A LAWYER from South Tyneside has realised his dream of becoming a Circuit Judge.
Ian Darling was sworn in at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday by the Lord Chief Justice.
Mr Darling, 46, from Cleadon, worked as a prosecutor in murder trials for 10 years before being appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw MP.
But despite climbing to the top of the legal profession, Mr Darling insists he remains close to his roots.
"Although I've been living away from the area for a number of years, I still always travel back when I can," he said.
"I'm also a huge New-castle United fan, so I watch them as often as possible. It's great that they are top of the league at the moment – just a shame it's the wrong league!"
Speaking of his appointment, he added: "It's been my dream for years and I'm looking forward to it. It will be extremely challenging."
Mr Darling, who has been assigned to Wood Green Crown Court in North East London, has worked as a barrister since 1985.
As a teenager, he used to divide his time studying law at London University and travelling to South Tyneside to play rugby for Westoe first team.
He said: "That all stopped when I met my wife and she saw the stud marks on my face, so we thought it was best to retire from rugby then."
His family also have a rich sporting history – his grandfather Jack Allen played for Newcastle United in the 1930s.
The former striker famously scored two goals in the 1932 FA Cup Final, in which Newcastle beat Arsenal 2-1.
Mr Darling's brother Paul, 49, also a barrister, is in charge of making sure every top-flight football ground in England is safe.
As chairman of the Football Licensing Authority (FLA), Paul has the responsibility for safety at all 92 grounds in the Premier and Football Leagues.
The Darling family run a chemist shop business, one of its stores being JM & Darling Ltd in Stanhope Road, South Shields.