1930 – 2007 was best known for being the first inspector of prisons in Ireland. In his reports he was very critical of the way the prison service was being run and in particular of the lack of any focus on rehabilitation. Having distinguished himself as a student at University College Dublin, he was called to the Bar in 1952 and took silk in 1971. He was also called to the Bar in England and New South Wales, and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
Judge Kinlen enjoyed a distinguished career at the Bar and on the Bench. His keen analytical mind and extensive knowledge made him one of the most eminent Senior Counsel in the country. His well-deserved elevation to the Bench brought his considerable learning to one of the most difficult occupations, that of a High Court judge, a calling which deals with complex issues of fact and principle in often harrowing circumstances. In all this work, he performed with an aura of gentle humanity and humour that has earned him the respect of colleagues in legal communities at home and abroad.
He had previously been a High Court Judge, having been nominated by Dick Spring of the Labour Party. He was involved in the setting up of diplomatic relations between The People's Republic of China and Ireland. From 1977 onwards he was a frequent visitor to China. The University of Limerick awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Law.
At each stage of his career, Judge Kinlen chose the road less travelled. He devoted his life to the service of others and is a man of immense charity. He was a courageous defender of the rights of the dispossessed and marginalised. He worked long and hard for the nation, both at home and abroad; and his international service and status brought honour and respect to Ireland. Throughout his life, his passion and thirst for justice shone brightly, to all.