Obituary - The Honourable Alec James Southwell QC



It is with deep regret that the Bar Council informs members of the death on Friday 26 January 2018 of The Honourable Alec James Southwell QC – nick-named “Ginger”. Alec was 91 (born 1 November 1926).

Alec Southwell was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and at the University of Melbourne. After completing first-year Law, he served in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve from 1944-46, seeing service in New Guinea and Morotai. He graduated with an LLB in 1949; served Articles with Alan Benjamin; and was admitted to practice in March 1951. He came straight to the Bar, signing the Roll in May 1951 and reading with Ben Dunn (later a County Court, then Supreme Court Judge).

He had a varied practice and became a dominant figure in Common Law and Personal Injuries, serving some years on the Juries Subcommittee of the Bar Practice Committee and other Committees including as a Bar appointee to the Legal Aid Committee. He had 5 Readers and took Silk in 1968.

His Honour served 10 years as a Judge of the County Court from 1969-79 in the course of which he also conducted three important Inquiries: into the Teaching Service; and two Courts of Marine Inquiry. He then served 18 years as a Judge of the Supreme Court; and a further 5 years as a Reserve Judge.

At his Supreme Court Welcome, His Honour joked that his forays into the “whispering jurisdiction” were “but dim memories”. At His Honour’s Farewell, the Solicitor-General said that His Honour “seemed as much at home in such esoteric fields as administrative law and town planning as in crime and personal injuries” and that, in recent years, most of His Honour’s time had been occupied in the hearing and disposition of Criminal Appeals in the Full Court, then as an additional Judge of Appeal.

Alec Southwell was an outstanding sportsman. As a cricketer, he played in the First XI at Melbourne Grammar; earned a half-blue as a member of the University team; and played District Cricket, and for the Bar. He was elected to the Committee of the Melbourne Cricket Club and served from 1979-97, as Vice-President from 1988-97. He was Vice-Commodore of the Sorrento Sailing Club and Captain of the Sorrento Golf Club. He played tennis and pennant squash and billiards.

 In 2014 and 2016, he moved the Admission of his granddaughters, Sarah and Katherine Southwell, with Sarah as his junior for Katherine’s admission.

There will be a Celebration of the life of the Honourable Alec Southwell at the Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club at 5:30 pm on Wednesday 31 January 2018.

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