Joel Joffe, Baron Joffe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Lord Joffe

Lord Joffe 2015.png
Joel Goodman Joffe

(1932-05-12)12 May 1932
Johannesburg, Transvaal Province, South Africa
Died18 June 2017(2017-06-18) (aged 85)
Liddington, Wiltshire, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Witwatersrand
OccupationHuman rights lawyer

Joel Goodman Joffe, Baron Joffe, CBE (12 May 1932 – 18 June 2017) was a South African-born British lawyer and Labour peer in the House of Lords.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to a mother born in Palestine and a father born in Lithuania. Joffe grew up in a Jewish household before being sent to Catholic boarding school.[1] He was educated at the University of Witwatersrand (BCom, LLB 1955), and worked as a human rights lawyer 1958–65, including as defence attorney of the leadership of the ANC at the 1963-4 Rivonia Trial, helping to represent Nelson Mandela. Later he moved to the United Kingdom in 1965, and worked in the financial services industry, setting up Hambro Life Assurance with Sir Mark Weinberg as well as in the voluntary sector.

Joel chaired The Swindon and Marlborough Health Authority and The Ridgeway Hospital and was a member of The Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly. He was associated with Oxfam in various roles between 1982 and 2001, including being its Chair 1995–2001. He was a trustee of many different charities and actively pursued a range of charitable activities through the Joffe Charitable Trust.

He was awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Open University (1995), De Montford University (2000), University of the Witwatersrand (2001), Brunel University (2004) and Bath University (2006). In 2016, he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London.

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1999 New Year Honours,[2] and made a life peer on 16 February 2000, being raised to the peerage as Baron Joffe, of Liddington in the County of Wiltshire.[3] In February 2003 he proposed as a Private Member's Bill the "Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill",[4] which would legalise physician-assisted dying.[5] After deliberation by a Lords committee, the bill was put forward again in November 2005.

On 12 May 2006, the Bill was debated once again in the House of Lords and an amendment to delay its introduction by six months was carried by a margin of 148–100, halting progress of the bill in that session.[6]

He appeared on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs on 28 October 2007.[7]

Joffe retired from the House of Lords on 30 March 2015.[8]

A Jewish atheist and a humanist in his beliefs, Joel was a devoted member and patron of Humanists UK, which campaigns on ethical issues like assisted dying and for a secular state in the UK.[9]

Joffe died on 18 June 2017 at his home in Liddington surrounded by his family after a short illness at the age of 85.[10][11] Joel's remarkable life was celebrated in many tributes and obituaries.[12][13][14][15]


  • Joel Joffe, The Rivonia Story, Mayibuye Books, Cape Town, 1995
  • Joel Joffe, The State Vs. Nelson Mandela: The Trial That Changed South Africa, Oneworld Publications, 2007


  1. ^ "Joel Joffe (1932–2017)". Oxfam.
  2. ^ "No. 55354". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1998. p. 8.
  3. ^ "No. 55771". The London Gazette. 22 February 2000. p. 1969.
  4. ^ "Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill [HL]". Public Bills before Parliament. United Kingdom Parliament. 8 January 2004. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  5. ^ "Bid to legalise assisted suicide". BBC News. 20 February 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  6. ^ "Lords vote to block assisted suicide bill for terminally ill". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  7. ^ Joffe was the featured guest on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs on 28 October 2007. During the programme, Joffe mentioned his grandfather's role in writing "Hava Nagila". In the programme notes, the listing for "Hava Nagila" states "Composer: Bashir Am Israelim", meaning that either this is an alias for Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, to whom Joffe was clearly referring in the programme, or the programme notes contain an erroneous entry.
  8. ^ Retired members of the House of Lord
  9. ^ "Lord Joffe CBE". Humanists UK. 19 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Statement on the death of Lord Joffe | Press releases | Oxfam GB". Oxfam GB. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  11. ^ "Tributes paid to Lord Joel Joffe, who has passed away aged 85". Swindon Advertiser. 19 June 2017.
  12. ^ Battersby, John (2017-06-26). "Lord Joffe obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  13. ^ Battersby, John (2017-06-29). "Lord Joel Joffe passes away, aged 85". The South African. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  14. ^ "Obituary: Joel Joffe died on June 18th". The Economist. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  15. ^ SABC Digital News (2017-06-20), Tributes pour in for Mandela's former lawyer Lord Joel Joffe, retrieved 2017-11-21

External links[edit]