Justice Hannes Fagan was born in Cape Town and studied law at UCT and Oxford University before beginning his practice as an advocate in 1952. He was a member of the Cape Bar Council for many years.
In 1959, he served as a member of the Rotary Club of Cape Town and was involved in youth activities, student-exchange programmes and the eradication of alien vegetation in the Cape Peninsula.
In 1974, he was appointed as acting judge in the Cape Provincial Division and three years later he became a permanent judge. He served as a member of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders.
In 1978, Justice Fagan became chairman of the Board of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cape Town.
In 1992, he was appointed as deputy judge president of the Cape Province Division. He became involved in civil legislation and presided over 280 criminal trials, including the “Crossbow” murder trial in 1992 and the Worcester shopping mall bomb murder trial in 1997.
Justice Fagan commenced his duties as the Inspecting Judge of Correctional Services on April 1, 2000. His responsibilities included inspecting and arranging for the inspection of prisons in order to report on the treatment of prisoners, their conditions and any corrupt or dishonest practices in prisons.
In 2004, he called for a large-scale release of prisoners. He wrote in The Advocate in April 2005 that it was essential to have fewer prisoners.