FRIENDS and colleagues of a judge who balanced a mischievous sense of humour with a "humane" sense of justice gathered to pay tribute to him.

Judge John Plumstead sat at St Albans Crown Court from his appointment as a circuit judge in 2006 until his sudden death last Wednesday at the age of 64.

More than 150 people attended a ceremony held at the court on Friday morning, which was transmitted by live link to other courts, including the Old Bailey where Judge Plumstead had regularly appeared as a barrister.

Judge Andrew Bright said: “His Honour Judge John Plumstead was the life and soul of St Albans Crown Court.

"On the Bench, Judge Plumstead had his own distinctive and often unconventional style. He was well known for his ability to communicate with anyone and everyone, including defendants, witnesses, juries and advocates, in language they could readily understand. He never took himself too seriously and frequently showed his mischievous sense of humour.

"Above all, he had a reputation for being fair, courteous, tough when he had to be, but humane.

Judge Bright said one of Judge Plumstead's judicial colleagues paid tribute to him in these words: "He understood what mattered, that we are here to try and do justice. He recognised the reality of the people appearing in front of him. He never mistook vengeance for justice. What he brought to this job was his humanity."

Judge Bright added that Judge Plumstead was extremely popular with the court staff, who loved working with him because they knew how much he appreciated their loyalty and dedication.

In his tribute last Friday, his friend and colleague Judge Stephen Warner described Judge Plumstead as a man who was loyal and generous and who lived life to the full.

Judge Plumstead is survived by his wife, daughter, two step-daughters and three sisters, one of whom is a retired judge.