Obituary: Richard Murtagh 1980 – 2018

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of OU LLB graduate (2012) and pupil barrister, Richard Murtagh. He is remembered by friend and former OULS chair Amy Woolfson.

Richard MurtaghI was first introduced to Richard in early 2014. I was coming to the end of my LLB with the Open University and was considering studying an LLM at a bricks and mortar university. Richard was one step ahead of me, having graduated from the Open University in 2012. He was studying for an LLM at the University of Birmingham. Richard encouraged me to pursue my ambition of a career at the Bar.

Richard was a Birmingham lad, and a paragon Open University success story. At the age of six he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg. Seven years and over sixty operations later, his leg was amputated and he was able to return to school.

Richard was bright, but the cancer had disrupted his education and this dented his confidence. He left school with 4 GCSEs and did not progress to A Levels and university. Instead, Richard went to work for a local transport company.

Then, in 2005, Richard’s mother got a parking ticket. Using his characteristic powers of persuasion and attention to detail, he challenged the parking ticket with Birmingham City Council – and won! It sparked an interest in the law that grew and grew for the rest of his life. He began to study with the Open University.

A great advantage of Open University study is that it can be completed anywhere in the world. Richard made the most of this. He spent 10 months as a capital defence intern with Amicus in Mississippi. The Open University arranged for Richard to sit one of his exams at a local law school. Richard also spent three months volunteering with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in Ghana. On top of all of this, Richard supported himself by singing and playing acoustic guitar in bars in Europe and the USA.

Having completed his LLB, Richard began to settle down and focus on his goal of a career at the Bar. Whilst studying for his LLM, Richard and a friend won the UK Environmental Law Association moot, judged by Lord Carnwath. This was one of his proudest moments as an advocate. He joined Middle Temple, and was awarded a major scholarship. He was called to the Bar in 2016.

Like many aspiring barristers, Richard had many setbacks on his quest for pupillage. At one point he seriously considered giving up and retraining as a physics teacher. But he persisted, and was thrilled to secure pupillage with the Crown Prosecution Service in Birmingham.

Richard began his pupillage in November 2017. It is no exaggeration to say that he loved it. And he deserved to. He had worked so hard, and had made his own luck along the way. I have no doubt that a brilliant career was ahead of him.

Richard died suddenly on Easter Monday, aged 37. He is survived by his partner Angela, and their two year old daughter Georgie.

Richard remained one step ahead of me for all the time I knew him. He shared his experience – and his notes – from the Bar course, advised me on how to approach my Middle Temple scholarship interview, and encouraged me and countless other Open University students to pursue our goals. Richard’s enthusiasm and resilience were, and will remain, an inspiration. The world is going to be a bit lonelier and a bit quieter without him.

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