Sir Ronald Waterhouse GBE, QC was a High Court judge from 1978 until 1996 who spent the first three years of his retirement conducting the inquiry into the systematic abuse of children in care in North Wales. As a judge his highest profile case was when he presided over the acquittal of Ken Dodd on charges of tax evasion.
One of five children, Ronald Gough Waterhouse was born on 08 May 1926 at Holywell where his father, a prominent figure in local Liberal politics, owned a textile mill. After Holywell Grammar School, Ronald joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1944 to train as a pilot, while also doing a short course at St John's, Cambridge.
After demobilisation in 1948 he went back up to St John's to read Law as a MacMahon Scholar. Waterhouse was called to the Bar by Middle Temple as a Harmsworth Scholar in 1952. He joined chambers at Farrar's Building in the Temple. In due course, he established a busy mixed common law practice in London and on the Wales and Chester Circuit. In the 1959 general election he unsuccessfully contested West Flintshire for Labour; he had been a Liberal at university.
In 1966 he was junior counsel to the Aberfan inquiry, and junior prosecuting counsel (led by the Attorney General, Sir Elwyn Jones) at the trial of the moors murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, at Chester Assizes. He also read Private Eye for libel, and acted in a number of defamation cases. He served as deputy chairman of the Cheshire Quarter Sessions (1964-71) and of the Flintshire Quarter Sessions (1966-71). He took Silk in 1969.
In 1970-71 Waterhouse chaired a committee of inquiry to review the government's policy and precautions against rabies. His report recommended stringent control of the import of cats and dogs to prevent the introduction of the disease from the Continent.
On his appointment as a High Court judge in 1978, Waterhouse initially sat in the Family Division before transferring to the Queen's Bench Division in 1988. His other high-profile cases included the 1993 trial of Derek Hatton and the 1991 libel trial in which the actor William Roache won £50,000 damages over allegations in the Sun Newspaper.
The North Wales child abuse inquiry, from 1996 until 2000, sat for 203 days, and Waterhouse was obliged to sift through some 10,000 children's files, and to hear evidence from more than 150 victims of abuse at 40 children's homes. Among Waterhouse's recommendations, all of which were implemented, were for a Children's Commissioner for Wales, children's complaints officers for every social services authority, and clearer whistle-blowing procedures.
From 2000 until 2005 Waterhouse served as chairman of the Independent Supervisory Authority on Hunting, which was designed to arrive at a compromise on hunting with dogs.
He was knighted in 1978 and appointed GBE in 2002. He married, in 1960, Sarah Ingram, with whom he had a son and two daughters. Sir Ronald Waterhouse died aged 85 on 8 May 2011.