FOND farewells were said to a departing resident judge as he passed on the scales of justice and welcomed his successor to the smallest of the North-East’s three crown court centres.

Judge Christopher Prince was hailed as a “trailblazer” and “pioneer” in modernising court procedure and maintaining the efficient flow of cases during his ten years’ as The Honorary Judicial Recorder of Durham.

He was also described as “innovative and forward-thinking”, being at the forefront of the inception and introduction of schemes such as restorative justice, the prison to court video-link service and the remote link for vulnerable victims and witnesses.

On the day he handed over the title to successor Judge James Adkin, a ceremony was staged at Durham Crown Court heralding the advances made in the delivery of criminal justice during Judge Prince’s tenure.

But it also gave the outgoing judge a chance to thank all the bodies, services and individuals playing a role in the court process in County Durham, including the “fourth estate” for the media coverage, specifically The Northern Echo.

Officials and senior figures from the County Durham magistrates’ courts service, the Crown Prosecution Service, Durham Police, the Prison Service, the Restorative Justice system, crown courts operations in the region were joined by civic representatives and court staff, dock officers plus court security observing proceedings.

Members of Judge Prince’s family were also in court to hear words of thanks and praise for his efforts putting Durham at the forefront of changes improving case delivery and victim empathy.

The ceremony was presided over by Durham Crown Court delivery manager Kevin Hunt, with Judge Prince flanked on the bench by Judge Adkin, a one-time junior in his chambers on Tyneside, and senior judge Jonathan Aitken, in his role as President of the Social Entitlement Chamber, also a friend and former colleague.

Judge Aitken said the city had lost, “a diamond”, adding that under Judge Prince’s guidance Durham has become one of the most efficient courts in what is a beautiful, but somewhat antiquated building.

“Judge Prince’s legacy is the strength he has left in Durham, which I’m sure will go on pretty long into the future.”

His successor, who has been acting resident judge in Carlisle for almost two years, agreed, saying Judge Prince’s dedication, “may have helped save Durham Crown Court from being swept away in a reform programme”, adding: “No pressure then!”

Judge Prince said, asked if he is sad to be leaving the city: “The answer is, ‘yes’, I am sad to be leaving Durham, however it’s the right time to be moving.”

He will make the short journey North to preside over cases at Newcastle Crown Court.