John passed away on 13 January 2010 after struggling with illness for some time. At the moment John died, AAFDA was benefiting from his kindness as we held a monthly meeting in his offices which he always made available, John was a founding trustee when AAFDA was established and he gave so much support and free advice to help it achieve its objectives.
It is remarkable that John, who ran his own legal practice, was working right up to the last moment including while in hospital. This is a measure of his total commitment to justice for others. His work, much of which was legally aided, concentrated on people who needed justice, in struggles against the state and other public authorities as well as against organisations in the private sector.
His work was not well rewarded financially, indeed often costing him money. But I believe his real reward was the satisfaction of not letting the powerful abuse their position. He often told me that he simply had to help people who had suffered injustice even if they could not pay, whether privately or via legal aid. He had such great convition and was totally honest; qualities that combined with his great experience and knowledge made him a formidable advocate for my family and of course others.
John was so helpful to my family over six years first as an advocate and then as a friend and supporter. He extended great kindness to us and was extraordinarily patient as he listened to our grief and grievances.
Following double murder in my family and then attempts by public bodies to prevent the public service failures from being exposed, John helped us to identify and understand the detail and extent of those failures. He then led us in a successful campaign to ensure those failures were made public. When challenging public bodies, it was great to have John by your side with his unshakeable belief in the responsibilities of public service.
Five years after double murder, the independent Pemberton Homicide Review criticised Thames Valley Police in the stongest possible terms. A leading international fatality review expert described this review as setting a ‘gold standard’. John set such a wonderful example as it was very apparent that John’s interest in the outcome was simply restricted to what was best for us.
For me, John became a mentor too, his office providing a sanctuary as I struggled to contain my grief at work. I witnessed him extending great compassion as he assisted other client of his legal aid practice.
Knowing John has had a profound effect on my family. We will remember always his exctensive knowledge and vivid honesty, great tenacity, kindness and patience. John spent many hours helping me understand detail. His teaching style was incredibly gentle. I recall too his despair when he witnessed greed and disingenuousness particularly among public servants. John wrote beautifully and many of my friends and work colleagues now use sentences from some of John’s letters! John hardly charged my family compared to the exceptional service he provided.