John Dixon, former night lawyer who was prepared to take risks for investigative journalism, has died aged 62 - Press Gazette

John Dixon, former night lawyer who was prepared to take risks for investigative journalism, has died aged 62

John Dixon, night lawyer of The Mail on Sunday from the paper’s inception in 1982 until 2004, has died aged 62.
John Watts Dixon was born in September, 1951, on the Wirral. His father ran the family cotton business in Manchester and John attended a local prep school before going on to Harrow School.  

He read law at Queens’ College, Oxford, from 1970–73, after which he took the Bar exams, undertaking pupilage and finding a tenancy at 2 Harcourt Buildings in the Middle Temple. He served as an Assistant Recorder from 1998 and Recorder from 2000, and the Hon Judge Dixon was appointed a Circuit Judge for the Western Circuit in 2004.
He became night lawyer for the Daily Mail in 1980, and night lawyer for the new Mail on Sunday in 1982 where he is remembered with great affection and the nick-name ‘Dangerous’.  
Peter Wright, former editor of The Mail on Sunday, said: "He was a thoroughly nice fellow who did his utmost to get our stories in the paper and, like many of the best barristers, was a journalist manque. No higher praise can an editor bestow."

Former associate editor Sue Reid said:  "John was a wonderful Fleet Street lawyer. He helped me in every way on trail-blazing stories."

Former Mail on Sunday crime correspondent Chester Stern remembers John "for his courage in backing stories which other lawyers might have shied away from, fearing potential legal action against the paper.

"John was always willing to trust the journalists' judgment and sources and was prepared to take a calculated risk in the interests of ground-breaking, investigative, revelatory journalism.  

"He once legalled a story of mine about a group of Algerian terrorists who had been arrested and charged and were due to go before the Old Bailey.  The material I had put in the story could potentially have been held in contempt of court since it gave details of their activities that would be given in evidence.  

"I argued that the date for the trial was set more than six months hence and the likelihood of any potential juror reading the piece and remembering the substance was very slim indeed.  John agreed and passed the piece for publication.  

"The terror suspects' counsel, however, read the story and complained to the Attorney General who launched an inquiry and threatened to send the Editor to prison.  John immediately put his hands up and took full responsibility for the decision declaring that he was prepared to face the Attorney General's wrath himself.

"In the end nothing came of it.  The Attorney General backed down.  The judge did not hold the MoS in contempt and the men were convicted. But it was a great example of John's courage and integrity".

Tributes were also paid to John at the Crown Courts at Winchester, Salisbury and Southampton. Judge Peter Henry, who knew John as a close friend and colleague for 30 years, described him as "the most human and humane of people".

He said Judge Dixon was gentle, unfailingly courteous, charming and an excellent judge. "He was above all, a man of the most generous spirit."

His other interests were as Chairman of the British Ukrainian Law Association, amateur dramatics (including playing Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons), gardening, and most importantly, his immediate and extended family.
He leaves a widow, Katie, and five children.
There will be a Thanksgiving Service at St Peter's Church, St Mary Bourne, Hampshire, on 12 September at 2pm.