Hutton was born in Belfast. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford and returned to Belfast to become a barrister. From 1979 to 1988 he was (as Sir Brian Hutton) a High Court judge. In 1988 he became Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, before moving to England in 1997 to become a Law Lord.
During his career Hutton has pronounced on several cases to reach the public eye. On March 30 1994 as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, he dismissed Private Lee Clegg's appeal against his controversial murder conviction. On March 21 2002 Hutton was one of four Law Lords to reject David Shayler's application to use a 'public interest' defence as defined in section 1 of the Official Secrets Act at his trial.