Guernsey Press

Outgoing judge is thanked for her work

FROM Northern Ireland to Guernsey via the courts of East London, a judge is retiring from the legal profession after 40 years.

Judge Cherry McMillen. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 24368162)

For the last 15 of them, Cherry McMillen has been a judge of the Magistrate’s Court in Guernsey.

Though she is leaving the full-time post, she will serve the court as deputy judge with effect from 1 May.

Judge McMillen said coming to Guernsey had been a leap of faith but she feels she got the better part of the deal.

‘I love Guernsey and whenever the plane touches down I get the feeling that I am home,’ she said.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Judge McMillen spent her teenage years in England, where she studied history at Warwick University.

On graduation she trained as a solicitor, working principally in London’s East End.

Her work took her mainly into the Crown Court and in 1990 she was the solicitor in what was Britain’s longest ever murder trial.

She was also part of a well-known nail-bombing case and many other ‘heavy matters’.

Guernsey provided a stark contrast with those days and also with being a duty solicitor at East London police stations and magistrate’s courts, when she got used to working unsociable hours.

‘I didn’t do many fishing cases in the Mile End Road,’ she said.

Alongside her crime work, she had a considerable caseload of family matters and from 1999 she sat as deputy district judge in magistrate’s courts in England.

At a sitting of the full Royal Court in which tribute was paid to Judge McMillen, the Bailiff Sir Richard Collas said the island had been extremely fortunate when she applied for the post here.

‘For simple Guernsey folk like me, you worked in another world, a world of experiences and happenings which fortunately are foreign to us living in this relatively peaceful island,’ he said.

Judge McMillen had transformed the way that family courts were conducted in Guernsey, always ensuring that the interests of children were paramount but subject to that, and at the same time, ensuring that all parties were given a fair hearing.

‘You have had to deal with some of the most difficult cases that have come before the courts in this island,’ said Sir Richard.

‘You have had to hear evidence of events that most of us would never want to know about and you have learnt about a side of island life that most people are unaware of.’

Judges were only human and it was a facet of human nature that people liked to please all who came before them.

Sometimes amicable compromises were possible and occasionally all parties would leave the court feeling contented – but not always.

‘You have had to take tough decisions that favour one party but distress and anger another,’ said Sir Richard.

‘You have done so without fear or favour.

‘For that we are extremely appreciative.’

HM Comptroller Advocate Robert Titterington thanked Judge McMillen for her hard work and dedication both in and outside the courtroom and for the help she had given to others.

The Batonnier, Advocate Sarah Brehaut, said huge improvements had been made to the family courts since Judge McMillen came to Guernsey.

‘Previously, unmarried fathers were often not told about proceedings and experts were rarely used,’ she said.

Judge McMillen has also sat as a Lt-Bailiff in the island’s Royal Court.