Keir Starmer

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Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service, UK (8450776372).jpg
Starmer at Chatham House in 2013
Director of Public Prosecutions
In office
1 November 2008 – 1 November 2013
Appointed by Baroness Scotland
Preceded by Ken Macdonald
Succeeded by Alison Saunders
Personal details
Born (1962-09-02) 2 September 1962 (age 52)
Southwark, London, UK
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Victoria Cadwalader
(now Lady Starmer)
Children 2
Alma mater University of Leeds (LLB)
St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BCL)
Occupation Barrister
KCB breast star

Sir Keir Starmer, KCBQC (born 2 September 1962) is a British barrister who was the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) from 2008 to 2013.[1] He previously prosecuted numerous cases for the CPS during his career, specialising as a defence lawyer specializing in human rights law.[2]

Early life[edit]

Starmer was the second of four children. He was named after former Labour Party leader and socialist Keir Hardie.[3] He was educated at the independent Reigate Grammar School. He graduated with a 1st class degree as Bachelor of Laws from the University of Leeds in 1985 and, after pursuing postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law (Oxon) in 1986.[4]

Legal career[edit]

Starmer became a barrister in 1987, appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002, and was joint head of his chambers, Doughty Street Chambers.

Acting in several appeals to the Privy Council for defendants who had been sentenced to death in Caribbean countries, his legal submissions led to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in those countries. He worked with lawyers in African countries towards the same end. In 2005 he persuaded the House of Lords that evidence obtained by torture should be inadmissible in court. In 2007 he represented two alleged terrorists in a case in the House of Lords in which he successfully challenged their control orders on human rights grounds. He has also acted in 15 other cases in the House of Lords since 1999, including two cases about the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq, and representing David Shayler in his appeal against conviction for breaching the Official Secrets Act 1989. He gave free legal advice to the defendants in the "McLibel" case,[5] and was interviewed twice — ten years apart — in Franny Armstrong's 2005 documentary, McLibel.

He was a human rights advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Association of Chief Police Officers. He is a member of the Foreign Secretary's Death Penalty Advisory Panel. In 2007 he was named "QC of the Year".[6] While in office he was widely viewed to be favourable towards the Labour Party.[3]

Director of Public Prosecutions[edit]

On 25 July 2008, the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC (now a City Alderman), named Starmer as the next head of the CPS, to take over from Sir Ken Macdonald, QC on 1 November 2008.[1] Macdonald (now Lord Macdonald of River Glaven), himself a former defence lawyer, welcomed the appointment.

On 22 July 2010 Starmer announced the controversial decision not to prosecute the police officer Simon Harwood in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson resulting in accusations by Tomlinson's family of a police cover up.[7]

On 21 July 2011 Starmer became an Honorary Graduate of the University of Essex.[8] In November 2013 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of East London.[9]

On 3 February 2012 Starmer announced that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP and his former wife, Vicky Pryce would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Huhne became the first Cabinet minister in British history to be compelled to resign as a result of criminal proceedings.[10] Starmer had previously stated in relation to the case that "[w]here there is sufficient evidence we do not shy away from prosecuting politicians".[11]

In the summer of 2012 British newspapers reported allegations that Starmer was personally responsible for the continued prosecution of Paul Chambers, a traveller who, frustrated at airport delays, had posted a joke about the airport on Twitter. In the case known as the "Twitter Joke Trial" Chambers had been convicted of sending a "public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character". The trial and conviction provoked widespread protest by free-speech activists, but the Crown Prosecution Service maintained a long-term opposition to Chambers' appeals. According to Chambers' defenders, prosecutors had been willing to stop opposing the appeals, but Starmer had overruled his subordinates because he was "trying to save face by refusing to admit he was in the wrong."[12]

He left office on 1 November 2013 and was replaced by Alison Saunders.[13][14]


In December 2013 the Labour Party announced that Starmer would lead an enquiry into changing the law to give further protection to victims in cases of rape and child abuse. This raised speculation that he may be considering a political career with Labour.[15] On 28 December, Starmer refused to deny the possibility of entering politics, saying to BBC News "well, I’m back in private practice; I’m rather enjoying having some free time, and I’m considering a number of options."[16]

Political career[edit]

Starmer was selected on 13 December 2014 as the Labour Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, where the sitting MP Frank Dobson is to step down in retirement.[17]

Personal life[edit]

He married Victoria Cadwalader, a solicitor, in 2007 and has a son and daughter.[18] Sir Keir and Lady Starmer live in Camden.


Starmer was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours for "services to law and criminal justice".[19][20]


Sir Keir is the author and editor of several books about criminal law and human rights.[21]


  1. ^ a b Nina Goswami: "Keir Starmer QC appointed DPP" (25 July 2008), The Lawyer
  2. ^ Frances Gibb: "Human rights lawyer Keir Starmer named as new prosecution service chief" (26 July 2008), Times online
  3. ^ a b Moss, Stephen (21 September 2009). "Keir Starmer: 'I wouldn't characterise myself as a bleeding heart liberal . . .'". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ Debrett's People of Today
  5. ^ Interview transcript (14 August 1996),
  6. ^ Stephen Bates: "Profile: Keir Starmer QC" (1 August 2008), The Guardian
  7. ^ Dodd, Vikram; Lewis, Paul (22 July 2010). "Ian Tomlinson death: police officer will not face criminal charges". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ "University of Essex :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates :: Profile: Keir Starmer QC". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  9. ^ "University of East London :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates :: Profile: Keir Starmer QC". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  10. ^ M. Settle, "Huhne forced to resign as points court battle looms", The Daily Herald, (4 February 2012)
  11. ^ Keir Starmer QC, "Letter to the Daily Mail from CPS about the Chris Huhne case", The blog of the Crown Prosecution Service, (23 November 2011)
  12. ^
  13. ^ Branagh, Ellen (23 July 2013). "Stephen Lawrence barrister Alison Saunders to take over from Keir Starmer as new Director of Public Prosecutions". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Saunders to replace Starmer at DPP". Liverpool Daily Post. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "Keir Starmer heads Labour's victim treatment review". BBC News. 28 December 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Keir Starmer to stand for Labour in Holborn and St Pancras". The Guardian. 13 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "Law | The Times". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728. p. 3. 31 December 2013.
  20. ^ "The New Year Honours List 2014 – Higher Awards". 30 January 2013. 
  21. ^ Books by Keir Starmer, Borders Group

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Ken Macdonald
Director of Public Prosecutions
Succeeded by
Alison Saunders