Doughty Street Chambers mourns Jonathan Cooper OBE

With deepest regret Chambers announces the death of our dear and brilliant colleague, Jonathan Cooper OBE, who died suddenly on Saturday whilst walking in Scotland with his husband, Kevin.

Jonnie was an inspiration and life force in Chambers, throughout the Bar and globally. He was ubiquitous in his influence – fighting for LGBT rights with great courage and positivity; lecturing throughout the world on human rights; fighting for the Human Rights Act; championing the European Convention on Human Rights; editing the European Human Rights Law Review and working to defend the Rule of Law and the independence of judges and advocates in places as diverse as Turkey, Belarus, Albania, Africa and throughout the Caribbean.

His ground-breaking work in challenging discrimination against same sex couples was immense. Together with Tim Otty QC, Jonnie was the moving force behind the Human Dignity Trust which successfully challenged laws criminalising gay sex throughout the Commonwealth. Jonnie was also the Trust’s first inspirational director. He championed the cause of gay couples who wanted to establish their equal right to marry and found a family in the Caribbean and elsewhere. He was the moving force behind the case challenging homophobia in Jamaica of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

His influence and inspiration to young barristers, solicitors and law students was immense. There are many people who came to the Bar because of him and were encouraged by him in pursuing a career in law. He lectured widely throughout the world and was forever encouraging and prompting colleagues to take up and work on cases which he had himself initiated and inspired. He was also an immensely kind, generous-spirited and fun human being who brought good cheer, humour and his infectious enthusiasm to every campaigning event and social occasion which he graced with his presence. His colleagues and friends in Chambers are filled with immense sadness and send our deepest condolences to his wonderful family and his much beloved husband, Kevin.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, Doughty Street Chambers: “Jonnie was absolutely everywhere, and left few areas of human rights untouched. He was forever there, initiating cajoling and inspiring – his scholarly work editing the European Human Rights Law Review was matched by a tireless enthusiasm for campaigning cases and a warm and passionate engagement on behalf of his many, many clients throughout the world. I was proud to be his pupil master but in later years it was very much he who was the teacher.”

Geoffrey Robertson QC, Doughty Street Chambers: “Jonnie Cooper's premature death is a tragedy and has caused a profound shock to his colleagues and friends at Doughty Street. No one more deserves to be in the Pantheon of LGBT crusaders. His work for the advancement of human rights in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth was increasingly fruitful during his lifetime, and will continue to be so. To these Chambers he made an immense contribution and his work will be continued through his brainchild, OUTy Street. Jonnie was an inspiration in so many ways: we shall miss him sorely and in due course commemorate him proudly."

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Doughty Street Chambers: “The death of Jonathan is heartbreaking. He was my close confederate and darling friend. We worked together on so many fronts: from decriminalising homosexuality to opposing Brexit, from supporting lawyers and judges at risk around the globe to creating an international team of support for the democracy movement in Belarus. We were currently putting together the legal framework for a Bill banning Conversion Therapies which deny and suppress the humanity of LGBTi people. Jonny was a glorious life-enhancer whose ingenuity and compassion led to real and lasting change, especially for the gay community. What a loss to the world!”

Joe Middleton, Doughty Street Chambers: "Jonnie’s commitment to promoting equality, diversity and dignity for all was not limited to his work in far-off lands. Recognising that more could be done within our own organisation, in 2019 he was a moving force in founding Outy Street, a group of barristers and staff dedicated to supporting LGBT+ people in Chambers and promoting LGBT+ rights everywhere. Today Outy Street joins all of Chambers in mourning Jonnie’s loss and saluting his integrity, insightfulness, and indefatigable good humour."

Peter Laverack, 5 Essex Court: "Jonathan was a great friend and mentor for over a decade. Working with him - as his solicitor, then colleague at the Human Dignity Trust and later co-counsel - filled the soul with joy. His enthusiasm and mission to protect the marginalised at home and abroad was never ending. I am a better lawyer and a better person for having known him.  We will continue your work, dear Jonathan." 


Jonathan Cooper OBE
Jonathan Cooper OBE