Obituary: Alan Finlayson, 79

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ALAN Finlayson, lawyer, child law expert and sheriff, has died, aged 79.

Born in Dumfries on December 19, 1934, the son of teachers, Alan was educated at Dalswinton Primary and Dumfries Academy before arriving in Edinburgh to spend his sixth year at George Watson’s College.

He had represented Dumfries Academy at football and also played for Cumnock Juniors in the Western League. At Watson’s, he stayed in the boarding house but as he did not play rugby the master asked where he was going on Saturdays. When Alan told him he was playing Juvenile football he was “confined to barracks” – though he later came close to winning the school’s annual rugby penalty competition, giving him the satisfaction that he would have excelled at the game had he wanted to.

After National Service with the 7th Hussars he went to Edinburgh University, graduating in law. He quickly becoming a partner in Rankin & Reid, and when criminal legal aid was introduced in 1964 he was among the first to take the opportunity to represent people under the new system.

In 1968, the Children’s Panel system was introduced in place of juvenile courts. Alan was appointed the first Reporter to the City of Edinburgh Panel, later Lothian Region.

His reputation grew swiftly. He was admired in Scotland and abroad. He travelled to lecture and extoll Scotland’s unique system, especially to the USA, and his contribution to juvenile justice was recognised when he was given the freedom of the city of Cleveland, Ohio.

He regarded the success of the hearings system as one of his greatest achievements. Further recognition came with an OBE in 1987 and Edinburgh’s Citizen of the Year in 1999.

In 1998, he was a member of the inquiry team which looked into allegations of child abuse at Edinburgh children’s homes and produced a report which became a blueprint for public bodies across Scotland and beyond.

Following his retirement as Reporter, he initially took on the role of consultant to the Scottish Office as a child law expert, before becoming a temporary, later part-time, sheriff, for the next 13 years.

With the unstinting help of his wife Dorothy, he was the first sheriff to preside over all 49 sheriff courts in Scotland, a matter of great pride.
Away from his professional life, he was a loyal Queen of the South supporter.

He was a keen member of the Royal Scots Club and represented them for many years with Stewart Marshall in bridge league matches.

He was also a keen spectator of rugby and cricket, choosing on a Saturday, along with his friend Willie Mould, which would be the most entertaining game.

He was married for 49 years and is survived by Dorothy and their sons, Atholl and Duncan.