Statement on the passing of our patron, Lord Joel Joffe


20 June 2017

The Legal Resources Cen­tre and the Legal Resources Trust are deeply sad­dened by 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.