THE HONOURABLE DERMOD DIMITRI OWEN-FLOOD, Q.C.
The Honourable Dermod Owen-Flood, Q.C. passed away at his home in Victoria on September 20th, 2007 amidst the members of his close and loving family. Dermod was born in Dublin, Ireland on September 17, 1931. He was educated at Stonyhurst College in England and Trinity College, Dublin where he obtained his law degree. Upon graduation, Dermod left Ireland, heeding to the concept of “go west young man”, and went to Alberta. He helped Premier Manning write speeches on his arrival, articled and was called to the Bar in Alberta. Dermod became the first full-time resident lawyer in Banff where he pursued his love of law and skiing. Together with his wife, Pamela, they worked hard in order to earn a living and provide a good education for their children, Roderic, Marc and Deidre. In 1964, Dermod decided to move his family to Victoria, British Columbia. His career flourished. His friend and frequent opposing counsel, Brian R.D. Smith, Q.C. described Dermod Owen-Flood’s entry into the criminal justice circuit in British Columbia as follows: “Dermod was like a whirling dervish: mounting savage attacks on unsuspecting prosecutors who would shortly find their informations quashed for vagueness and multiplicity, their cases dismissed summarily on Morobito motions, and their popularity with local juries diminished forever!”
Dermod was one of the leaders of the criminal bar for over twenty years. His entry into the Courtroom echoed that of the late great Marshall Hall – gowned trailing, dollies of books tugged by earnest juniors and papers flying everywhere. Witnesses were addressed by their four or five Christian names followed by the surname. In a melodious pleasing Irish Cadence, they would be asked patiently to recite the events. At first he was kind and then suddenly he would turn on a witness, where appropriate, and sweep around him, gown flowing and papers still flying. He would confront the witness with previous inconsistent statements, demolish him, and dismiss him, telling the jury that there was no use asking any more questions of such a witness!Dermod was painstaking in his preparation, had a vast grasp of the evidence and, without reference to notes, always had a magnificent summing up. He was witty, often unpredictable, and unfailingly courteous to the court and to counsel as well as the officers of the court and court participants. These very qualities served to make him an excellent trial judge when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1987. Dermod Owen-Flood was very much the quintessential Renaissance man. Jeffrey Green, Q.C., a former partner, recalls him as: “a superb practitioner of the law, both as barrister and judge but his real interest was in life and its rich ingredients: literature, history, art, current events, politics, food and wine, the great outdoors, friends, conversation and humour and most importantly, his family.” Mr. Green relates how Dermod was always sensitive to cases in which the State or its agent had engaged in an abuse of power. While this reflected his concern for the underdog or little man, his real objective was to drive home the twin messages that the ends do not justify the means and that the State is not above the law, no matter how unpopular that might have made him in some quarters. Dermod always took a keen interest in younger lawyers who were starting their practices. He unfailingly helped them wherever he could. Peter Firestone, a former junior, relates that “Dermod understood the human condition. He showed compassion to his fellow man through his career as a lawyer and a Judge. His sense of humour was always present.” Peter Firestone recalled that Dermod was “able to turn the bon mot and use his sense of humour effectively as counsel. He was asked to have his name in the Who’s Who and his resume in fact was put into that book. However, he could not help himself as he added to the resume the fact that he was a charter member of the lump fish [poor man’s caviar] association of British Columbia. There was, of course, no such association but he knew how to take the mickey out of himself and the publication never queried him about his membership!” Adrian Brooks, Q.C., another former junior, recalls Dermod as a stellar Judge and outstanding barrister. “While Dermod had many briefs of considerable importance, it was his treatment of the lesser known cases and the lesser known clients for which I will remember Dermod. With every client, Dermod ensured they received the best defence he could provided. No matter how terrible the allegations, no matter what the client’s station in life, that person received the best quality of representation Dermod could muster. Some say Dermod fought for the underdog -which he undoubtedly did, but more importantly, he fought for the equal treatment of every person before the law.” Robin Baird who was one of Dermod’s last articled students and who frequently appeared before him in Court, described Dermod as “…one of the greatest characters ever to don the barrister’s robes in the British Columbia. He was principal, mentor and father confessor to an entire generation of lawyers and, through them, his influence at the local bar will be felt for years to come. He had a riotous, irreverent wit, a thespian’s sense of denouement, and a versatile and nimble intellect that made keeping up with him both a challenge and a pleasure. He was a lucid and accessible writer, a complex and engaging thinker, and above all a wise and convivial companion. He applied himself industriously to my professional development, taught me the importance of rigour and balance, and took me sailing on his yacht. He maintained an active and kindly interest in my life and career over the many years of our friendship that followed. I miss him greatly.” Dermod Owen-Flood was my partner, mentor and friend for over thirty years. I remember one morning Dermod storming into my office waving a newspaper account of a man who had been sentenced to eight weeks in jail for stealing $1.40 from the wishing well at the Empress Hotel. Dermod was outraged that such a Dickensian type of sentence could occur in our modern society. He promptly phoned the jail and talked with the individual who had been unrepresented. He represented him for free, secured his immediate release, and the sentence was in due course reduced to time served. It is Dermod’s sense of justice, fair play as well as his zest for life which will endure for all those who knew him. Tragically, he died on the eve of the 50th anniversary of his marriage to his beloved Pamela, while he was still making important contributions to his community. He departed too soon for all of us. Vale!Chris Considine