Howard Riddle (Judd 1959 – 1965) was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to the administration of justice.
Howard was the Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate) for England and Wales from 2010 until his retirement in 2016.
As Chief Magistrate he had responsibility for the 300 or so judges who sit full-time or part-time in magistrates’ courts across the country. In that post he was responsible for the deployment of judges to the night courts during the riots in 2011. Courts in London, Birmingham and Manchester sat 24 hours a day while over 2000 people appeared before the courts charged with offences in connection with the riots. The rioting stopped as soon as the night courts started. In addition, the Chief Magistrate is notified of all arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000, averaging about one a day. Howard was also the lead judge for first instance decisions in extradition cases (see below) and during his time in office heard a number of high profile cases.
After leaving Judd, Howard read law at the London School of Economics and then worked in publishing (Penguin Books, McGill University Press, and the Canada Council) before returning to England to take up a career as a defence solicitor in a legal aid firm in East London. After two years as a part-time judge, Howard was appointed as a Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate and sat at Greenwich and Woolwich Magistrates’ Courts from 1995 until shortly before his appointment as Chief Magistrate.
Howard heard the extradition proceedings of Julian Assange at Belmarsh in 2011 and ordered his extradition (Mr Assange famously preferred the Ecuadorian embassy to returning to Sweden for his trial on allegations of sexual assault).
In the same year, he ordered the extradition of Shrien Dewani to the Republic of South Africa for trial on an allegation that he murdered his bride on the first day of their honeymoon in Cape Town. Mr Dewani, after protracted appeals against extradition, went to South Africa and was acquitted.
Another extradition case that made the news was Domenico Rancadore who was wanted to serve a sentence in Italy having been convicted of mafia offences some 20 years earlier. He also conducted extradition proceedings for the former defence minister in Georgia, and for a gambler wanted for the murder of his wife in an Arizona desert.
Judge Riddle, as he was then, acquitted the England football captain, John Terry, of a public order offence. “Not only was there no public disorder, there was no prospect of disorder as the comments made by Mr Terry were not heard by anyone at the time, and only interpreted with some difficulty by lip readers after the event.” He did, however, convict the England outside half, Danny Cipriani, of drink driving. The Pakistani cricket captain, and three other members of the Pakistani cricket team, appeared in front of him and were sent for trial to the Crown Court on allegations of involvement in a betting fraud.
Sitting with lay magistrates, Howard acquitted the Disc Jockey Neil Fox of a number of allegations of historic sexual assault. Among other well- known people who appeared before the then Chief Magistrate (usually as a first appearance on the way to the Crown Court) were: Max Clifford, Rolf Harris, Tulisa (an X factor judge acquitted of drugs offences that had been based on evidence from the Fake Sheik, who himself then appeared before Howard for perverting the course of justice), Rebekka Wade (editor of the Sun), Chris Huhne MP and his former wife Vicky Pryce (both imprisoned after she accepted points on her driving licence when he had been driving at the time of the offence), Eric Joyce MP (who pleaded guilty to assaulting Conservative MPs in the Strangers Bar at the House of Commons), several other Members of both Houses of Parliament, Amjam Choudhry (a radical preacher), the President of the Mormon Church (a prosecution dismissed by Howard as an abuse of the process of the court), The Spectator magazine (for publishing an article referring to previous convictions of two men then on trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Stephen Lawrence), two Twitter trolls sent to prison for hate messages to two women (including Stella Creasy MP) campaigning for a woman to appear on a bank note, the then prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi (by video link from Milan), E (a police officer charged with – and later acquitted of - murder after shooting a man believed to be about to commit an armed robbery), and a man who, while on licence for murder, broke into the grounds of Buckingham Palace). It was, as Howard says, and interesting and varied career.
Howard played for the Old Juddian RFC in the 1970s and is a vice president of the Tonbridge Juddian RFC. He is an honorary bencher of Gray’s Inn (one of the few solicitors to be honoured in this way) and is on the editorial board of the Criminal Law Review, Blackstone’s Criminal Practice, and a former contributing editor to Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences.
Howard‘s brother, Ian, has also recently retired. Ian left Judd in 1965 to join the Merchant Navy. Thereafter he obtained an MBA and was worked in finance for a number of organisations, including British Shipbuilders, Short Bros, the New Zealand Ministry of Defence and the United Nation’s mission in East Timor. Ian’s son Charles has followed his uncle into the law.