Lord Norbury – ‘The Hanging Judge’

Lord Norbury – ‘The Hanging Judge’

John Toler, 1st earl of Norbury, a native of Nenagh, Tipperary, was said to have been one of the most corrupt judges in Ireland. When in 1800 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas and raised to the peerage as Baron Norbury, Lord Clare was said to have remarked, ‘For God’s sake, make him a bishop, or even an archbishop, but not a chief justice!’

He was notorious for his callousness , incompetence, and absent-mindedness. Known also for his buffoonery, his court was often compared to a circus and he would think nothing of cracking jokes when sentencing a person to death. His most famous trial was that of  Irish nationalist leader Robert Emmet in 1803, who during his famous speech was repeatedly interrupted and berated by Norbury before he sentenced him to death.

Despite several attempts to have him removed from the bench, it was not until 1827, when Norbury fell asleep during a murder trial, that he was finally forced to resign, at the age of 82.

He died at his home in Dublin in 1831 and was buried at St. Mary’s Churchyard in Mary Street. When he heard on his deathbed that his neighbour Lord Erne was also dying, he allegedly told his servant to, ‘Run around to Lord Erne and tell him with my compliments that it will be a dead heat between us.’

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