SOUTHAMPTON’S top judge has heard his last trial and sentenced his last criminal.

After a distinguished 44-year legal career, Judge Derwin Hope has retired as the Recorder of Southampton.

Colleagues and friends packed the courtroom at Southampton Crown Court as Judge Peter Ralls, who will take up the position as Recorder, paid tribute to Judge Hope, who he said had been “nothing less than an inspiration”.

He added: “He is a man of integrity and a man of wisdom. You could search the length and breadth of the country and you wouldn’t find a better judge.”

During the speeches it was revealed that Judge Hope flirted with showbusiness during his younger years, having been friends with singer Marianne Faithful and appearing as an extra in Carry on Camping.

But it was the law that became his passion and he was called to the Bar in 1970, before becoming a circuit judge in 2002 in Bolton.

He came to Southampton eight years ago and he was praised by many for bringing a positive atmosphere to the crown court and for being a judge who was always approachable.

Paying tribute on behalf of the Bar was Nigel Pascoe QC who described Judge Hope as a judge who “gives it as it is” before adding “you have made this such a popular and happy court again.”

Colleagues also noted his love for photography, travel and flying as well as his flair for writing.

Taunton-born Judge Hope, who celebrates his 70th birthday later this month, thanked the “marvellous” staff at the court and praised his “fantastic team” before paying tribute to his “most wonderful” wife Heidi and their two children.

He said: “Southampton will always be a place I remember fondly. The last five years in particular in Southampton have been absolutely fantastic.”