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By Lesley Dingle and Daniel Bates

  • Born 11th August 1934, Johannesburg
  • University of Witwatersrand BA 1954, LLB cum laude 1957
  • Society of Advocates Prize (best law graduate) 1957
  • Attorney, South Africa 1958
  • Lecturer in Law, University of Witwatersrand 1959-61
  • Advocate, South Africa 1962-63
  • University of Cambridge LLB (first class) 1966
  • Called to Bar, Gray’s Inn 1966, Bencher 1996
  • Lecturer in Law Nottingham University 1966-68
  • Assistant Lecturer in Law Cambridge 1968, Lecturer 1971-76
  • Fellow, Clare College 1968-76
  • Professor of Comparative Social & Labour Law, University of Kent 1976-77
  • Chairman Industrial Tribunals (Eng & Wales) full time 1977-82, part-time 1982 - 1993
  • Professor of English Law University College London 1982-93, Dean & Head of Department 1989-93)
  • University of Cambridge LLD 1993
  • Master Clare College 1993-2003
  • Professor of Law Cambridge 1995-2001
  • Member Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct 1994-1999; Legal Services Consultative Panel 2000-2002.
  • Chairman, Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2003-2007
  • Queen’s Counsel (honoris causa) 1996-
  • LL.D honoris causa, Witwatersrand 1996, Cape Town 2006, UCL 2006, [Bari 2009]
  • Honorary Professor of Law, University of Cape Town 2000-2005
  • Fellow, British Academy 2003
  • Knighted 2004
  • Award by Labour Law Research Network for Distinguished career contribution to Labour Law 2013
  • South African Order of Luthuli (Gold) 2014

Additional Material

"A Sensible Radical: Conversations with Professor Sir Bob Hepple Part 1 - South Africa" (2009) 11 (2) Legal Information Management 134-140 (SSRN citation)

"A Sensible Radical: Conversations with Professor Sir Bob Hepple Part 2 - UK and the World" (2009) 11 (4) Legal Information Management 299-307 (SSRN citation)

Professor Sir Bob Hepple was born and raised in turbulent times in a politically and socially divided society. As he grew up it evolved under the intense scrutiny of international political pressure groups and various human rights organisations, but Bob Hepple, unlike many of his white compatriots in South Africa during the 50s and 60s, was not merely carried along in the inevitable maelstrom of events. He contrived to play an active role in affecting its course.

The legal concepts, and social perspectives he developed in those early years have cast an indelible hue on his later career, and from the racial and political conflicts of his South African experience has emerged one of the most illustrious and highly regarded practising and academic legal conciliators of his generation. His influence has been felt not only in South Africa and the UK , but also world-wide. It is fitting, and not altogether surprising, that the politician with whom Bob Hepple is inexorably linked, Nelson Mandela, has also been a political and social conciliator par excellence.

Bob Alexander Hepple was born in Johannesburg on 11th August 1934, when war clouds were beginning to gather in Europe. Although he was only a boy during the war years (5-11 yrs), and South Africa was far from the front line, he recalled during his interviews several general impressions that affected him: air-raid practices, Italian prisoners of war, and talk of family acquaintances killed in action. But there were other, more practical consequences, that affected the Hepple household directly.

Because of its earlier history, white South African society was strongly divided, and the Allied efforts against the Axis powers only magnified these tensions. The result was that when the underground Ossewabrandwag Afrikaner resistance organisation (with Axis sympathies) attempted to sabotage Allied efforts (the South African Government, led by Field Marshal Jan Smuts, had declared war on the Axis powers), some of the local civilian volunteers (what Bob Hepple called the "Dad’s Army") were beaten up. Alex Hepple, Bob’s father, who ran a meat wholesale business, was one such victim and Bob visited him in hospital after the incident. Even at that young age, Professor Hepple recalled how he became acutely aware of some of the dividing lines running through South African society.

The irony was that the Hepple family itself presented a fusion of these conflicting historical strands. On his mother’s side, his Dutch grandfather (Alexander Zwarenstein) had served on the side of the Afrikaners (Boers) as a despatch rider (rapportryer) at the siege of Mafeking in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), while on his father’s side, his English grandfather (Tom Hepple) had trained as an irregular on the English side prior to the Jameson Raid (1895), which was a prelude to the Boer Wars (although he escaped back to England and avoided the actual conflict).  Sir Bob is himself, therefore, a living reconciliation of these deep clefts within white South African society.

These accidents of birth alone might have caused the young boy certain conflicts of loyalty as he grew up in 1950s South Africa while the Nationalist Government (predominantly Afrikaner supported) consolidated its power after its 1948 election victory. But there was a further element that determined Bob Hepple’s destiny. His father Alex, like his paternal grandfather (Tom) and grandmother (Agnes, neé Borland), was a strong supporter of, what we would call today, human rights. In South Africa of the 40s and 50s that primarily spelled political activity across the racial divide. Here the Hepples ran headlong into the rapidly enveloping legalistic web of Nationalist Government, racially-directed social and labour legislation, and the political cross-fire and passions that it generated.

Even as a youth, Bob felt the sting of this enmity. He spent his early years  (1945-52) at the all-boys Jeppe Boys High School in Johannesburg, which he described as the equivalent of an English Grammar School. His father’s political activities (he was by now an opposition, Labour Party, MP in a coalition with the United Party) were unpopular across much of the white catchment area for the school, and these sentiments were passed on by Bob’s fellow pupils, many of whom ostracised him, while most of the teachers he recalled as "bigots and racists".  As a consequence, his school days were not happy. Matters came to a head once he moved on to the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1952. Here two factors converged to forge an alliance which determined his future: the opportunity to engage his social conscience in practical acts of defiance in concert with like-minded students, and his selection of courses that led him into law, where, as he recounted "I was trapped and I was a lawyer for life". He would soon use his training in the latter in furtherance of his activities in the former.

On the political front he was arrested in 1952 while chairman of the Student Liberal Association and was put on trial under the Illegal Squatting Act for organising a political meeting in Orlando township under the pretext of a concert. Although it was illegal for whites to spend the night in "black" areas, all the students, including Bob, were acquitted of the flimsy charge, but he had been baptised in the legal process of political protest. As might be imagined, this was not well-received in certain quarters. Although Wits, together with the University of Cape Town, considered itself a liberal institution in the face of illiberal political forces, at the time radical students thought otherwise. In some areas the staff were decidedly conservative, and Bob, whose first degree (BA) included Afrikaans, recalls how at this stage he ran foul of three eminent Afrikaans scholars who made life uncomfortable for him. Later he and his fellow ANC sympathisers had a narrow escape from rustication by the then University Principal for organising protests over the exclusion of black students from the Wits Great Hall. All these indignities and injustices were fuel to Bob’s sense of social inequality as he pursued his LLB (1955-57).

Sir Bob recalled how during this time he had the great fortune to be blessed with two exceptional teachers: Herman Robert "Bobby" Hahlo, a Jewish refugee from pre-War Germany who was "brilliant" and "inspirational" and John Ellison Kahn, whom he described as "probably the greatest legal scholar that South Africa has produced". The legal grounding he received from these two contrasting luminaries (Hahlo was "domineering" and "dogmatic"; Kahn "liberal", "quiet" and "scholarly") clearly greatly influenced him as a student. It was at their behest that he undertook his first serious piece of academic research and writing by contributing sections to their book in the series The British Commonwealth: The Development of its Law and Constitutions 1. This was undertaken after he had briefly practised as an attorney (he had completed his articles at the same time as qualifying for his LLB), and when Hahlo had created a lectureship for him at Wits (1959-62), despite Hahlo’s being "a little nervous" of Bob’s political background!  Bob wrote the chapter entitled "Economic and Racial Legislation" (p. 760-813), and he recalls how Hahlo sat with blue pencil poised, expunging any politically sensitive statements made by his protégé in the sections that he wrote - Mining Law, Regulation of Monopolies and Industrial Law, all of which had by now been heavily affected by Nationalist racial legislation. By his own admission, he was not well-versed in the first two subjects, but in the last, the ideas were "very much my own". By coincidence, the leading expert on Mining Law in South Africa was Bram Fischer, and Professor Hahlo despatched Bob to consult him.  More of Fischer anon.

By this time, Bob’s political activities had brought him firmly to the attention of the authorities, which is why Hahlo had good reason to be nervous. One early incident had been Bob’s initially secretive sortie to Moscow in 1954 to represent the National Union of South African Students at a conference organised by International Union of Students, an enterprise that did not go well. He admitted that once home he realised he had been duped by the what he called the "communist peace movement" and eventually NUSAS disaffiliated from the IUS. Nevertheless it had been an "amazing visit" at which he met students from far and wide.

It was, however, his association with the ANC (as a member of South African Congress of Democrats he was entitled to attend ANC meetings), that kept him firmly in the Government’s sights. Nelson Mandela had by now become known to Bob, mainly through the activities of his father Alex, who had mounted a campaign to raise funds for Mandela’s defence after his initial arrest in 1956 in what eventually turned into the Treason Trial. This ended in 1961 when Justice Rumpff found Mandela not guilty and discharged him. After this their paths rapidly converged.

In 1960 at Sharpeville, outside Johannesburg, the police shot dead sixty-nine Pan Africanist Congress demonstrators and changed irreversibly the social and political landscape of South Africa. Along with many others, it also altered the trajectory of Bob Hepple’s personal life because many of the South African Congress of Trade Unions members anticipated arrest. Bob was hastily given all the administrative authority necessary to run the union’s affairs, and he soon found himself devoting much of his time to this task. He resigned from his Wits lectureship at the end of 1961 to have more freedom for these activities and also took up practice at the bar, because, he was honest enough to admit, he also needed more lucrative employment to provide for his new wife and prospective, expanding family.

From this juncture political events moved swiftly and the Hepples were carried inexorably along with them as Bob’s fate became famously linked with that of his political hero.  Nelson Mandela was arrested again on 5th August 1962 near Howick in Natal and swiftly brought to court in what became known as the Incitement to Strike Trial 2. In our first interview, Sir Bob gave me a moving account of his involvement with Mandela’s defence and his observations of the man, and it is interesting to read of the same events as they are recounted by Mandela himself in his famous biography 3. Although only twenty-eight, Bob was thrown into the spotlight of this politically charged occasion when Mandela’s attorney, the Lithuanian emigree Joe Slovo, was prevented from representing him by the Government. At the eleventh hour they transferred the trial from Johannesburg to Pretoria, to where Slovo was banned from travelling. Mandela turned for legal guidance to Bob Hepple as someone he knew and trusted, and who had recently helped him evade capture by organising safe houses and holding secret meetings in his own home.
It is difficult to convey the impression that Professor Hepple’s description of these historic events had on me when he recounted them (I write as one who lived through them while still at school in South Africa), but listeners can hear for themselves his moving account of how conciliatory Mandela was to his adversaries, and how in their way, some at least of the latter, were affected by and respected his own circumstances. What also shines through is the admiration in which Bob Hepple held, and still holds, for Nelson Mandela. As for his case, Mandela had already conceded to Bob that he had no legal defence to the charges (incitement and leaving the country illegally), and that his defence would have to be political. As it turned out, the result of the Incitement to Strike Trial was a five year jail sentence.

But the pressure of history was building and Nelson Mandela was destined to serve little of this sentence. Events overtook the ANC leadership and finally ensnared Bob when a police raid on the ANC secret headquarters at Lillieslief Farm (just outside Johannesburg) on July 11th 1963 captured many senior figures4. Bob, by coincidence, also happened to be at the farm in his role of one of their lifelines for communication with the outside world. The outcome was the so-called Rivonia Trial 5 which attracted world-wide coverage.

The trial and Nelson Mandela’s subsequent incarceration on Robben Island has become a political legend, but many other ANC notables were also jailed with him. Professor Hepple speaks warmly during the interviews of several of these, whom he had got to know and with whom he had established close ties during those troubled times: Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe and Govan Mbeki. A further activist that he knew well from this period, who while not ending up on Robben Island,  was later sentenced to life imprisonment, was Bram Fischer. Professor Hepple described him as a "great man" who "sacrificed everything" for the cause, and it was, in his opinion, Fischer’s advocacy that was responsible for Mandela and his co-defendants avoiding the death penalty.

As for Bob’s own fate, early in the Rivonia Trial his indictment was "quashed for lack of particularity" and he was released, but this was conditional on his appearing as a state witness. Not being prepared to testify against people he "admired and respected", Bob Hepple, along with his (then) wife Shirley were smuggled in 1963, with the help of the ANC underground movement, into what is now Botswana 6 and thence to modern Tanzania 7. It was the stuff of adventure novels, let alone the Eminent Scholars Archive! Their two small children joined them, some months later, in London.

Bob’s legal career (not to say the welfare of his family) hung in the balance in the last days of that year, but the tenacity with which he overcame the traumatic circumstances in which he found himself, is a feature that runs through his fascinating story. His arrival at Heathrow one cold December day typifies the situation. With no valid papers for a study visa he was on the brink of deportation back to Tanganyika when his waiting friends prevailed upon the anti-apartheid Anglican cleric Canon Collins to intercede and contact, on a Sunday morning, the Home Secretary in the Government of Harold Macmillan. Canon Collins was convincing, and thus reprieved, Bob was let in on a seven-day visa. This was extended, three years later, to citizenship because of Tom Hepple’s nationality.

Although legally trained, Bob realised that to progress in the UK he needed to acquire further, English, legal qualifications. He toyed with the idea of studying in London, but instead, some former South African academics suggested he try his luck in Cambridge. Professor Hepple recalled to me how, in 1964, he met the husband and wife legal team of Ken and Rosemary Polack for the first time in their small flat in King’s Parade, both of whom were to play significant roles in his new career. He also met for the first time the emigré South African Colin Turpin (his seminal work Constitutional Law, Case Materials is now in its 6th edition) and was pleased to re-make the acquaintance of an old friend from Johannesburg, who later became the Chichele Professor of Economic History at Oxford, Charles Feinstein. Their combined persuasive powers directed Bob to Clare College and he was admitted into the 1964-65 academic year to read for his LLB. Bob’s Cambridge career was underway.

Surveying Professor Hepple’s scholastic, legalistic and civic achievements that can be directly related to his time in the UK (45 years to date) is a revelation because they are so numerous and varied, in both nature and subject-matter. For most people, these achievements alone would command great respect and recognition, but I cannot comment upon them without constantly reminding myself that these were undertaken in his "second life". Already, the legal and human drama packed into the previous twenty-nine years of his "first life" would have lasted most people a full lifetime. In reality, of course, these two lives were not disconnected. The compassion for his fellows, and the practicality of legally framing protection for workers and their rights, are traits that he brought with him in his luggage from southern Africa and they directed his subsequent career. As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, Bob Hepple’s actions and his law have always been driven by a strong sense of conciliation and fairness.

On a purely factual recounting, Sir Bob’s venues of study/employment since his arrival in the UK in 1963 break down (to 2008) as follows: Cambridge University - 26 years, University College London - 11 years, Chairman of Industrial Tribunals - 5 years, University of Nottingham - 2 years, and the University of Kent - 1 year. These bald facts, of course, hide a multitude of shared relationships and collaborative ventures during which he has occupied three professorships - Kent, University College London, and Cambridge, has been Master of Clare College, and now holds a position of Judge at the United Nations Administrative Tribunal.  Along the way, he also picked up a knighthood (2004) and became a Fellow of the British Academy (2003).

Each of Sir Bob’s three spells at Cambridge resulted in distinct episodes in the development of what, in retrospect, he considered his "greatest passion and ...commitment" - Labour Law and, what he called, "Discrimination Law". Initially, his priority had been to arm himself with further essential qualifications, and because he was an "affiliated student" he was allowed in 1964 to follow a two year LLB course. Here he started many friendships that both uplifted him and facilitated a relatively pain-free entry into English academia. In the first year he received inspiration from two of our previously-interviewed Eminent Scholars (Professor Kurt Lipstein and Mr Mickey Dias), the latter giving what Bob called a "wonderful bridge" between English law and the Lex Aquilia, with which he was familiar from his Roman-Dutch law training in South Africa. In addition, he also received an excellent introduction to Administrative Law through the teachings of Tony Bradley 8, Geoffrey Wilson 9 and Paul O’Higgins 10, amongst others.

In only his second year of study Bob Hepple began to plough new legal ground in his adopted country. Fired with vivid memories from South Africa, and observing what he considered shocking discrimination in Britain, he was able to bring to bear to his studies an unrivalled wealth of first- hand experience of law in action in highly-charged political environments. He proposed to do his LLB dissertation on the subject of racial discrimination and the law in Britain. It was a radical suggestion, but only Paul O’Higgins was prepared to supervise him, when others felt that because no racial discrimination laws were in place 11, it would be a fruitless task. His research on how the existing Common Law and the then current legislation affected discrimination rapidly outgrew Bob’s original concept, and with the help of O’Higgins he published his findings and conclusions in 1968 as Race, Jobs and the Law in Britain 12. Professor Hepple told me he believed this volume was influential in the debates then currently underway as a prelude to the 1968 Race Relations Act, which extended the law’s reach to housing, employment and pubic services. In response to this legislation a second edition was brought out in 1970, in which he commented on the new legal regime. From such small beginnings, Bob’s passion had a ripple affect across UK legislation and his ideas influenced the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, and a revised Race Relations Act 1976.

After a short spell as a lecturer at the University of Nottingham (1966-68), Bob returned to Cambridge, for what he described as his eight most productive years (1968-76), when he served as first an assistant, and then a full lecturer. He threw himself into a heavy teaching programme in which he was primarily responsible for Contract, Tort and Administrative Law, but although it was not looked upon by the Faculty as one of his main subjects, it was in the area of Labour Law, and all that entailed, that he continued to break fresh legal ground. He formed a formidable partnership with Paul O’Higgins, and at the high point they had sixteen research students, many of whom have gone on to make the own mark: Sir Patrick Elias QC and Professor Brian Napier, to name two. It was through this work that Bob met and became influenced by professors Sir Otto Kahn-Freund (whom he said "more than any other academic....has influenced my approach" [to labour law]) and Folke Schmidt 13.

It was also at this time that Bob wrote his seminal article "Aliens and Administrative Justice: the Dutschke Case" 14, which combined his interest in Administrative Law with his passion for human rights. This was a famous political/legal wrangle in which Bob and Ken Polack’s wife 15 fought the corner of a German political activist who was eventually deported from Britain on security grounds. The whole scenario has echoes in our modern world in which "security matters" loom so large.
Also belonging to this golden period of intense passion and great productivity in the field of human rights and academic Labour Law was the production of several very important books for which Bob was senior author: Individual Employment Law (1971, with O’Higgins); Public Employee Trade Unionism in the United Kingdom, The Legal Framework (1971, with O’Higgins);  Laws Against Strikes (1972,with Kahn-Freund); and A Bibliography of the Literature on British and Irish Labour Law (1975, with Neeson & O’Higgins). Finally, just after he had moved on from Cambridge, there appeared Labour Law and Industrial Relations in Great Britain (1977, with Fredman).

As if this output were not impressive enough, we must remember that the teaching of the law of Tort was one of Bob’s main Faculty duties during this spell, and he also had the energy to produce the first edition of two well-received major books on the subject: Tort: Cases and Materials (1974, with Matthews), and Foundations of the Law of Tort (1976, with Glanville Williams).

When Professor Hepple returned to Cambridge over seventeen years later, as Master of Clare, (his old college),  it was as a senior legal mediator and academic (he was now 59).  He remained in this post for ten years (1993-2003), and for the period 1995-2001 he was also Professor of Law. The latter was not a collegiate post, so that as a "non-university teaching officer", as he put it, he had the freedom to re-establish teaching courses in Labour Law with two new colleagues (now professors, Simon Deakin and Catherine Barnard).  It also heralded a new phase in his application of the law to solutions of major social problems.

With the large amount of immigration that had taken place into Britain in the 90s, the whole question of the law and race relations, and the resultant multi-ethnicity, was exercising both Government and NGOs. Professor Hepple became deeply involved in this work, and he was appointed to the Commission for Racial Equality (1986-1990). Later, he was a member of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain (set up by the charity Runnymede Trust ) and helped produce a large report on which it was working: The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain - Parekh Report (2001). Professor Hepple claimed to have played only a limited role, but its production was undertaken concurrently with a project on which he was leader, and which had been supported by the Labour Government Home Secretary 16 and funded by the Nuffield Foundation and Rowntree Trust. Working from the Centre for Public Law in Cambridge and also involving his wife (Mary Coussey) and Tufyal Choudhury, he produced a major document entitled Equality: A New Framework: Report of the Independent Review of the Enforcement of UK Anti-Discrimination Legislation 17. The main thrust of this, which crystallised his conclusions after observing the race relations scene in Britain for almost four decades, is that there is an urgent need for a new, single Equality Act and a single Equality and Human Rights Commission. His guiding political patron in this venture was the Liberal Democratic peer Lord Lester, and when I spoke to Sir Bob about this work in our last interview (13th June 2008), he said that he expected a Bill based on the report to be published by the Government soon. This occurred only a few days after we met, and the Government's proposal is now open for public and parliamentary debate 18. The proposed legislation, to which Professor Hepple has contributed so much of the philosophical underpinning, promises to create fundamental changes to equality and racial regulations in the UK and to set the seal on the law in these matters for the foreseeable future.

Although the latter work can be viewed as a culmination of Bob Hepple’s views on the state of modern British social attitudes to race, equality and a fair society (perhaps we can see this as his legacy to the development of human rights legislation in the society which gave him the opportunity of his "second-life"), it would be inaccurate to portray Cambridge as the sole crucible for his views on these larger issues.

After a very short spell at the University of Kent, where he candidly admitted he was attracted by "flattery" and had mistakenly assumed the collegiate system was similar to that at Cambridge, he spent five years adjudicating disputes brought by individual workers over issues such as unfair dismissal, race and sex discrimination. As Chairman of the Industrial Tribunals (1977-82), Bob not only had a good deal of free time, but he also gained a wealth of knowledge dealing "with real people" and produced what he considered one of his "more important books": The Making of Labour Law in Europe: a Comparative Study of Nine Countries up to 1945 19.  The factual nature of the tribunal work, however, eventually frustrated him and he hankered after an environment in which he could deal more with the law than with purely judicial matters.  Luckily the Chair of English Law at University College London became vacant.

Eventually ensconced therein Professor Hepple recalls he had a "thoroughly enjoyable time" and spent his "very best teaching years" in London (1982-93): incidentally he eventually became Dean and Head of Department). Despite the great structural and legislative changes that took place in the field of Labour Law in Britain during the late 70s and early 80s ( "the juridification of labour law" as he put it), ironically, because Roger Rideout was in place as Professor of Labour Law, Professor Hepple taught little of this subject while at UCL. Nevertheless he retained a position on the Industrial Tribunals (as part-time Chairman), and it was during this time (1986-90) that he was invited to join the Commission for Racial Equality. He became Chairman of their Complaints and Employment committees, and it was during his tenure that the Commission exercised itself greatly with the free speech issues raised by the Salman Rushdie 20 furore and the subsequent fatwa that was placed upon the author. While Bob found this extremely interesting, it was also somewhat frustrating, because, as he pointed out, such matters fell outwith the Commission’s jurisdiction.

Professor Hepple retired from his Cambridge chair in 2001, and the Mastership of Clare in 2003. He was knighted in 2004, but as might be expected from an old campaigner for human rights, he saw it as an opportunity to take on new tasks. Firstly he saw to a book he had started in the early 90s, which was eventually published in 2005: Labour Laws and Global Trade 21. When I reminded him of the glowing reviews it had received, he modestly said that he had written it for wider audience than just lawyers, and that it was a "reflection of a long submersion" in the subject. I sensed that it reflected the culmination of his concern for the downtrodden workers of the world, who had suffered an increasing variety of legal indignities during the length of his career. Sir Bob identifies one of the fashionable topics of today - globalisation - as a root cause, and in the book sought to look behind the big business corporations view to the effects, many of which are detrimental, on the workers whose lives are spent in driving this process forward. As Bob put it, the necessity for effective control has "gone beyond national regulation", and he sets out original ideas to balance human rights of workers in both the developed and developing worlds. One of the reviewers 22 predicted that it "...was a seminal text...which will shape the thinking of a generation of lawyers.."

Sir Bob’s propensity for becoming involved with topical human rights issues now exercises his retirement, and when I commented on his busy diary, he reeled off five other areas where he was very recently, or is currently engaged: the Canon Collins Educational Trust for Southern Africa; the European Roma Rights Centre; the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights; the Equal Rights Trust; and finally, what he considered the most significant of his recent activities, Chairman of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.  In an age when, world-wide, the employment of forensic bio-information (especially police use of DNA) for crime prevention and its solution gathers pace, there is great political pressure for rapid resolutions, particularly in security cases. This urgency can trample on legal and ethical issues, creating fertile ground for the intervention of a vastly experienced, doughty guardian of human rights.

Towards the end of our interviews, I asked Sir Bob to sum up aspects of his career. He admitted that he had been "extraordinarily lucky" - as one door closed, another opened. Above all, he said he had enjoyed teaching, and singled out the period when he collaborated with Paul O’Higgins in the 70s as a time when, because Labour Law was developing so fast, they were able to lay down the foundations for a new subject. Understandably, he says his most emotional time was when he was able to return to South Africa in 1990 for the first time in nearly thirty years (up to that point he had been under a government banning order). This coincided with Nelson Mandela’s formal release from detention, and on his way as an ILO expert to Windhoek to draft a Labour code for the newly independent Namibia, Bob was immediately invited to speak at a Labour Law conference in Durban organised by a South African labour law association.

Finally, he expressed his appreciation for the "wonderful environment" that is Cambridge, where the university community is very conducive for retired professors! He spoke gratefully of the sense of feeling part of a family of academics, and the old campaigner said, rather wistfully, that there was nowhere else that he would rather be.

It was a great pleasure to have able to listen to Sir Bob Hepple’s humble, measured, lucid account of his career as it raced through the fraught, raw politics of 60s South Africa and on to the more measured academic and industrial scene of Britain. It seems that from the shelter of his retirement Bob has emerged onto broader, more global issues, but as ever, his views remain wedded to the same principles of fairness and even-handed treatment under the law that originally drove the radical law student in his earlier battles with authority.


Lesley Dingle - Acquisition and Creation of Content

Daniel Bates -  Visual Presentation, Technical Enhancement and Audio Editing

  • 1 Hahlo H. R & Kahn E, 1960 Volume 5, The Union of South Africa, London, Stevens.
  • 2 A strike had been called against the establishment of a republic within the Commonwealth.
  • 3 His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, 1994, Little - Brown, London.
  • 4 Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Dennis Goldberg, Rusty Bernstein and Jimmy Kantor. Mandela himself was still in prison (in Pretoria to where he been transferred from Robben Island for "safety" reasons) See p. 335 of Mandela’s autobiography.
  • 5 Lillieslief Farm was in the Rivonia District
  • 6 Then the British Bechuanaland Protectorate
  • 7 Tanganyika became independent in 1961 and joined with Zanzibar to become Tanzania in 1964.
  • 8 Later, professor at the University of Edinburgh, and author, with K. D. Ewing, of the seminal Constitutional and Administrative Law.
  • 9 Later, founder of the Law School at Warwick University.
  • 10 Then Fellow of Christ’s College (1959-84), later professor at Trinity College Dublin (1984-87) and Kings College London (1987-92).
  • 11 The 1965 Race Relations Act dealt only with discrimination in public places.
  • 12 Penguin Press
  • 13 Both were Goodhart Visiting Professors in the Faculty
  • 14 (1971) 33 Modern Law Review, 501-19.
  • 15 Neé Sand, who was Rudi Dutschke’s solicitor.
  • 16 Jack Straw
  • 17 2000, Oxford, Hart Publishing, 147pp.
  • 18 Framework for a Fairer Future - The Equality Bill, 24th June 2008, Cm 7431. Summary on BBC:
  • 19 1986, Continuum International Publishing Group - Mansell.
  • 20 For his book The Satanic Verses
  • 21 Hart Publishing, Oxford
  • 22 Professor K. D. Ewing, Kings College London