It is with great sadness that we announce that former staff member and honorary graduate Professor Sir Bob Hepple died on 21 August, at the age of 81. We share our condolences with his wife Mary Coussey and the rest of his family.
Sir Bob devoted his life to the struggle for social justice. He was an activist, lawyer, teacher and scholar, who was admired and respected for his commitment to equality and democracy. Kent Law School recognised his extraordinary contribution by awarding him an honorary doctorate in July this year.
Sir Bob was active as a student leader opposing the introduction of racial discrimination in the universities of South Africa. Born in South Africa, he was also active in the South African Congress of Trade Unions, an ally of the African National Congress.
He participated in the underground struggle against apartheid and acted as a lawyer for Mandela and other leaders. He escaped to England in 1963 from the Rivonia trial, in which Mandela and others were sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2014, on the 20th anniversary of the new democracy, he was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Gold for his ‘exceptional contribution to the struggle for democracy and human rights’.
In England, he has practised as a barrister and employment judge and pursued an academic career in the Universities of Cambridge, Nottingham, Kent, and UCL, ending as Master of Clare College and Professor of Law in Cambridge. He is an acknowledged international expert and activist in the fields of equality, human rights and labour law.
He was Chair of the international human rights organisations, the European Roma Rights Centre and the Equal Rights Trust, of which was the Honorary President until his death. He was also Honorary President of the Industrial Law Society. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel (honoris causa) in 1996, a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003, and knighted for services to legal studies in 2004.
Sir Bob’s work was critical in shaping the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) and the Race Relations Act (1976), as well as subsequent British equality legislation including the Equality Act 2010. His most recent book, Equality: a New Legal Framework (2011, second edition 2014) is not only an appraisal of the current legislation, but a reflection on the past, present and future of equality law. Sir Bob was an inspiring example of a public intellectual, who combined a keen intellect with great humanity and kindness. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
Professor Judy Fudge
Kent Law School