Educated at Bolton School and Peterhouse, Cambridge, Sir Ernest was called to the bar in 1981 and became a QC in 1997.
He was appointed a Justice of the High Court in 2004 and was both the Presiding Judge of the Northern Circuit and its Family Division Liaison Judge. He was subsequently the judge in charge of the modernisation of family justice responsible for the creation of the Family Court.
In 2013 Sir Ernest was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal and privy counsellor, and in 2015 was appointed Senior President of Tribunals for the United Kingdom, one of the five heads of jurisdiction who preside over the judiciary in the UK.
He became Master of Pembroke College in the University of Oxford in July 2020.