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Applause in court for jovial solicitor

PUBLISHED: 11:07 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:37 03 July 2010

It seemed like a typical Friday morning as Nicholas Holroyd arrived at Yarmouth Magistrates Court clutching his battered briefcase to prosecute six cases for the Department of Works and Pensions.

It seemed like a typical Friday morning as Nicholas Holroyd arrived at Yarmouth Magistrates Court clutching his battered briefcase to prosecute six cases for the Department of Works and Pensions.

But as he entered Court Three any semblance of normality vanished as everyone - as one - stood to give him a lengthy round of applause.

The court was acknowledging the end of an era as the jovial solicitor retired as a partner of HKB Wiltshires after working in the town for 42 years.

Mr Holroyd, 66, who will carry on as a consultant for the firm and as the town's deputy coroner, said he could still vividly remember the day he arrived in Yarmouth, as a young Yorkshireman, for his interview at HKB Wiltshirs' South Quay office.

He said: “It was a pitch black afternoon in November 1966. The office was looking down over the quay which was alive then with trains going up and down.

“The port was humming with small coasters and oil rig supply boats. It was the height of the offshore industry and the whole town was buzzing, and awash with Texans. It was an exciting time.”

Mr Holroyd, who lives in Knapton, north Norfolk, with his wife Dee, said the face of the legal system had changed equally dramatically since he started work at the old magistrates court, housed in Yarmouth Town Hall.

He said: “Family law then was very different. For example a man did not have to maintain his wife if she left him unless it was proved she had been the victim of persistent cruelty - and that meant eight separate incidents of violence causing blood or bruising.

“It seems incredible that as a young lawyer I should be arguing that my client had only caused bruising on five occasions and therefore was not responsible for his wife.”

Another indication that society had changed for the better was that in that era, a separated mother who had failed to claim child maintenance for a year had no right to do so after that.

Mr Holroyd said the growing role drugs played in crime was another huge change he had seen.

“When I first came to Yarmouth heroin was almost unknown and anyone in possession of cannabis was invariably ordered to see a psychiatrist by the court,” he said.

“Over the years, drugs have become a factor in so much crime and society has failed to stop it.”

Mr Holroyd said over the years he had sadly seen magistrates become weighed down by constraints and guidelines.

“For the first 25 years of my working life, magistrates could be personalities and some undoubtedly had a reputation for being severe.

“Nowadays it is difficult for them to engage with a defendant when they have to almost read a script.”

One of the most colourful jobs to come his way - in his role as coroner - was the inquest of a wrestler who died after a bout with Big Daddy at the Hippodrome Circus.

Mr Holroyd said he had only thought about law when the Halifax cotton mill that his family had run for generations failed - but it had been a fulfilling career.

He said: “The wonderful thing about law is the working environment. There has always been a great atmosphere at Yarmouth Magistrates Court with everyone knowing everyone else.”


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