21 September 2018

Doughty Street chambers mourn human rights campaigner

Sir Louis Blom-Cooper has died aged 92.

Doughty Street chambers is mourning Human rights campaigner Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, who chaired many public inquiries including the Jasmine Beckford and Ashworth Inquiries, and his passing has been widely marked in the English legal profession.

Reformer

Sir Keir Starmer QC, shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union, tweeted: ’The passing away last night of my friend & @DoughtyStreet colleague, Louis Blom-Cooper, is truly sad news. An unwavering advocate of justice, fiercely independent & great company.’ He was instrumental in the formation of Amnesty International and a prominent figure in the Howard League for Penal reform. A tribute published on his 90th birthday in 2016 by his chambers highlighted Sir Louis had been at the forefront of the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in 1965, stating ‘it was he who first challenged the mandatory death penalty throughout the Commonwealth, raising arguments decades before they came to be accepted by the Privy Council.’ Robin Baird-Smith, publisher at Bloomsbury Continuum, mourns the death of its author as an ‘unmatched liberal reformer and general mensch.’ Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said Sir Louis had devoted his ‘life, energy and intellect to justice and reform of the penal system.’

Prolific author

Sir Louis was a QC in the Doughty Street chambers QC, and was called to the bar in 1952. From 1987 to 1994 he was chair of the Mental Health Act Commission, and then a judge in the Court of Appeal of Jersey and of Guernsey from 1988 to 1996, and has been a bencher of the Middle Temple since 1978. He sat as a deputy high court judge sitting on housing and judicial review cases until 1996. In 1992 he was appointed the first Independent Commissioner for the Holding Centres in Northern Ireland. He was chairman of the Press Council and its’ predecessor the Press Complaints Commission from 1988 to 1990. He gave evidence on the nature of public enquiries to the high court in the Harold Shipman inquiry, and was a prolific author right up to publishing a book last year ’Public Inquiries: Wrong Route on Bloody Sunday.’