean islands, according to his wife, Lady Ground, Dace McCoy. In fact, Sir Richard met Lady Ground in Cayman in 1986.
Mrs. McCoy was then the Cayman Islands government’s marine parks coordinator and they met while developing the marine parks regulations.
Lady Ground said her husband had “had a long and happy association with Cayman” and that the couple were delighted when Sir Richard was appointed to the Cayman Court of Appeal, as it allowed them to return to the islands they love.
Sir Richard was a keen diver and enthusiastic underwater photographer. But it was his discovery of Cayman’s above-water wildlife which was most noted since the judge’s first book of wildlife photographs “Creator’s Glory” was published in 1989. The title was a reference to the Cayman Islands National Song.
Court of Appeal President Sir John Chadwick said Saturday’s passing was too early an end to a distinguished legal mind and career.
“He was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues and will be sorely missed,” Sir John said.
Premier Alden McLaughlin added to the praise: “I have known Sir Richard Ground for more than 30 years and am saddened to learn of his passing. He was an outstanding lawyer and a fine jurist and will be greatly missed.”
On Monday, a packed Grand Court room No. 2 stood for a minute of silence, at Justice Charles Quin’s direction, in tribute to Sir Richard. Justice Quin was accompanied by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and Justice Richard Williams.
A Caribbean career
Sir Richard was born on Dec. 17, 1949, in Stamford, England. He attended Lincoln College, Oxford, and the Inns of Court School of Law. In 1967, Sir Richard won an open scholarship to Oxford and captured the Violet Vaughan-Morgan University Prize for literature the next year.
His undergraduate degrees was in English Language and Literature [Hons] in 1970, and he was called to the Bar in 1975. He was appointed Queens Counsel in Cayman during 1987.
Although his private law career began at 1 Brick Court, Middle Temple in London – and included a specialization in media law – Sir Richard would soon make his move to the Caribbean, starting off in the Cayman Islands.
In 1983, he served as Crown Counsel under then-Attorney General Michael Bradley, eventually succeeding Mr. Bradley as attorney general in 1987. He would remain in that post until 1992.
Sir Richard then departed the Cayman Islands to accept an appointment as Puisne Judge of the Bermudian Supreme Court, where he served between 1992 and 1998.
He became chief justice in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1998 until 2004, finding time during those years to publish a second book “The Birds of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Sir Richard’s final posting in the Caribbean prior to retirement was in 2004, as the chief justice for Bermuda, where he served eight years until his retirement in 2012.
During his time as chief justice in Bermuda, Sir Richard began service on the Turks and Caicos Court of Appeal. He was appointed to the Cayman and Bermudian appeals courts after his retirement.
Sir Richard was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1991 for his service as attorney general. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 2012 for his service as chief justice of Bermuda.
Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie worked with Sir Richard from the 1980s, when they were colleagues in the Cayman attorney general’s chambers.
“Sir Richard made a very significant contribution to the development of the laws and administration of government in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Justice Smellie said. “His contributions to the administration of justice as chief justice and as a judge in Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands is well known and appreciated throughout the Caribbean region.
“Sir Richard enjoyed the respect of his fellow judges and chief justices from around the region and, indeed, of those many colleagues from around the Commonwealth who came to know him. The Cayman judiciary and the local profession were very much looking forward to his time on the Court of Appeal here and are deeply saddened by his passing.”
Attorney General Sam Bulgin called Sir Richard’s death a “terrible loss.”
“He had a stellar legal career in the Cayman Islands, as well as in some of the other U.K. Overseas Territories,” Mr. Bulgin said.
Judicial and Legal Services Commission Chairman Dan Scott called Sir Richard a “man of passion, integrity and humility.”
“His love of life and passion for the law was portrayed in all that he said and did,” Mr. Scott said “He will be missed, but his legacy will live on.”