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Tributes paid following death of leading social care QC

Barristers’ chambers and law firms have paid tribute to Stephen Knafler QC, a leading social care and immigration specialist who died on Saturday (31 October) after a short illness.

They included sets where he was a tenant - Garden Court Chambers, Landmark Chambers and Doughty Street Chambers - as well as the law firm he worked at before joining the Bar, Anthony Gold, and a law firm he worked alongside, Deighton Pierce Glynn.

Landmark Chambers

"Stephen was someone who became a lawyer for other people’s benefit, and spent his professional life trying to make the law deliver solutions for the most vulnerable in our society. His main areas of practice – social care and immigration –showed where he chose to make a difference. These areas involved state powers which interacted with people at the most difficult times of their lives, and where people desperately needed the state to act properly. Whether he was acting for a person seeking a better immigration status, a person seeking social welfare support or a local authority trying to do its best in an impossible situation, Stephen was active in these areas because they were cases where the law was important to those in need, and where getting it right really made an immeasurable difference.

Stephen was generous with his time to assist colleagues at Landmark and many of us came to rely on his expertise. But there was so much more to Stephen than being one of the best social care lawyers of his generation. His family and personal relationships were a core part of who he was, his knowledge of music was deep, he had a quick, dry sense of humour and conversations often returned to the Lake District fells where he spent so many happy days.

Stephen’s loss will be felt acutely across the public law Bar and our thoughts are very much with his partner and family at this most difficult time."

Garden Court Chambers

"It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death of Stephen Knafler QC. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. Stephen recently joined Doughty Street Chambers.

Stephen was a member of Garden Court Chambers for 16 years until 2016, including Joint Head of Garden Court Chambers from 2013 to 2016.

Stephen had been a shining light at the Bar for three decades. He was a huge inspiration to all of us working in civil & public law. His contribution to welfare law, his original specialism and which some would say he invented as a distinct discipline, and across the whole field of civil liberties, has been immeasurable. He is irreplaceable and his loss as one of the Bar’s true legal heroes, leaves a chasm."

Doughty Street Chambers

"It is with enormous sadness that we have to announce that Stephen Knafler QC has passed away in hospital after a short illness. 

Stephen was a greatly admired and respected practitioner of exceptional ability, and a passionate figure in human rights law for over 30 years. It is a terrible loss, there is no doubt that the Bar will be diminished by his absence.

Chambers offers its support and deepest condolences to Stephen's family. They are very much in our thoughts at this tragic time."

Anthony Gold

"It was with great sadness that we heard of the untimely death of Stephen Knafler QC this week.

Stephen started his legal career at Anthony Gold in 1986, rising quickly to become a partner. He was one of the founders of the housing team at Anthony Gold and responsible for the rapid development of the department’s reputation.

Andrew Brookes, Head of Housing, recalls working with Stephen when he first started at Anthony Gold in 1992: “I remember his incredible energy, which was combined with a fierce intelligence. He used that energy and intelligence to great effect when he left Anthony Gold to retrain as a barrister. He quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with at the bar, initially in housing law but later in all types of judicial review, social welfare law and immigration. I instructed him on many occasions over the years and I always felt it a privilege to do so. Not only was he incredibly efficient but he was also an assured and effective advocate. It was no surprise to me or indeed to anyone that he became a QC. Stephen was charming and engaging and I always looked forward to speaking to him at social events.”

As well as acting in numerous important cases dealing with social welfare and immigration law, Stephen became joint head of Garden Court Chambers between 2013 and 2016, and was also co-author of books on Adult Social Care Law and Children’s Social Care Law.  He became a leading authority on those subjects. He could be extremely passionate and maintained, throughout his incredible career, a commitment to working for the underprivileged and vulnerable in society.

David Marshall, Managing Partner, who was a partner with Stephen at Anthony Gold in the 1990s states: “Challenging and pushing what the law can achieve exemplified Steve’s approach throughout his career. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Deighton Pierce Glynn

“It is with shock and sadness that we have learnt of the death of Stephen Knafler QC.

Stephen worked tirelessly with us for over two decades acting in ground-breaking litigation which set a framework for promoting and defending the fundamental right of migrants (and others) to housing, benefits and community care. He was a phenomenal barrister with a tremendous ability to distil complex facts and arguments to a clear concise pathway. He was the inspiration behind many of the decided cases which seek to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable in our society, such as disabled people with community care needs. Stephen was very supportive of our firm, particularly as we were starting up. As recently as June he gave pro-bono advice on a complex housing case. He was always very generous with his time and a kind, compassionate colleague.”