20 June 2017
The Legal Resources Centre and the Legal Resources Trust are deeply saddened at the passing of our Patron, Lord Joel Joffe. Joel was a committed human rights lawyer, an honourable man whose commitment, persistence and determination combined great intellect and modesty. Both the Legal Resources Centre and the Legal Resources Trust will miss his on-going support, critical engagement and abiding interest in advancing the rights of the clients we serve.
Born in South Africa in 1932, Joel graduated with an LLB in 1955 from Wits University. He is widely known for his life-long human rights activism including as one of the defence attorneys for the late President Nelson Mandela during the Rivonia Trial.
After leaving behind his human rights practice in South Africa, Lord Joffe continued to work in the charitable and civil society sectors, most notably for Oxfam and as a long-serving member of the Legal Assistance Trust which raised support for the work of the LRC.
He served as a Labour Party peer in the House of Lords from 1999 when he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and awarded a life peerage in 2000. In February 2003 he proposed as a Private Member’s Bill the “Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill”, which would legalise physician-assisted dying. After deliberation by a Lords committee, the Bill was put forward again in November 2005. Joel retired in 2015.
He was awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Open University (1995), De Montford University (2000), Witswatersrand University (2001), Brunel University (2004) and Bath University (2006). In 2016, he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London.
Joel died peacefully on the evening of 18th June after a short illness. He was at home in Liddington, a place that he loved surrounded by his family. In a message to caring family, friends and acquaintances, he wrote: “I am writing to thank you for your letters, emails, telephone calls, birthday cards and other personal messages. They were a great comfort and support to me. They have helped to keep my spirits up as my health and strength have faded. I have found it very frustrating no longer being able to do anything useful for others or myself. I have lived a full life and am content for it now to end. I think of the times I have shared with you with gratitude and much happiness.”
An author of two books, a life-long campaigner, a human rights champion, a passionate man of principle: the world has lost a truly exceptional person. Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife, Vanetta, and daughters Deb, Lisa and Abi.