Laura Duncan is a highly experienced sheriff, known to solicitors at Glasgow Sheriff Court as the lady with the lamp because of the light she always has on the bench with her to help her read documents.

She attended Hamilton Academy and Glasgow University before qualifying as a solicitor in 1969. She was in private practice for two years before joining the fiscal service.

She decided to become an advocate and was admitted to the Bar in 1976. Married to David Duncan, a farmer and cricket coach, the sheriff is an expert sailor and in 1990 won the Scottish ladies' single-handed dinghy championships.

Now 54 she was appointed to the post of floating sheriff

in July 1982, leading up to a permanent appointment in Glasgow the following January.

Presiding at what is often called Europe's busiest court she has ruled on a wide range of cases.

Sheriff Duncan presided over a fatal accident inquiry following the sudden death of a woman from a blood clot at Ross Hall hospital in Glasgow.

She once sentenced a violent husband for two years despite a plea from his severely battered wife not to send him to jail.

Her decision to spare a ''quiet, biddable'' American pit bull terrier discovered in a post office queue not wearing a muzzle was overruled by appeal court judges.