The top judge in England and Wales, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, has frequently spoken of his concerns about prison overcrowding and the need to make more use of community sentences.
Lord Phillips is said to be popular among lawyers
The top judge initially came to prominence during his chairmanship of the inquiry into the BSE crisis.
He has also presided over the Maxwell pension fund trial.
Born Nicholas Addison Phillips on 21 January 1938, he was educated at Bryanston School, Blandford, Dorset, and King's College, Cambridge.
He completed national service with the Royal Navy before being called to the bar in 1962.
He was made a QC in 1978 and served as a recorder from 1982 to 1987.
He became a High Court judge in 1987, later presiding over the complicated trials involving the Maxwells and investment company Barlow Clowes.
He was twice promoted during the two-year, nine-month inquiry into BSE.
He was made a Law Lord in January 1999, and two months later sat in one of General Augusto Pinochet's appeals.
Lord Phillips ruled that the former dictator of Chile had no
immunity for extraditable crimes.
In June 2000, he was appointed Master of the Rolls - in charge of the civil division of the Court of Appeal.
His BSE inquiry report concluded that earlier action by the government could have prevented the spread of the disease.
David Body, solicitor for families of vCJD victims, at the time praised the "thorough and proper job" done by the inquiry.
During his career, Lord Phillips has called for the High Court and county courts to be replaced by a single unified civil court.
In 2006 he called for more use of community sentences on the grounds that the jail population in England and Wales neared capacity and made it difficult to ensure inmates could be rehabilitated.
To make his point, Lord Phillips went undercover to take part in a community prevention scheme during which he helped clean up a council estate.
He also said support for terrorism will grow if immigrants feel their human rights are not being respected.
Those comments came after some anti-terrorism measures were abandoned following a ruling by judges that they were illegal under the Human Rights Act.
He is also well known for using a bicycle - and wearing a crash helmet - to get to and from court.
He married Cristylle Marie-Therese Rouffiac in 1972, and the couple have a son and daughter, as well as her two children from a previous relationship.