AFTER half a century of shining a light on the British justice system in action the Daily Echo’s court reporter is packing away his pen and notepad for good.

John Hoskins embarked on his career in journalism in 1965 and since then has reported on some of the biggest court cases to hit Hampshire and seen some of the county’s most dangerous criminals locked up.

From bringing the latest on the most notorious murder trials to the readers, to witnessing some of the most bizarre and entertaining cases to reach the courts, John has seen it all.

Most recently based at Southampton Crown Court he has become a “legend” in his own right.

Yesterday court staff, barristers and judges paid their own tribute to the man they have come to trust to fairly reflect the important work they do.

As they gathered for a unique session in court five, Judge Peter Ralls, sitting alongside his fellows judges, congratulated John on his long and successful career.

He said: “I don’t think that you are aware of just how well you are regarded and how highly you are held in our esteem as a very very good chief crime correspondent, if not the best. And here you are for your final sentence.”

On behalf of the court he presented John with a framed letter of thanks signed by all the serving judges as a mark of appreciation for his dedication over the years.

Retired Judge Derwin Hope, who returned to court especially for the occasion having retired earlier this year, then said a few words.

He said: “At meetings of judges I always told them that we had an excellent local newspaper which reports properly and fairly by a first class team and you John are in the highest rank of all. You are a legend in your own time.”

Paying his own tribute, Editor in Chief of the Southern Daily Echo, Ian Murray, added: “I am honoured to have been one of a string of editors who have had the privilege to work with John over the years.

“His professionalism has always shone through and, what’s extremely important to any editor, I have always known him to be a safe pair of hands when handling sensitive court copy.

“Covering court is not just a matter of turning up and recording what takes place. Reporting accurately what takes place in a British court of justice is both a requirement and a duty of any reporter, and John has fulfilled that role superbly in all the years I have worked with him.

“It is a cliché to say that John is one of a dying breed and that in these days, when few people spend a single decade doing the same job, it is impossible to see how anyone will be able to boast of such a wonderful continuity of service, yet that is the case.

“John has earned the respect of all who have worked with him both at the paper and at the courts, but most of all, his readers.”

John said: “I have enjoyed the entire experience of being able to report about the major cases.

"I suspect that I am probably one of the last reporters who is still working who covered the Assizes and the Quarter Sessions.

“My job has been made so much easier through the incredible co-operation I have had over the years from all the court staff, solicitors, barristers and judges.”