08:26, September 20 321 0 theguardian.com

2018-09-20 08:26:04
Human rights pioneer Louis Blom-Cooper dies aged 92

The lawyer and human rights campaigner Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC has died at the age of 92, his family has confirmed.

Blom-Cooper, who was instrumental in the formation of Amnesty International and served as chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform, died on Wednesday night.

He was surrounded by his family at his home in London, his son Sam told the Guardian.

Blom-Cooper, who wrote regularly for the Guardian, most recently in January last year, was admitted to hospital last month suffering from breathing problems.

His son said: “The doctors realised there was nothing they could do for him and thankfully we were able get him home about two weeks ago. He wasn’t in pain. It was a fairly benign way to die.”

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary and former director of public prosecutions, described Blom-Cooper as an “unwavering advocate of justice”.

Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer)

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.

September 20, 2018

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League, said Blom-Cooper had devoted his “life, energy and intellect to justice and reform of the the penal system”.

Frances Crook (@francescrook)

Very sorry to hear that the past Chairman of @TheHowardLeague has died. He devoted his life, energy and intellect to justice and reform of the penal system. We mourn his loss. https://t.co/3CUHnpshgw

September 20, 2018

Blom-Cooper, who was called to the bar in 1952, was regarded as a legal pioneer who helped secure prisoners’ rights and spent a career campaigning against the death penalty. In 1961 he helped found Amnesty by backing an appeal for amnesty for political prisoners and getting it publicised in the Observer.

He also was involved in numerous public inquiries and commissions, including several as chairman, notably chair of the Mental Health Act Commission from 1987-1994. He was knighted in 1992.

As well as his work as a barrister and later deputy high court judge, Blom-Cooper was a legal academic at the University of London between 1962 and 1984.

He was also a prolific writer on legal affairs as an author, journalist, and latterly pseudonymous blogger for the Financial Times. He wrote the Justinian column in Private Eye. His last book on public inquiries drew on his experience as a barrister on the long-running Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Between 1989 and 1990 he was chairman of the Press Council , the forerunner to the Press Complaints Commission.

His wife, Jane, a fellow prison reformer, died in 2007.