Michael John Christie (1949-1955)

Died in September 2020 aged 83.

I first became aware of Mike Christie at school as an imposing figure some years ahead of me, outstanding in the line-out and with his reach close to the side walls of the fives court. Later as fellow solicitors, we would sometimes talk shop in the bar at Durrants and after some years, I mentioned that I was thinking of applying to be a District Judge (then known as County Court Registrar) having for many years undertaken the quasi-judicial job as a part time member of Legal Aid Committees. He explained that he was the Regional Chairman of Mental Health Review Tribunals and that they were looking for more legal chairmen. He knew that my wife was a forensic child psychiatrist and that perhaps I had picked up some of the jargon! I explained that I would then be concentrating on the County Court appointment which was to take some time including two years sitting as a part time deputy. When I renewed my interest in the Tribunals, he gave me much encouragement and put my name forward for interview.

The training then consisted of a seminar and a number of days sitting in on tribunal hearings where he was the legal chairman. From these, I soon realised why he had become the Regional Chairman for South East England. His understanding and style were so appropriate for dealing with those patients in psychiatric hospitals who were compulsorily detained. This involved considering evidence from the treating doctor, a nurse and a social worker. All were treated with respect and, where necessary, with firmness if something was not right with the procedure.

I remember one hearing in particular. This involved a man in his late 20s suffering from anorexia. He had been an athlete at university but had more or less stopped eating and become skeletal. He was able to discuss anything with the members of the tribunal but not food and the necessity for it. After the tribunal had in private considered the evidence, Mike had the task of explaining to the man that he could not be released from the section detaining him as he was ill and needed to continue with treatment, something which the patient had great difficulty in understanding. Once I had been let loose on the hearings, Mike was always available to give advice and encouragement. His personality was perfectly suited to this work and I shall always be grateful to him for introducing me to the subject which I found so interesting in addition to my other judicial duties. How Mike found the time as Regional Chairman in addition to his other activities, mentioned by previous correspondents, I do not know.

Roger Southcombe (1954-1959)


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