William Cullen, Baron Cullen of Whitekirk

Not to be confused with early 20th-century Scottish judge, William James Cullen, Lord Cullen.
The Right Honourable
The Lord Cullen of Whitekirk
Lord Justice General and
Lord President of the Court of Session
In office
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Lord Rodger
Succeeded by Lord Hamilton
Lord Justice Clerk
In office
Preceded by Lord Ross
Succeeded by Lord Gill
Personal details
Born William Douglas Cullen
(1935-11-18) 18 November 1935
Nationality Scottish
Spouse(s) Rosamond Mary Downer
Children Christopher, Adrian, Felicity, Sophia Grace
Alma mater University of St Andrews,
University of Edinburgh
Profession Advocate

William Douglas Cullen, Baron Cullen of Whitekirk, KT, PC, FRSE, HonFREng[1] (born 18 November 1935) is a former senior member of the Scottish judiciary. He formerly served as Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session, and was an additional Lord of Appeal in the House of Lords prior to the transfer of its judicial functions to the Supreme Court.

Early life

William Douglas Cullen was educated at the High School of Dundee and the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1960 and was Standing Junior Counsel to Her Majesty's Customs and Excise from 1970 to 1973. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1973 and served as an Advocate Depute from 1978 to 1981.[2]

Judicial career

Lord Cullen was a Chairman of the Medical Appeal Tribunals from 1977 until his appointment as a judge in 1986.[2] He was appointed a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the High Court of Justiciary and Court of Session, as Lord Cullen. From 1988 to 1990 he conducted the Public Inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster[3] and in 1996 he chaired the Public Inquiry into the shootings at Dunblane Primary School.[2][4] In October 1999 he was appointed to chair the Ladbroke Grove Rail Inquiry.[2] He was Lord Justice Clerk and President of the Second Division of the Inner House from 1997 to 2001, when he was appointed Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session.[5]

In March 2002, Lord Cullen led the 5-judge tribunal at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands which heard the failed appeal of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi against his conviction for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.[6]

On 15 July 2005, Lord Cullen announced his intention to retire in November 2005. On 24 November the Scottish Executive announced that Arthur Hamilton, Lord Hamilton, a member of the Inner House of the Court of Session, would succeed him as the new Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session.[7]


In 2003, Cullen was created a life peer, as Baron Cullen of Whitekirk, of Whitekirk in East Lothian. He sits as a crossbench member of the House of Lords, and was one of five additional Lords of Appeal in the House of Lords. On 25 June 2005, he was elected President of the Saltire Society, replacing The Right Honourable The Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, K.T.[8] On 30 November 2007 it was announced that Lord Cullen would be appointed a Knight of the Thistle.[9] He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Edinburgh on 2 July 2008.[10] On 4 September 2009 he was also formally installed as chancellor of Abertay University in Dundee.[11] In 1995, he was appointed a Honorary Fellow[1] of the Royal Academy of Engineering[1]

Cullen also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1995 [12]

He was sworn in as a Member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1997.


  1. 1 2 3 "List of Fellows".
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Scottish judge heads train crash inquiry". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2000-09-29. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  3. Cullen, The Hon. Lord W. Douglas (1990). The public inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster. London: H.M. Stationery Office. ISBN 0101113102. OCLC 23102869. 488 pages, 2 volumes
  4. The Hon Lord Cullen (1996-10-16). The Public Inquiry into the Shootings at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996. London: The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-10-133862-7. OCLC 60187397. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  5. "Scottish Judicial Appointments". 10 Downing Street. 2001-11-13. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  6. King, Diane (2002-03-14). "Lockerbie bomber loses his appeal". The Scotsman. Johnston Press Digital Publishing. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  7. "Lord Hamilton is new Lord President". The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland. Connect Communications (Scotland) Limited. 2005-11-24. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  8. Saltire Society Website
  9. "Public honour for retired judge". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  10. "Queen creates two new Knights of the Thistle". The Times. London: Times Newspapers Ltd. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  11. http://www.abertay.ac.uk/about/theuni/chancellor/
  12. [email protected]. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Lord Ross
Lord Justice Clerk
Succeeded by
Lord Gill
Preceded by
Lord Rodger
Lord Justice General and
Lord President of the Court of Session

Succeeded by
Lord Hamilton
Academic offices
Preceded by
David Ogilvy, 13th Earl of Airlie
Chancellor of the University of Abertay Dundee
Succeeded by

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