Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Timothy was educated at Newcastle Royal Grammar School and at the College of Law in Guildford, Surrey. He qualified as a solicitor in 1973 and initially practiced law in the North East of England. In 1987, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Leeds North East in succession to Sir Keith Joseph.
In 1990, Timothy was appointed to the Government Whips' Office by Margaret Thatcher, taking responsibility there for Scotland, Defence, Heritage and Agriculture Departments in turn. In 1995, he was appointed Vice-Chamberlain to the Queen in the Royal Household, providing Her Majesty with an important link with the House of Commons, and in the Autumn of that year he moved to the Home Office as Minister responsible for asylum, immigration, licensing and gambling. He left Parliament in 1997 to resume legal practice and consultancy work.
In 1999, Timothy was elected to the European Parliament as one of the MEPs for Yorkshire and the Humber. He was appointed both Chief Whip and Spokesman on Justice and Home Affairs for the Conservatives in the European Parliament. In December 2001, he was asked to represent the Conservative Party as a full member of the European Convention on the EU Constitution, which completed its work in the autumn of 2003. Timothy was elected Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament from December 2004 to November 2007 and re-elected Leader from November 2008 to November 2010. Timothy serves as a member of the Northern and Yorkshire Boards of the Conservative Party. In addition to being Spokesman on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Timothy is a Substitute Member of the Culture and Education Committee and a Member of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with the United States.
Timothy is married with four adult sons. He holds a private pilot's licence and also enjoys golf, tennis and swimming.