Ken Macdonald QC to become Reprieve’s new Chair

January 11, 2011

Reprieve is delighted to announce that Ken Macdonald QC, co-founder of Matrix Chambers and former Director of Public Prosecutions, is to be our new Chair, in succession to Lord Bingham of Cornhill.

Ken Macdonald QC was called to the Bar in 1978. He was the first pupil of Helena Kennedy, and his practice ranges from business and corporate crime and associated extraditions, to market abuse, terrorism, human rights and media law. His clients have included overseas governments, international media organisations, large corporations and many private individuals. In 2000 he co-founded Matrix Chambers, a law practice specialising in human rights, and in 2003 he was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions – the first leading defence lawyer to have held that post.

As DPP, Ken Macdonald consistently championed defendants’ rights, fair trials and due process. He provided a much-needed counterpoint to government rhetoric around the so-called ‘War on Terror’, framing the prevention of terrorism as an issue of law enforcement rather than a ‘war’, and warning against a “fear-driven and inappropriate” response. He was particularly vocal in his criticism of attempts to extend the time limit on pre-charge detention to 42 days, on the basis that it was unnecessary and would undermine civil liberties.

In September we were greatly saddened to hear of the death of Lord Bingham, who served as our Chair from the beginning of 2009. He is remembered as a brilliant lawyer and judge and as a staunch defender of human rights to the last.

Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: “We are very excited at the prospect of working with Ken Macdonald, who has been unswerving in his profound commitment to human rights both in private practice and public office.”

Ken Macdonald QC said: “I’m delighted to be joining Reprieve as its new Chair. I have long admired its extraordinary work around the world fighting injustice and saving lives. Reprieve’s implacable opposition to the barbarism of execution and its determined hostility to the abuse of detainees everywhere are values that I have always shared. I am particularly honoured to be following Lord Bingham in this role.”

The news that Ken Macdonald had agreed to become our Chair was a fantastic end to 2010, a year that saw several causes for celebration at the Reprieve offices.

Top 10 Reprieve successes of 2010:

    • The beginning of the year saw Reprieve take to the road for the

‘Obama Needs EU’ tour

    • , urging European countries to open their doors to the vulnerable prisoners who have been cleared for release but remain in Guantánamo. Responses in the international media and from the public were largely positive, in no small part thanks to the powerful presence of Moazzam Begg, a former Reprieve client. In February Reprieve’s long legal battle on behalf of

Binyam Mohamed

    • finally came to an end when the Court of Appeal found against the Foreign Secretary and ordered that the contentious seven paragraphs detailing US involvement in Binyam’s torture be published. The judges were scathing about the Foreign Secretary’s argument that publishing torture methods poses a risk to national security, and made it clear that the government had cynically abused the Public Interest Immunity system, using it to hide embarrassing information from the public. After resisting Reprieve’s efforts to secure a British ban on the export of sodium thiopental (one of the three drugs used in lethal injection executions) to the US for a month, on 29th November 2010 Business Secretary Vince Cable

finally agreed to impose the order

    • . Our next step is to persuade him to extend the ban to the other two drugs, both of which have been imported from the UK by US authorities. Ayman al Shurafa’s

nine-year ordeal in Guantánamo Bay came to an end

    • when the German government offered him a home in Hamburg. From the moment of his arrival in Germany Ayman was treated with the utmost courtesy and care, and thanks to the excellent support he is receiving is now well on his way to rebuilding his life and becoming a valuable citizen of his adopted country. A beautiful necklace designed specially for Reprieve by Vivienne Westwood debuted at her catwalk show at London Fashion Week in September. It

went on sale in December

    • and has proved extremely popular, with all profits going directly to Reprieve. Clive Stafford Smith won the

Judges’ Special Beacon Prize for Outstanding Philanthropic achievement

    • – the “Nobel Prize of the charity world”. The judges “were especially impressed by the combination of dedication and pragmatism that so clearly permeates Clive’s long history of generosity and humanitarian spirit”. In August we launched

‘Death’s Waiting Room’

    • , a life-size replica of Linda Carty’s death row cell in Texas. Celebrities Anna Chancellor and Bianca Jagger spent time in the cell in solidarity with Linda, and hundreds of people signed clemency letters addressed to Governor Rick Perry, begging him to spare Linda’s life. The

Pakistan Police Torture Project

    • was launched in July. Investigative teams based in Pakistan and in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter are now in the process of collecting testimony from victims of police torture in order to uncover the full scale of the problem. We will use the testimony, along with expert medical support, to file legal challenges in the Pakistani courts and to engage the Pakistani government Reprieve’s

Laughter/Pain comedy night

    • in celebration of our tenth anniversary won rave reviews. Comics Tim Minchin, Kevin Eldon, Ed Byrne, Robin Ince and many more participated in the show at the Lyceum Theatre in London’s West End. In September Reprieve’s Executive Director Clare Algar won

Voluntary Sector Achiever of the Year

    in the 2010 Women in Public Life Awards. She was selected from a shortlist of eminent candidates, including Sarah Brown and Barbara Natsegara.

Background on Reprieve:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 26 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has also represented a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’


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Reprieve delivers justice and saves lives, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.