It was a year ago (on 24 October 2020) when Stephen Knafler QC tragically died, well before his time.1To read HHJ Jan Luba QC’s tribute to Stephen, see December 2020/January 2021 Legal Action 6.
Stephen acted in over 200 reported cases, and many more unreported ones, protecting the human rights of people disadvantaged by social injustice and discrimination. He pioneered important changes to the law and inspired many other legal aid lawyers to try to do the same.
Interviewed as the Times Lawyer of the Week (11 June 2020)
, Stephen said he would like to be remembered for a series of pioneering cases from the mid-1990s that defended the rights of migrants. With the help of solicitor Jerry Clore, this case law began in 1996 with R v LB Hammersmith and Fulham ex p M (1997–98) 1 CCLR 69
, in which Collins J said:
I find it impossible to believe that parliament intended that an asylum-seeker … should be left destitute, starving and at risk of grave illness and even death … if parliament really did [so] intend … it would almost certainly put itself in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights …
Ex p M
and cases like it successfully used the law creatively to lift asylum-seekers out of destitution, enabling them to access food, shelter and healthcare. Stephen also acted for the claimant in Birmingham City Council v Clue  EWCA Civ 460
; (2010) 13 CCLR 276
, the outcome of which means local authorities are required to look after migrant families facing legal and practical obstacles to their return. This was genuinely groundbreaking jurisprudence, which continued until the year of his death.
Stephen also wrote a number of books for LAG. As a co-author of the Support for Asylum-Seekers handbook in 2001, he shared knowledge of what was then a completely new area of law. Without fanfare, his work has enabled thousands and thousands of refugees and their families to settle in the UK and participate fully in society.
Lawyers from Garden Court Chambers, Landmark Chambers, Doughty Street Chambers and Deighton Pierce Glynn who worked with Stephen, along with colleagues at LAG, met with his family and partner to hatch a plan to honour this body of work and commemorate him. The intention is to finance a scholarship to enable refugee students to take the Bar Practice Course
(BPC) at City Law School, which will manage the scholarship.
The criteria for applicants will be:
•studying, at the same time as the BPC, on one of the following bar-related courses: postgraduate diploma, postgraduate diploma with specialism, or LLM;
•a refugee or recent migrant to the UK, or child of a migrant or refugee;
Applications will open in January 2022 to start in autumn 2022, and will be managed by the admissions team at City Law School.
The three chambers have kicked off fundraising with a substantial sum. The aim is to offer each student a £20,000 scholarship to cover fees plus a small maintenance bursary. If you or your firm/chambers/organisation would like to make a donation, see: https://community.city.ac.uk/city/donate-to-city-single-donation
(there is a drop-down menu for donors to select the scholarship). Alternatively, please contact Kelly Rush, donor relations officer at City University: email@example.com