Sir Henry Hodge 1944-2009

Sir Henry Hodge, who died recently aged 65 of acute myeloid leukaemia, made an outstanding contribution to the judicial and administrative complexities of the UK immigration and asylum system. This he did, first, as the chief immigration adjudicator in 2001, and then, from April 2005, as president of the asylum and immigration tribunal, after he had been promoted to the high court bench in October 2004.

Born in Peterborough, he had qualified in 1970, following education at Chigwell school, Essex, and Balliol College, Oxford. Prior to private practice and founding the highly successful firm of Hodge, Jones & Allen, he was deputy director of the Child Poverty Action Group (1972-77), where he successfully developed a test case strategy to promote poor people’s rights to welfare benefits.

Henry’s experience of the developing social security system in the 1970s and his skills as a grass-roots legal practitioner singled him out for his ultimate role. His judicial appointment marked out his best qualities as he handled the most acute human problems of the immigrant population – a demonstrable humanity, skilled management of the administration of the lower judiciary under his aegis, and a firm grasp of forensic issues.

In the Hodge household, Arsenal and Labour politics were axiomatic. On becoming a judge, Henry entirely accepted that he had to leave one of those behind. He was just very glad it wasn’t the Arsenal.

He was appointed OBE in 1993 and knighted in 2004. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and their four children.

Harriet Harman writes:

Henry was the combination of all you could want in a friend: gregarious and clever, with a great sense of adventure. He cut a dashing figure, whether it was emerging Daniel Craig-style out of the sea or arriving for work at the high court in his motorcycle leathers.
Henry was knowledgeable about most things and interested in everything. I feel lucky to have shared so many good times with him on our travels and at supper in the Hodges’ basement kitchen. We loved spending time with Henry and we all looked up to him – literally as well as metaphorically. He was a big man with a great presence, but never overbearing, and his loss will leave a huge gap in our lives.

• Henry Egar Garfield Hodge, lawyer, born 12 January 1944; died 18 June 2009