Rule over for Chief Justice 

CHIEF Justice Ewan Crawford yesterday sat robed and wigged before Launceston's Supreme Court for the last time.

After serving as chief justice in Tasmania for almost five years, and a supreme court judge for almost 25 years, Justice Crawford will officially leave the bench on April 8 after 54 years in the legal profession.

On that date, he will celebrate his 72nd birthday - having reached the age that judges are required to retire.

Justice Crawford handed down his last criminal sentences yesterday, one of which is thought to be a Tasmanian first: inciting to murder, relating to a man who attempted to hire a ``hitman'' - who was actually an undercover police officer - to kill his estranged wife.

Justice Crawford graduated in law with honours at the University of Tasmania in 1964 and was first employed at Launceston firm Douglas and Collins.

He was appointed a supreme court judge in 1988 and replaced Peter Underwood as chief justice in 2008.

Despite looking forward to a retirement of travel and time with the grandchildren, Justice Crawford said he would miss his post.

``I love the mystery of criminal cases and hearing well-presented, well-argued cases from two sides that will determine the outcome,'' he said.

``I've spent 54 years studying law and I'm still a student.''

But through playing a key role in the outcome, he is subjected to often graphic evidence for some of the state's most horrible crimes.

Justice Crawford has convicted some of the state's most violent and depraved criminals and in all, has handed down more than 1940 criminal sentences.

Justice Crawford said the high number was saddening.

``I deal a lot with criminal work and a lot of that is quite depressing,'' Justice Crawford said.

``Sitting through some of these cases makes you despondent - sad for (the defendant) and sad for society.''

Despite the weight of the job, he said all professional thought stayed at the courthouse.

``I don't take my job home at night,'' Justice Crawford said. ``There is not even one law book in my home.''

While he might miss the wrangling over court cases and the intrigue, Justice Crawford may not miss the wig he is required to wear at each criminal proceeding.

The tattered mat had passed over the heads of several judges for 62 years until it rested upon Justice Crawford's in 1988.

The wig was first worn by Justice Gibson in 1951 and was passed to Justice Crawford by Justice Henry Cosgrove.

He said the wigs can't be cleaned. The insides had worn and frayed.

Given its condition, Justice Crawford is reluctant to pass it on to a successor.

It will instead be placed in a large tin marked with Justice Gibson's name.

``I can't expect anyone to wear that,'' he said.

Chief Justice Ewan Crawford handed down his last criminal sentence in the Launceston Supreme Court yesterday. Picture: WILL SWAN

Chief Justice Ewan Crawford handed down his last criminal sentence in the Launceston Supreme Court yesterday. Picture: WILL SWAN