He was the first Chief Justice of Hong Kong taking office in 1844. He was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple in 1829. He served his pupillage with the noted barrister and author Joseph Chitty.
He was a co-author with Chitty of "A Practical Treaty on Bills of Exchange" and "A Collection of Statutes of Practical Utility".
Hong Kong was ceded to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Nanking signed in 1842. A military government was first formed.
In 1844, civilian government was put in place headed by Governor John Francis Davis. Hulme was appointed the first Chief Justice of Hong Kong.
The Colonial Office had great difficulty in finding a judge willing to go to the newly established colony.
Hulme was offered the very high salary of GBP3,000 per annum to go to Hong Kong. In return he agreed to give up his right to a pension. He arrived in Hong Kong Kong on 7 May 1844 on board the His Majesty’s Ship Spitfire together with Davis and other officials.
The Supreme Court was formally opened on 1 October 1844 with Hulme on the bench.
As Chief Justice, Hulme fearlessly protected the independence of the judiciary. He had a number of run-ins with Governor Davis that culminated in charges being brought against him of drunkenness.
He was brought before the Executive Council of Hong Kong in 1857 who found him guilty and suspended him from his position. Hulme returned to England during his suspension.
The Colonial Secretary refused to uphold the verdict and Hulme soon returned to Hong Kong.
In another case, Hulme refused to uphold a verdict of guilty against Mr Compton for instigating a riot in Canton handed down by the British consular court in Canton. Hulme was highly critical of the way in which the case was handled. Sir John Davis, the Governor of Hong Kong wrote to Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister, stating: “Some fresh ordinance will inevitably be required to prevent such mischievous interference in international cases.”
Hulme became very unwell to the end of his term of office and often would only commence court sitting at noon or 1pm.
He was put under pressure to retire, but insisted that he be given a pension.
He left Hong Kong on leave in early 1859 and in England was offered a handsome pension of GBP1,500 per annum which he accepted. Hulme died soon after his retirement on 1 March 1861 in Brighton, England.
He was also appointed as a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council.