Sir Stephen Irwin was born and brought up in Northern Ireland, coming to England for university. He was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1976. He practised in criminal and civil cases, specialising in clinical negligence, enquiries and scientific tort cases. He was a founder member of Doughty Street Chambers.
He was appointed QC in 1997, Assistant Recorder in 1999 and Recorder in 2000. He was Chairman of the Bar Council in 2004. He was appointed as a High Court Judge in 2006. Between October 2007 and July 2012 he was a Presiding Judge on the Northern Circuit. He became Chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in January 2013